Discovery Centre, Oxford Island Discovery Centre, Oxford Island - January 2004


Establishment

Under the Craigavon new city plans, Oxford Island was acquired as a site for public recreation. The Lough Neagh Sailing Club was moved from its former centre at Kinnego harbour to Oxford Island and plans were drawn up for a major country park type development on the remainder of Oxford Island. This included the leaving of the portion of the Island nearest to Closet Bay as a nature reserve.

Objectives of Management

Primary

  1. To conserve the west part of the Island as example of species - rich meadow and scrub development, woodland and hedgerow.
  2. To conserve the water areas around the shores including reed beds as examples of typical south Lough Neagh habitats.
  3. To maintain the diversity of species as far as possible and to ensure the continuance of the breeding colony of Great Crested Grebes and any other rare nesting birds or insects.

Secondary

  1. To provide a site for the study of general ecology at all educational levels.
  2. To manage the remainder of the Island to ensure compatability between recreation and conservation interests.

Description

All of the peninsula area known as Oxford Island and the Kinnego shore is in the ownership and maintained as a public recreation and conservation area by Craigavon Borough Council. Situated on the south shore of Lough Neagh the area consists of approximately 282 acres or 113 hectares. Before the year 1846 the water level in Lough Neagh was lowered for the first time, Oxford Island therefore became a peninsula. It was inhabited and much of its surface was cultivated or grazed so that any forest cover which had existed has long since been eradicated. Since the acquisition by the Borough Council of the area many thousands of mixed woodland trees have been planted and it is now beginning to have a resemblance to a natural wooded landscape. Also the withdrawal of grazing animals from the land has resulted in the unhindered growth of lake shore Alder scrub and its associated herbage.

The nearby Raughlan peninsula which fringes the nature reserve to the west shore is established as a woodland area and maintained at present as a private estate. This area which is rich in wildlife and vegetation is complementary to the adjacent nature reserve.

Recreation

The provision of recreational facilities is seen as contributing to conservation in a number of ways by providing opportunities for leisure activities in planned areas (such as Kinnego). Information and guidance given at places where people gather for leisure activities can make them more aware of their environment and better able to appreciate what is worthy of conservation elsewhere.

KINNEGO HARBOUR is part of the recreation programme - to develop boating facilities. This much silted-up bay was dredged and cleaned out to make way for the new marina complex. The first phase development which is now in use includes a breakwater, two jetties and a public slipway. A local company - Mullen Marine -compliments the marina by way of a boat showroom, workshop, chandlery and boat hire services.

THE LOUGH NEAGH SAILING CLUB provides private accommodation for sailing craft and has a flourishing membership of 400. The facilities include a spacious licensed club-house, breakwater and moorings. Competitive races are part of the club's seasonal activities. The promotion of water sports requires careful control of navigation to ensure safety - particularly in areas of intensive use and to assist in the protection of the wildlife sanctuaries. For example it is important that power-boats should be precluded from the use of areas adjacent to bird-nesting areas, especially Great Crested Grebes' colonies.

WATERSIDE HOUSE located in the conservation area of Oxford Island overlooking Lough Neagh is situated in ideal surroundings. Once a farmhouse, the dwelling has now been converted into hostel accommodation for twenty four persons -comprises five bedrooms with hot and cold water, shower facilities, dining-room and lounge. Catering to a high standard is provided from an ultra modern kitchen.

NATURE RESERVE

While the whole of Lough Neagh is an area of scientific interest, some areas are more interesting than others. Oxford Island is of great importance for over-wintering wildfowl and in recent years has been declared an area of national importance.

LEPIDOPTERA

The following butterflies are resident at the reserve:

Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Speckled Wood, Common Blue, Small Heath, Small Copper, Red Admiral and Peacock. 60 Moth species have been recorded.

FRESHWATER FISH

Lough Neagh is famous for its fisheries, which is pursued commercially at Oxford Island. Other species which are plentiful are:

Pike, Perch, Roach, Bream, Tench, Brown Trout, Pollan, Rainbow Trout, Dollaghan and the migratory Salmon.

INFORMATION CENTRE

The information and wildlife exhibition centre is located on the reserve and is designed to stimulate interest on the flora and fauna of the area. Visiting school groups have the use of a reference library, talks on conservation subjects and the assistance of the staff of experienced field naturalists, on the nature trail outings.

RECREATION

The provision of recreational facilities is seen as contributing to conservation in a number of ways by providing opportunities for leisure activities in planned areas (such as Kinnego). Information and guidance given at places where people gather for leisure activities can make them more aware of their environment and better able to appreciate what is worthy of conservation elsewhere.

Future Development

Wildfowl Collection

A proposed wildfowl collection will be situated on the peat flats, to the south of Oxford Island, as a major contribution to the conservation of wildlife in Craigavon. It would also complement the international importance of the Great Crested Grebe colony on the west side of the Closet Bay, at the same time offering them protection.

Conclusion

It is envisaged that Oxford Island will continue to be promoted as a conservation and recreational area and that the management should be at a high level to strike the right balance between the various recreational interests.