Rams Island is located approximately just over one mile offshore from Lennymore Bay and Sandy Bay on the Eastern Shore of Lough Neagh.
Rams Island enjoys the designations of Lough Neagh which was designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar site in 1992, 1996 and 1976 respectively.
Lord O'Neill of Shanes Castle has owned Rams Island since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rams Island is private property. Lord O'Neill has leased the Island for thirty years to the River Bann & Lough Neagh Association Company. Lord O'Neill is a founder member and patron of the Association.
The River Bann & Lough Neagh Association operate a licensed passenger vessel from Sandy Bay during the summer months at weekends on a demand basis and all year round for special interest groups who must be wardened during the nesting season (March to June inclusive) see contact us. Abhainn Cruises organises excursions to the Island as does ABC Council . Anyone with their own vessel is welcome to visit all year round. The Association in common with other wildlife reserves have a strict no dogs policy except for trained working dogs (guide dogs etc.). Anyone wishing to camp over or visit with a group please contact us.
RBLNA is a voluntary body of waterways enthusiasts with members whose interests are boating, natural and built heritage, conservation, bird watching, wildlife, history, archaeology and fishing. The River Bann & Lough Neagh Association Company belongs to the members. The Company has a board of directors who oversee the projects that the Company undertakes. The projects are usually managed by a project manager reporting to the directors. RBLNAC has no paid staff, only volunteers who donate their time for free.
The River Bann & Lough Neagh Association Company is private company limited by guarantee NI 053517.
It has had Charitable Status under HM Revenue and Customs no XT3998 since July 2007.
The Company is a registered Charity Northern Ireland Charity number: NIC102397
Charities Commission website. http://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/
The Association is always looking for volunteers to help with various projects on Rams Island, large and small. Contact the project manager firstname.lastname@example.org (07715368050) for further details.
The Island, its buildings and its wildlife have suffered over the years from various factors ( mainly influenced by man ) including the introduction of non native invasive species and of course the ravages of time. There has been no one caring for the Island for quite a long time.
To restore and care for the natural and built heritage of Rams Island.
To restore safe controlled access for all including disabled to Rams Island.
To educate all about the diverse natural and built heritage of Rams Island and the Lough Neagh Wetlands.
These three aims will take a long time to achieve but with all the volunteers working on the Island they are slowly becoming reality.
The Association has received funding for Capital Projects from Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Culture Arts and Leisure, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ulster Garden Villages and the sales of the books produced by the Association. We have also received donations from the general public. Our running costs have been met by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Association Events, Camping and revenue earned by the Island Warrior. The Department for Communities have been a great help during the Covid Crisis.
To enable the Association to run the Island as efficiently and effectively as possible within the parameters of the various designations listed at question no 2 a consultant was employed by the Association to draw up a Conservation Management Plan for Rams Island. The consultant held a series of meetings with the various stakeholders, the then three immediate Councils, (Antrim, Craigavon and Lisburn), NIEA, Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Advisory Committees, the Lough Neagh Partnership, The River Bann and Lough Neagh Association, Ronnie Kane and Lord O'Neill. A draft plan was produced for further discussion and agreement. Once agreed this plan then received consent from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency which effectively gives legal agreement by the Agency for all the prescriptions in the plan. The majority of the rules and prescriptions in the plan do not affect the general public.
The Association has identified in conjunction with various experts the following non native Invasive Species on Rams Island
Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera click here for further information
Spanish Bluebells Hyacinthoides hispanica
Few Flowered Garlic Allium paradoxum
New Zealand flatworm Arthurdendyus triangulatus
Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus
Also before a massive eradication programme we had the Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus which now appears to be extinct on Rams Island
Another problem species of concern are the Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus which cause problems with young seedlings of native trees but unfortunately they seem to dislike young Sycamore. Rabbits do not normally live in a woodland.
Fortunately to date no Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum or Japanese Knotweed, Fallopia japonica have been found on the Island. Zebra Mussels Dreissena polymorpha have found near the Island. These species are becoming quite prolific on Lough Neagh.
The Association runs various publicised events throughout the year such as balsam bashes during the summer months. The Association also spent a massive amount of volunteer time and money on the Rat eradication programme. We are currently conducting a survey of Spanish Bluebells and Sycamores on the Island. We have consent from NIEA to remove these species and replace with native species. The Island's wardens regularly patrol looking for signs of rat reinfestation and for Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed.
It was originally thought to provide an interpretive centre on the Island to educate visitors but following discussions with E.H.S, our own research and because of possible environmental impacts and prohibitive costs it was decided to use a floating facility aboard a barge moored at the Island.
The barge is used as a Gateway for visitors to the Island not only in the symbolic sense but groups of visitors are usually treated to hot drinks aboard the barge as they learn about the environment of Rams Island. The barge is the recommended first port of call for visitors to learn about the various interests the Island has to offer the visitor and also to advise visitors about any negative impacts they could inadvertently cause to the Island whilst visiting. The barge also has a disabled access toilet. The barge serves as a wet weather shelter for visitors waiting to board the ferry. It is also used as a workshop for special interest groups (Fungus/Bat/Birding groups etc).
The barge (JK16) an ex John Kelly coal barge was originally used to transport imported coal along the Lagan from the Belfast Coal Quays to the Gas Works in Belfast. It was subsequently sold to the sand trade on Lough Neagh and was last used by Readymix at Toome Bay. Replaced by larger barges JK 16 was donated to the Rams Island Heritage Project by Readymix in 2004.
The barge is now the cornerstone for volunteers who come to Island to work at the various environmental restoration projects that are planned/in progress (native tree planting, path restoration, habitat creation, invasive species management etc.) Up to thirty volunteers have dined aboard the barge thanks to the volunteers who staff the galley.
Local community groups who work on the Island with us participate in volunteering weekends on the Island and the barge plays a key role in these activities as a facility for volunteers who spend a weekend working on the Island. The barge also acts as a first aid post and wardens office. The barge is also used by the wardens for overnight stays. The barge is not a public toilet with fixed opening times but visiting boaters are welcome to use the toilets aboard the barge when RBLNAC volunteers are on the Island. Also the kettle is usually on the boil.