Slieve Gallion Landscape
- steep, flat-topped summit of a former volcanic plug with a distinctive, uneven slope profile
- striking landmark at the eastern limit of the Sperrins; summit has a single tall mast
- undulating landscape at the foot of the mountain, deeply dissected by narrow, branching glens
- mixed woodland within glens and small conifer plantations
- varied patchwork of pastures and dense, well-managed hedgerows with numerous hedgerow trees
- fairly large farms and scattered buildings along narrow, winding lanes
Slieve Gallion is a prominent peak on the far eastern fringe of the Sperrins. It is a volcanic plug and has a distinctive profile, with a steep-sided, flatter summit than the surrounding mountains and an uneven slope profile. The solid geology of the Slieve Gallion area is particularly complex, with igneous rocks of volcanic origin surrounded by areas of granite. Granite extends up onto the southern slopes of Slieve Gallion, producing a particularly scenic and unusually verdant landscape on the shores of Lough Fea. The upland plateau to the west of the summit is dominated by extensive blanket bog, small rounded loughs and the conifer plantations of Davagh Forest.
A resistant band of limestone outcrops at the foot of Slieve Gallion and is deeply dissected by numerous streams within deep, narrow valleys. The lower slopes of Slieve Gallion have a diverse landscape pattern, with an irregular patchwork of fields, punctuated by small blocks of woodland. Many of the narrow glens are densely wooded and there are a few small conifer plantations, fringed with deciduous trees, on the granite ridges to the south of the summit. The fields become smaller on steeper slopes and on the valley floor and there are some larger arable fields on the ridgetops. All the fields are enclosed by hedgerows, although there are some granite stone walls on the south-eastern slopes of Slieve Gallion. In addition to the larger woodlands, there are copses and numerous hedgerow trees, creating a secluded, soft sheltered character at the foot of the mountain slopes. Within the valleys, the vegetation becomes more scrubby and there are willows alongside the streams and in the hedgerows. There are no large settlements; the many scattered farms and cottages are connected by narrow, twisting lanes. Red-roofed barns are a characteristic feature of the larger farmsteads.
Landscape Condition and Sensitivity to Change
The summit and steep slopes of Slieve Gallion are extremely sensitive to change as they are prominent in views throughout the lowlands on the western shores of Lough Neagh. The existing conifer plantations on these slopes (particularly Iniscarn Forest) are highly visible and their blocky forms may detract from the sweeping character of the slopes.
The landscape of areas underlain by granite is generally in slightly better condition than the farmland to the north. However, there is some evidence of hedgerow removal in these areas, suggesting that there is pressure for more intensive agriculture. There is extensive sand and gravel quarrying on the fringes of Lough Fea. Areas of glacial moraine on the upland plateau are affected and the scenic qualities of this unusual and attractive combination of landscape elements is threatened by the quarries, their machinery and the associated roads.
Principles for Landscape Management
- deciduous species may be used to soften the edges of conifer plantations and help to integrate them with the surrounding, striking landforms; conifer plantations would not be appropriate on the steep, open slopes leading up to the summit of Slieve Gallion
- the scenic quality of the unusual and attractive combination of landscape elements at Lough Fea is threatened by active sand and gravel quarries, with their associated machinery and roads
Principles for Accommodating New Development
- any building or additional tall masts on the open slopes or summit of Slieve Gallion would be extremely prominent and potentially intrusive as the mountain is a focus for views from the extensive lowlands to the west of Lough Neagh
- the hierarchical pattern of small-scale settlement should be retained, with any new development clustered in small groups and sheltered by extensive native tree planting
- there are opportunities to restore existing buildings on the lower slopes, conserving traditional building styles and re-using local building materials