If time is limited this short circuit will give you a flavour of the industrial heritage, riverside scenery and facilities of the Country Park.
|TYPE||Short circular walk around the visitor centre, associated buildings and ruined mills|
|DISTANCE||0.5 miles / 0.8 km|
|SURFACES||First half completely level on asphalt (wheelchair accessible). Second half undulating with wet and rocky sections and steep steps.|
|HEIGHT GAIN / LOSS||50 feet climb|
Leave the main car park by the pair of traditional white gate pillars and turn right towards the Green Lane Museum. Access is by a path which turns in just past the building. Unfortunately opening hours are very limited so you may just have to make do with the outside exhibits. These include a circular milling floor for crushing flax stems, with a mill stone pulled around on a wooden axle by hand. Just one of the many complex processes to convert harvested flax to linen cloth which would later be mechanised with water power. Here too you will find an overgrown, apparently abandoned sluice gate (May 2018).
However, less than 100 yards away, through the thick hedge in front of you, there is a complete refurbished mill race and modern sluice gate – part of a £1.5 million scheme to bring hydroelectric generation back to the Roe Valley Country Park and to the original Power House turbine room. A contract was awarded in 2013 and considerable work clearly has been done. However, it is extremely difficult to find up-to-date information about this project and its progress, including, sadly, in the Dogleap ‘Visitor Information Centre’ itself!
Retrace your steps to the white pillars and now take the footpath towards the mill pond. You will see the mill race appear again on your right before going underground to emerge in the pond by the Dogleap Centre. On your right a roofless stone building with a handsome arched doorway was once a ‘Beetling Mill’, the term ‘beetling’ referring to hammering. In this case it would have been a finishing process with wooden hammers hammering linen cloth to tighten the weave and give it a smooth feel.
Turn right onto the broad wheelchair-friendly asphalt path which now follows the edge of the small field ahead. There were goats here on my last visit. Follow the path around the edge of the field as it turns down stream.
It is good that many such accessible paths now exist (and I have in the past pushed a wheelchair here myself on several occasions). However, just having accessible paths available will not in itself get wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility out in the open air and engaged with nature. Culturally we need to raise expectations so changed life circumstances only change the details about how the great outdoors are accessed. Also, with new mobility technology all kinds of interesting paths and ways should become accessible again – we shouldn’t seek to confine our less mobile citizens to the ‘nursery slopes’ of the walking world!
Continue to the bend of the river where a path loops around a modern ‘Ogham Stone’. This reproduction illustrates the ancient form of recording by cutting notches into the sharp corner of a stone.
Continue to where the path leaves the field edge – now turn right, and cross the small stone arched bridge and then turn right again to skirt around the lower edge of the old ‘Power House’ and you will find yourself walking towards a hidden dry arch of the Largy Green bridge.
Go under the bridge and climb the steps to visit a secluded walled viewpoint. Here you have an excellent view of the bridge, the rapids below and a strange rusty pipe spanning the gorge at high level. This is yet another part of the ingenious water power infrastructure. The pipe, presumably under very high pressure, took water from the race above across the river to where a further water-powered milling machine awaited.
Continue downstream through the rough rocky cutting with a large rusting pipeline above. There is a path to the right here which goes down to the river’s edge and a peculiar stone seat. If the river is high this may be flooded so take care.
The seat was probably added as a ‘garden feature’ for the grand Dogleap House. Around the Dogleap it is often hard to know where industrial history ends and gardening whimsy begins! Return to the main path and turn right downstream taking care on the rough steps. After 100m you come to probably the most picturesque of the mill ruins. A cornmill this time with rectangular rather than arched windows.
The path now climbs steeply past an old storehouse to a flat grassy area. In the 1970’s this was one of the many Forest Service Caravan Parks. Basic sites with running water, waste disposal and sometimes, as here, a toilet block. It is a long time since this particular site was used, but a handful of the original sites are still active. If the idea appeals see Camping and caravanning in forests for details!
Leave the old caravan park and cross the Dogleap Road to return to the centre car park.