Belfast Zoo flamingo lake crannog should become tourist attraction, activist says

An ancient settlement in the middle of Belfast Zoo’s flamingo lake should be restored as part of a wide-ranging tourism strategy, a community activist says

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston says the crannog, an artificial island thought to date to the Bronze Age, could be a key element in a broader drive to both increase tourism more broadly in North Belfast but also to improve the Zoo’s finances as it currently runs an annual deficit of £2 million.

Glamping, touring vans and a Bangor Pickie Park style amusement venue at the site, as well as the literal unearthing of the district’s ancient heritage, are the focus of her hopes for an economic and environmental lift for area.

The Ulster Unionist and former Belfast Councilor says her vision is about reviving long forgotten sites as well as the area’s economic wellbeing.

She added: “There’s so much history here, so much that’s been forgotten, built over, bulldozed and lost. But when you dig, literally, into North Belfast’s history there is so much there that we could educate people about and that could be part of a wider strategy to increase tourism in the area, create jobs and sustain livelihoods.

“There’s the crannog in the lake in the Zoo. Reconstructing the crannog and making it part of the wider visitor attraction, as they have done in Scotland, has obvious benefits. Educating people on how our ancestors lived, farmed, hunted and died. The Zoo is a 55 acre site and there is so much potential, none of which involves bulldozing anything or impinging in any way on the beauty of Cavehill behind it.

“There’s a couple of acres just in front of the car park, neighboring the famous Bellevue steps and running parallel to the Antrim Road, that people will remember as the Zoo keeper’s cottage, the amusement park and later the old zoo. These attractions can and should be revived.

“I would love to see this vacant land utilized as a glamping village and the old disused carpark as space for those coming into the city in touring vans. And not forgetting our treasured Floral Hall, like any holiday village we would need an entertainment and dining facility.

“We have such beauty, such history and such incredible opportunities right on our doorstep, and we need to make use of them as we strive to make North Belfast as a better place to live, work and call home.”

According to the Culture Northern Ireland website the crannog in the Zoo was covered up many years ago, but the structure of the crannog was covered with earth to “leave it undisturbed for the attention of future archaeologists”.

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston’s vision for the space at Belfast Zoo

The crannog probably belongs to the late Bronze Age, between 1500 and 500BC, they say. As well as the Zoo, Julie-Anne says there is evidence from the Queens University Geographical study of settlement activity in the Seaview allotments area dating to the Early Christian period.

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