Opening Times: Open all year round (free access)
Contact Details: NIEA Site Manager (028 3885 3950).
Getting There: From the Coalisland to Ballyronan Road (B160), south of Ardboe, turn right onto the Brookend Road and continue to the end. Car parking available at the end of a rough lane. Park your car at the end of the rough lane and be sympathetic of other land users (to not block access for farm machinery.
Like most of the shoreline of Lough Neagh, the fields at Brookend were once part of the lake bed but have since been exposed by successive water level lowering’s since the 1840’s. The site is now partially flooded in winter but drier in summer – ideal conditions for many rare and special plants. This is a site not for the unexperienced rambler as terrain is very tough. The site is also very remote at times and has little to no facilities. If you are visiting this site please wear appropriate clothing and walking boots. Let somebody know where you are and what time you are due to return. The scrub supports a woodland bird community and is especially good for warblers. In springtime you will hear the song of the willow warbler and the sedge warbler. When the sun shines, the pond margins shimmer with hundreds of dancing damselflies and dragonflies. In the spring the shore rings with the calls of cuckoos and curlews against the noisy background of the breeding colony of black-headed gulls on the island just offshore. In summertime the colourful grasslands are alight with flowers typical of wetlands such as ragged robin, bog cotton, greater bird’s-foot trefoil and marsh cinquefoil. Rarer plants such as cowbane and flowering rush can also be found. The fen and wet grassland areas attract breeding birds like snipe and grasshopper warbler while the Reedbeds, marsh and scrub near the lough shore attracts breeding birds like reed bunting and sedge warbler. The grassland contains a rich diversity of wetland flora, including Irish lady’s tresses orchid. High numbers of diving duck congregate on the Lough in winter, including tufted duck, goldeneye, scaup, pochard and dabbling duck are also present, including gadwall, teal and mallard. Great crested grebe nest in the large expanse of reedbed along the shore and cuckoo is often heard in this area in spring.
The site is important for namely two types of wetland habitat fen and flood plain grazing marsh. Prior to the successive lowering’s of Lough Neagh, fen communities extended in a strip up to several hundred metres wide, stretching southwards from Washing Bay shore to Hog Point; a distance of 40km. Fens is a type of wetland which receives the majority of its water and nutrients from soil, rock and ground water and is characterized by a distinctive vegetation. Fens occur in river valleys, poorly drained basins or inter-drumlin hollows, along lake margins or on river flood-plains and are confined to lowlands such as those found in the Lough Neagh Wetlands. Topogenous fens include those mires where water movements in the peat or soil are generally vertical. They include basin fens and floodplain fens. Soligenous fens are those mires where water movements are dominantly lateral, including valley mires, springs and flushes in the lowlands. Fen vegetation can be classified into three basic types, `poor-fens, `rich-fen` and ‘transition mire and quaking bog’. Fens are a diverse habitat that supports a very wide range of plant and animal species. Lough Neagh and Lough Beg with their extensive areas of floodplain grazing marsh have been designated as one Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive. Floodplain grazing marsh in the Lough Neagh Wetlands is defined as periodically inundated pasture or meadow with ditches that maintain the water levels and contain standing fresh water. The habitat is associated with slow-flowing rivers and lakes that are drained by a network of ditches. Under agri-environment schemes there are 248ha of wet grasslands under management in the Lough Neagh Wetlands, as well as a further 56.5ha of grass-land managed for breeding waders, where this resource may exist.
Fens are support a very wide range of animal species that includes frogs and the smooth newt. A number of locally rare plant species are associated with Lough Neagh fen, such as fen bedstraw, greater water-parsnip, Irish lady’s tresses orchid, marsh helleborine and marsh pea. Birds include breeding waders, the shoveler and reed bunting. Northern Ireland fens are particularly important for invertebrates, several of which are absent or threatened in Great Britain. These include dragonflies such as the Irish damselfly, beetles such as the whirligig beetle, the water beetle, the pond skater and the carabid beetle. Towards the shore in floodplain grazing marsh you are likely to encounter rushes and sedges that predominate together with grasses such as creeping bent and marsh foxtail. Broadleaved herbs species include marsh thistle, silverweed, meadowsweet, water mint, marsh bedstraw, lesser spearwort, and cuckooflower.
- This is a very remote site and as a result has no facilities.