Home of Northern Ireland’s largest lizard population to get protected status

The common lizard at the coastal path in Whitehead. Picture by Cameron Moore.
The common lizard at the coastal path in Whitehead. Picture by Cameron Moore.

Two areas of natural beauty in East Antrim are set to become Local Nature Reserves.

Chaines Wood, Ballygally, has been given the designation by the Council for Nature Conservation and Countryside (CNCC) and will be officially launched in April.

A conservation action plan has been agreed for the site through volunteers and council staff with events to include a Red Squirrel Walk in September.

There are now six council-owned Local Nature Reserves in Mid and East Antrim Borough.

The others are Bashfordsland Wood and Oakfield Glen in Carrick; Beach Road and Diamond Jubilee Wood in Whitehead; Carrickfergus Mill Ponds and Cranny Falls, Carnlough.

The council is also expected to apply to the CNCC for the designation of Blackhead Path in Whitehead as a Local Nature Reserve when renovation works are complete and the path is reopened.

Local Nature Reserves are areas where nature and wildlife are protected.

Blackhead Path is believed to be  home to the largest common lizard population in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the council is considering planting 3,000 trees in Greenisland in the vicinity of the council-owned football pitches.

An area of land is to be set aside which would not impact on the existing pitches.

It is expected that the trees, which are being donated free of charge by the Woodland Trust, would help to “soak up a lot of drainage water from the football pitches”.

It is anticipated that on a long term basis, this will reduce the amount of council-owned land requiring maintenance.

Knockagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Andrew Wilson, a member of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Direct Services Committee, said: “The tree planting at Greenisland football pitches is to be welcomed as it will provide shelter for the sports area. In addition to this, it delivers on previous council commitments to plant more trees in our borough to help the environment.

“The local community and both Silverstream and Greenisland Primary schools will be contacted to see if their pupils want to get involved in the tree planting scheme.

“The proposal was unanimously endorsed by the Direct Services Committee and I am aware that the football club are also supportive.”

Council has already taken the decision to plant 56,000 trees during a five-year period in Mid and East Antrim to contribute to carbon reduction.

The first phase of tree planting was launched at Bentra Golf Club in November.

The inaugural meeting of the Mid and East Antrim Climate Change working group is due to take place next month.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.