Ballyannan Wood: Situated south west of Midleton and accessed by a walkway from Bailick Road car park, this is an ancient wood on the shore of Ballinacurra Creek and the Owenacurra Estuary. Midleton is particularly lucky to have this wood on its doorstep. Ballyannan Wood was recorded on a Cromwellian era map of 1656, when it was already old, and has been maintained as a woodland ever since. The presence of wood millet indicates that it is ancient woodland. It consists of a mixture of old oak, planted beech and later conifers. Indeed, serious loss of timber was experienced in the 1940s but it has been replanted. Although long a private woodland, it was always seen as a local amenity. Much of the ground is flat but the eastern parts can be steep. Ballyanon is excellent venue for watching birds, especially waterfowl. Ruins of a boathouse and the woodsman’s cottage can still be seen. Ballyannan is accessed by foot from Midleton, especially the Midleton Park Hotel.
Curragh Wood: This is one for those who want exercise to go with the splendid views from the top. Curragh Wood is located a short distance due north of Midleton, and is spread over a distinctive hill that must have been the seat of a prehistoric chief or king. We know this because the hill is crowned with a large hillfort, with very deep ditches and banks. From the picnic area beside a stream at its foot (this is the Owenacurra river!), a path leads through the trees and up the hill to give a vast view Midleton and much of East Cork, even as far as Roches Point at the foot of the harbour. No wonder someone built a hillfort here! Suggestion: bring a picnic. Cycle or drive to the picnic area from Midleton.
Castlemartyr Wood: Located beside the N25 just east of Loughaderra Lake, this was originally part of the enclosed demesne of Castlemartyr House. The local rumour is that the woodland and landscape was laid out by Capability Brown but since he never left England,, you can safely take that with a more than a pinch of salt. The fun begins when you are told that the Castlemartyr Ice House is located in this wood. This is where Ice cut from the lake at Castlemartyr was stored to keep it cool and to provide cool drinks on hot summer days. Much of the planting is conifer, but you will still see remnants of the broadleaf planting from the eighteenth century. The English agronomist, Arthur Young was delighted with the Earl of Shannon’s ‘improvements’ to the landscape of his demesne at Castlemartyr in 1775.
Mitchell’s Wood: With a busy stream running through it and Ballyoughtera Church ruins located at its western edge, Mitchell’s Wood apparently covers the original site of Ballymartyr – the original town of Castlemartyr. The mixture of broadleaf and coniferous trees shows that the wood was redeveloped after the early twentieth century.
Glenbower Wood: Almost certainly a creation of the late 18th and early 19th century, Glenbower Wood in Killeagh is a classic example of beauty and utility uniting to create a wonderful amenity. Located in a steep valley that was dammed to create a lake feeding a mill race that powered the large mill that dominated the village of Killeagh, Glenbower was part of the Supple family’s Aghadoe estate. The family owned the estate from about 1177 and because it was never lost or confiscated, Aghadoe became known as the ‘Maiden Estate.’ Sadly, the dam was dismantled and the lake was lost in the 1990s because it was feared that the barrage was too weak to hold back the water. Only after it was taken down did the authorities realise their mistake – there was nothing wrong with it! Alas, Glenbower lost its ‘lake’ but not its charms. Glenbower is accessed by an entrance beside the Old Thatch pub in Killeagh.
Rostellan Wood: These woods are an anomaly. They have taken the name of an ancient wood that stood nearby but which was almost completely cut down by 1900. The original Rostellan wood was recorded in Elizabethan maps of East Cork. However this wood stood south of the present main road between Saleen and Farsid/Rostellan. This wood was almost certainly the haunt of the wolves recorded in the neighbourhood in the 1650s. The modern Rostellan wood is in two parts and was developed from the demesne of Rostellan Castle, a grand country house built around 1720 by the O’Briens, Earls of Inchiquin. The normal access is via a battlemented causeway which leads north from Rostellan. The woods to the right of the road contain the ruins of the garden buildings and glasshouses that supplied flowers, fruit and vegetables to Rostellan Castle. Ironically as the trees have grown taller, the structures have become more visible.
Further north is the other part of the demesne woodland that flanked the shores of Poulnabibe or Saleen Creek. The most interesting feature here is the prehistoric ‘dolmen’. Rostellan Dolmen has long been a bone of contention among archaeologists and historians – who have wondered if it was a fake! Some think it is a copy of nearby Castle Mary ‘dolmen’ but its location is so odd that it is almost certainly a Stone Age structure. The ‘dolmen’ is the skeleton of the internal chamber of a great cairn or burial mound. All the outer material has been robbed away over the centuries. The location is the real oddity – the ‘dolmen’ located on the foreshore at Poulnabibe. It is ‘drowned’ twice a day with the tides. No self-respecting eighteenth century landowner would have picked such a bizarre site for his garden folly! Further south on the foreshore stand the ruins of an eighteenth century folly – Mrs Siddon’s Tower. This was named after a famous actress on the London stage by an admirer – the same Lord Inchiquin who owned Rostellan. Alas, there is no record of Lady Inchiquin’s reaction to her husband’s flattering dedication!