A leading conservationist says plans to extend cycle and pedestrian networks to the outskirts of Derry must preserve the history, heritage and landscape of the Siege era.
Mark Lusby, project co-ordintor with the Holywell Trust, says that although the initial phase of the cycle and pedestrian network will not encroach on the historic sites at Boom Hall and Gransha, long-term extension plans should only “enhance the heritage of these sites”.
Last week Derry City Council announced plans to connect much of the city via the cycle and pedestrian network after securing funding from the Department of Regional Development (DRD).
While Mr Lusby says he has received assurances over the first phase of work, he says future plans must also protect the Siege era sites.
“As someone who cycles to work on a daily basis, I think it is really great news that Derry has been awarded a £1.3m grant from DRD for new cycle/pedestrian routes within the city.
“Equally exciting are the longer term plans, set out in the Council’s Access Strategy, to connect the communities of Culmore and Strathfoyle with the city, extending the cycle network north of the Foyle Bridge and allowing access to the beautiful riversides of Boom Hall and Gransha.
“However there is a heritage issue that needs to be considered by everyone to ensure that this wonderful investment enhances the heritage of these sites.
“The new routes proposed along the river on both sides to Strathfoyle and to Culmore pass through a fragile historic and natural landscape which has largely been preserved, untouched by modern development. In particular these routes will cut right across the internationally-important 17th Century battlefield site, which encompassed both Boom Hall Demesne and Gransha Estate.”
He says as a battlefield site connected with the War of the Three Kings, it stands alongside Derry’s Walls and the Boyne in terms of national historic importance.
“Maps from 1689 show two major forts, trenches and redoubts covering both sides of the Foyle. Certainly the Boom Hall site retains obvious features associated with the Great Siege of Derry, notably King’s James Well and the remains of a footbridge crossing a stream, at the point where the boom was attached to the western shore of the river.
“Both Boom Hall Demesne and Gransha Estate are the last of the undeveloped woodlands and parklands which once belonged to the Abbey Church of Colmcille. The Boom Hall Demesne contains some of the oldest oaks in Derry.”
Mr Lusby says a full archaeological assessment is now needed at the sites.
“Such a comprehensive archaeological survey should be followed by a full conservation plan for the archaeological features and for the natural heritage of the sites. With these studies in place, appropriate development on both sites could be best planned, designed and located,” he says.