Glenshane Slopes Landscape
- broad, rounded ridges with sweeping slopes and rocky outcrops leading to steep, pointed summits
- deep, branching gullies and open, fast-flowing moorland streams
- open moorland wilderness, exposed to the elements, with a gradual transition to scrub and pasture on the lower eastern slopes
- carpet of open moorland pasture and heather with extensive bog and areas of damp grassland on flatter land and lower slopes
- prominent townland boundaries are visible as earthbanks and stone walls and form a striking landscape pattern on some slopes
- winding moorland roads and straight tracks leading across contours
- scattered buildings on lower moorland slopes; occasional isolated farms or barns
The Glenshane Slopes are a relatively small upland area on the eastern fringes of the Sperrins. The area is separated from the main block of the Sperrins by the basalt escarpment summits of Carn Hill and Craigmore, but is formed from the same resistant metamorphic rocks as the Sperrins and pre-dates the basalt escarpment by millions of years. The highest summit of Carntogher (464m) towers over the Glenshane Pass, forming a dramatic gateway to the Sperrins from the east. The landform of the uplands is similar to that of the Sperrins to the west, with knife-like ridges and pointed summits which are more sharply defined than that of the upper basalt plateau. There is no escarpment and the summits are surrounded by steep ridges and scree slopes.
The steep, open slopes leading to the summits are carpeted with moorland grasses, closely-cropped by sheep. The lower slopes support a more diverse, patchy mosaic of moorland grasses, heather and rushes and there are rich, verdant pastures at the foot of many ridges. Even minor variations in landform are revealed by the carpet of low vegetation. There are no roads (other than the Glenshane Pass), farmsteads or cottages on the upper slopes; only occasional barns, some of which are partially derelict but continue to be used to provide some shelter for sheep and for storage. The eastern slopes of the uplands have a more diverse landscape pattern, with a transition to the undulating pastures of the drumlin lowlands near Maghera. Here partially broken stone walls, earthbanks and gappy remnant hedgerows subdivide the slopes, marking the former pattern of fields.
This transitional landscape typically has many small-holdings and derelict cottages , but there are no settlement clusters and few roads. The extensive conifer plantation of Glenshane Forest is contained by the valley of the Upper Roe on the south west fringes of the plateau. The slopes are typically subdivided into large fields by wire fences to control sheep grazing. These are barely visible and the ancient townland boundaries leading directly up the slopes of Crockcor, are prominent features in the open landscape at the entrance to the Glenshane Pass.
Landscape Condition and Sensitivity to Change
This open moorland landscape is extremely sensitive to change since even relatively small elements in the landscape, such as electricity pylons or a single building are visible over long distances. Conifer plantations represent one of the most significant pressures for change; there is a risk that they will form extensive, homogeneous blocks which camouflage the subtle variations of colour and landform which are such an important characteristic of this upland landscape.
Plantations may also have straight edges and geometric shapes which form hard, jarring lines against the natural grain of the slopes. The only built development in this area is on the lower fringes of the uplands; any buildings or infrastructure (such as wind farm developments) on the upper slopes would be extremely visually intrusive and would threaten its intrinsic qualities of wild remoteness and isolation. The ridgetops and summits are particularly sensitive, as are the slopes of Crockcor, which have striking historic field patterns.
Principles for Landscape Management
- planting deciduous trees on the fringes of conifer plantations may help to diversify the appearance of extensive monocultures and improve their integration with the surrounding landform
Principles for Accommodating New Development
- new built development is not appropriate in the remote upland landscapes of the Glenshane Slopes - however, the transition to the uplands influences the quality of the upland landscape and the scattered, modern bungalows on the lower slopes may detract from the sense of wilderness
- new development on lower slopes may be integrated by using local stone as the principal building material and by selecting a sheltered site; extensive earth modelling is not appropriate and any new planting should use native species
- the view from the A6 is particularly important and any new development involving infrastructure, mineral extraction or buildings, should be sited and designed so that it is not visible from this major gateway route