FIVEMILETOWN ROUND LAKE

Round Lake Fivemiletown  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Round Lake Fivemiletown Photo: © Michael Fisher

Whilst visiting Fivemiletown in County Tyrone recently I took the opportunity to visit the Round Lake amenity area for the first time. It used to be part of the Blessingbourne estate but since 1990 has been run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council.

Round Lake Fivemiletown  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Round Lake Fivemiletown Photo: © Michael Fisher

There is a caravan park there with twelve fully serviced hard standing pitches. But this time of year there are no customers. The site has a pavilion, which looks underused, on the side of the lake, where angling is permitted and if you are lucky, bream and roach can be found.

Round Lake Fivemiletown  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Round Lake Fivemiletown Photo: © Michael Fisher

There is a tarmac path around the lake and it provides a pleasant walk of about fifteen minutes. On the other side of the Fintona Road you will find the entrance to Blessingbourne self-catering accommodation and the Mountain Bike Trails. Please note that the manor house built in the 1870s and owned by the Lowrys is private.

Round Lake Fivemiletown  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Round Lake Fivemiletown Photo: © Michael Fisher

FIVEMILETOWN CLOCK

Fivemiletown Clock  Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown Clock Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown’s historic clock which has been a distinctive local landmark on Main Street for over 100 years has been restored. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £18,400 earlier this year for the repair of the timepiece . It was erected in 1903 to mark the coronation of King Edward VII and is one of the remaining physical links to the history of the village.

The refurbished Village Clock will be unveiled tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd December. To mark the occasion a celebratory event will take place in the Valley Hotel starting at 11am. This will consist of music song and dance by local artists. At 12.30pm the refurbished clock will be unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant for County Tyrone, Mr Robert Scott OBE. Everyone is very welcome to attend.

The intricately-wrought copper casing was made in Fivemiletown itself, making it a unique part of the local heritage. The funding enabled the clock to be returned to its former glory. A leaflet and education resource pack have also been produced.

It was one of five grants awarded by the HLF to smaller or more modest projects. The head of the HLF in Northern Ireland Paul Mullan said: “these grants really help local people to dig into their past to explore, record, or share their heritage. We are delighted to support this project in Tyrone which will preserve such an iconic local landmark. With HLF’s investment in Northern Ireland reaching a huge £184million for over 1000 projects, we are proud of our role in helping to protect and celebrate our heritage over the last 19 years and look forward to supporting many more local projects.”

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Michael Callaghan from Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce added: “We are absolutely delighted at the news of this award. There is already a great deal of interest and enthusiasm among the people of Fivemiletown and we see it as a legacy project which will be a source of civic pride for future generations”.

A century ago, before everyone had a watch to synchronise or a mobile phone to swipe, the time piece above the old Petty Sessions building was a focal point in village life and a way of making sure you were on time. Its finely-wrought copper casing developed that distinctive patina, or verdigris, that comes from weathering, and its hands turned the hours faithfully, driven by the mechanism that was wound from inside the Petty Sessions building. As the years ticked by, it gradually fell into disrepair and eventually stopped working altogether.

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Impartial Reporter describes how, at the time of the clock’s initial installation, a local copper-working class was thriving in the area. Mrs Mary Montgomery of the local Blessingbourne Estate

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

set up the class in 1891 through the Home Arts and Industries Association and initially taught the class herself in the Petty Sessions building. To begin with, they made items such as candlesticks, tea trays, fenders for fireplaces and newspaper racks.

These artisans became so successful that their work was shown at exhibitions in London, Dublin and St Louis.  in 1893, at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and at the Dublin International Fair in 1907. It was these skilled craftsmen who made the copper casing of the clock, which was erected in 1903 to commemorate the coronation in 1902 of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Viktor Welch

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Victor Welch

The mechanical works of the clock were made by Sharman D. Neill of Belfast and it is thought that the iron scroll-work was completed by Harland and Wolff. Another iconic feature of the era, the Clogher Valley Railway, was used to transport the raw materials and the finished artefacts. One of the best-known photos of the old railway is of the train in the Main Street, with the clock in the background.

For an update on the official unveiling of the restored clock see Julian Fowler’s report ‘Changing Chimes’ on BBC Newsline.

BLESSINGBOURNE

Blessingbourne  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Blessingbourne Photo: © Michael Fisher

Blessingbourne near Fivemiletown in County Tyrone and close to the boundary with Fermanagh is a house with an interesting history that is being restored gradually by Colleen and Nick Lowry. One of the initiatives they have taken in order to attract business is to develop in the grounds trails for mountain bikes and for leisure cycling. Last year my daughter living in London came back for a short break and one of the trips she made was to the cycle trail, which she enjoyed. The layout was expanded recently with an investment of £500,000 and I now reproduce this blog from Mountain Bike NI, written by one of The Belles:

“Skinny Latte” At Blessingbourne Anyone?

We were delighted to see The Belles down at the official launch of Blessingbourne Phase II a few weeks ago and even more delighted when Andrea offered to write an open and honest review of the new trails for our MountainBikeNI.com Blog.

The Belles at Blessingbourne

Blessingbourne’s new makeover now offers a family-friendly blue trail (4km), pump track and a fast, bermy red trail (8km) full of skinnies, rollers and rock drops which will take many by surprise!  Read on to hear how Andrea and the rest of The Belles faired on this gem of a trail centre in Fivemiletown…

Now, since Blessingbourne opened its debut trails in June 2011, you have always been guaranteed a fantastically friendly pre / post ride coffee and chat, but now you can have a “Skinny Latte” of different sorts – given that is the name of one of the new trails on the extended network of routes.

The new trails now mean that this wonderful estate boasts a pump track, 4km of blue trail and 8km of red trail – and the fabulous variety with the extended trail network certainly satisfies all levels of rider.

The technical new additions include log rides, rock drops, table tops and berms – quite a few of which are not for the faint hearted, and certainly for the young at heart. Kids really do have no fear!

Perhaps the new trails should come with a noise-ometer? The whoops of kids as they hit the new berms for the first time are a joy to be heard! Not to mention the whoops of the “big” kids as they over and over again bomb down “Berming Rubber”. Now who wouldn’t want a “Skinny Latte” shortly after “Berming Rubber”??!!

One of the many remarkable things about Blessingbourne is that even without notable gradients, the extended trails certainly provide a real work out. Moreover, without being aware of gaining much height, there are a couple of extremely fast descending sections that give a real buzz!

The Belles at Blessingbourne

Blessingbourne’s most noteworthy feature is its ambience, at the heart of which is owners Colleen and Nick.

Whether you’re there for a half-day, full day or an overnight break, the superb trail centre they have created provides a “getaway from it all” feel. The spins and downtime live long in the memory, perhaps every so often also having a visible reminder from one or two spills along the trails!

What’s that saying? If you don’t fall off, you’re not trying hard enough? Either that, or you lost your balance on a log ride!

Next up for Andrea and her Belles is hopefully the Race Across America! One the most respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world, the RAAM inlcudes 3000 miles of cycling across 12 states, 88 counties and 350 communities ascending over 170,000 vertical feet.

The Belles

The Belles are seeking financial and commercial support to actually have a chance of making the start line in June 2014. They have key leads with media contacts with a view to TV publicity and would love to hear from local companies interested in getting on board. Check out the Belles Facebook Page or on Twitter @BellesOutdoor

Andrea Harrower:  The Belles

Eternal adventure seeker…. A sports enthusiast, who competes at a high level but who has as much passion for encouraging other females and kids into the great outdoors. Along with 3 other like-minded girls she founded The Belles in 2009!

WIND FARMS

Clogher Valley with Knockmany in distance

Clogher Valley with Knockmany in distance

My journey today was close to the Carleton trail, looking towards Knockmany hill near Clogher in County Tyrone. But there was a very different view on the other side of the road between Fintona and Fivemiletown: a wind farm. Opinions about this form of ‘green’ energy are divided. But this is just one of the views I had on top of the mountain (well hill, actually!).

Wind Farm near Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone

Wind Farm near Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone

CLOGHER VALLEY RAILWAY

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

CVR train in Main St Caledon (TG4 photo)

The picture shows a train from the Clogher Valley Railway in the Main Street of the border village of Caledon, County Tyrone. In the middle you can see the clock tower of the courthouse. The train is number 6, called Erne.  It was built by Sharp, Stewart No. 3374 of 1887;  0-4-2 tank. It was in service until the railway closed on December 31st 1941 and was scrapped the following year.  The other engines were Caledon (1), Errigal (2), Blackwater (3), Fury (4), Colebrooke (5) and Blessingbourne (7), built by Hudswell, Clarke & co.

Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston

The story of the railway was told at the restored Caledon courthouse this evening by Jack Johnston, who has written extensively about the history of the Clogher Valley. He illustrated the talk with slides, many of them black and white pictures of the operation of the railway which had been taken in the last century. Jack is also President of the William Carleton Society, one of five groups along with Caledon Regeneration Partnership, Donaghmore Historical Society, Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society and South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association taking part in the EU Peace III-funded “Shared History, Shared Future” project.

CVR Coat of Arms

CVR Coat of Arms

The 3ft gauge Clogher Valley Tramway was incorporated on 26th May 1884, the second project under the terms of the 1883 Act.  It opened for traffic on 2nd May 1887 linking Tynan in County Armagh and Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh, both on the broad gauge Great Northern Railway, a distance of 37 miles.  The route covered the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone serving the towns of Caledon, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown.  The railway followed public roads for much of its length and ran down the main streets of Caledon and Fivemiletown.

The railway had a dismal financial performance throughout its lifetime, belying the glowing picture of returns painted in its prospectus.  Nevertheless the Company had extremely ambitious plans for expansion aimed at providing access to the port of Newry and connections with the Cavan and Leitrim line.  None came to fruition however and the CVR remained a local line.

The Clogher Valley Railway lay within the six counties of Northern Ireland when partition occurred in 1922.  The new government in Belfast recommended the takeover of the CVR by the broad gauge Great Northern Railway.  The GNR refused to do this and the CVR retained its independence.  In 1927 however the directors were replaced by a Committee of Management appointed by Tyrone and Fermanagh county councils.

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

Clogher Valley Railway (TG4 picture)

The Committee did much to revitalise the line with more and speedier services.  In 1932 a pioneering articulated passenger diesel railcar built by Walkers of Wigan was delivered, along with a diesel tractor unit which could tow a coach or a few wagons.  These were successful in cutting costs and speeding up the service but could only postpone the inevitable end of the basically uneconomic line. For almost all of its existence the railway made a loss and it needed a subsidy from local ratepayers. The greatest profit ever made by the company was in 1904, only £791.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

Plaque on ceremonial wheelbarrow: cutting first sod in 1885.

It was around this time that my great-grandfather John McCann J.P., an auctioneer in Aughnacloy, became a director of the railway. He served on the board for a number of years, under the chairmanship of Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery of Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, I still have a season ticket belonging to him.