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History of Cabin Wood

Cabin Wood is one of Northern Ireland’s 50 ‘Woods on your Doorstep’, created by the Woodland Trust in partnership with local communities to celebrate the millennium. This was part of a UK-wide initiative launched by the Woodland Trust and backed by the Millennium Commission.

In 2001, the Trust acquired a 99-year lease of the 6.5ha (16.2-acre) site from Cookstown District Council. Following consultation about the design with the Council and community, local people helped with the planting of around 12,000 trees covering 4.8ha of the site. This consisted of a mixture of broadleaf species, including sessile oak, birch, rowan, and ash, as well as woody shrubs, such as wild cherry and crab apple.

The species match those found in an already existing strip of mature woodland along the banks of the Ballinderry River, where the presence of an established woodland flora including bluebells, wood anemone and wild garlic suggest that this is ancient woodland. The new planting provides a buffer for the mature woodland and an extended habitat for its wildlife. It has also left open spaces to form glades as the woodland matures so the splendid views over the surrounding countryside are retained.

The saw mill

Part of the new planting is on land that was once the site of Sawmill Wood. The ruined saw mill stands on the edge of the Ballinderry River. A wooden seat in the shape of a saw marks the spot on the path from where the saw mill can be seen.

Little is known about the history of the mill, but it is clear that it once stood at the heart of extensive ancient woodland on the estate attached to Killymoon Castle. A notice in the Londonderry Sentinel on 27 December 1861 announced the sale of wood from the estate, consisting entirely of first-class oak for ship building and railway carriages. The advertisement boasted that the timber ‘could not be surpassed in the United Kingdom for size and quality’.

During the First World War (1914-18), timber was cut for the war effort. It was at this time that Mr Moutray, the owner of Killymoon Castle, sold land known as the Finger Post along the Grange Road, together with the mill and the rights to the water power. Following the sale, the mill fell into disrepair.

Killymoon Castle

Cabin Wood occupies land that was once part of Killymoon Estate. The original castle, built in 1671 by James Stewart, was destroyed by fire in 1801. It was rebuilt in 1803 to a design by the architect John Nash, who later became famous for designing London’s Piccadilly Circus and the Brighton Pavilion. The castle overlooks the Ballinderry River and has been the home of the Coulter family since 1922. Visits are by appointment only.

The Drummond Oak

One of the largest oak trees in Northern Ireland can be found around 1km (0.6 mile) east of Killymoon Castle on the opposite side of the river. The imposing oak is at least 400 years old and measures nine metres (a little over 29 ft) around its trunk. It is said that in the late 1600s, King William tied his horse to it when staying at Killymoon Castle, main image below.

The site is named Cabin Wood after a larger wood that once existed close by, remnants of which still remain along the riverbanks.

Cabin Wood offers spectacular views of Slieve Gallion, a prominent peak in the Sperrin Mountains, and of stately Killymoon Castle on the opposite bank of the Ballinderry. (Photo: WTML)