In the past few weeks, the Derry Walls have become green with vegetation. Most abundant is ivy-leaved toadflax Cymbalaria muralis.
This plant, native to the Southern Europe, is common on ancient walls and is also called Wandering Sailor and Coliseum Ivy. It has heart-shaped leaves with three or more lobes. The delicate flowers are held on stalks which are phototrophic: positively when flowering and negatively when the seeds are produced. This results in the seeds being deposited in crevices in the Walls when the stalks start to turn away from the light. Another plant common on the Derry Walls is Walls Rue Asplenium ruta-muraria, a species of fern which love the lime-mortar used to point the Walls.
Another plant to look out for on the Walls is Pellitory of the Wall Parietaria judaica. It bears tiny flowers directly on its hairy stems. It overwinters through buds located just below the soil surface.
The DOE Conservation Plan for the Derry Walls, policy 41 states “guidance should be included in the Management Plan that will ensure existing botanical interests are identified, managed and protected in an appropriate manner”. However the DOE Management Plan’s only mention of botany is to state that the NIEA will remove weeds from the Walls on an annual basis. Certainly, plants which are deep rooting such as buddleia cause damage to the structure of the monument. Small annual plants can help the monument by shading the masonry and supporting a more diverse range of wildlife. The Friends of the Derry Walls will be encouraging DOE NIEA to produce specific guidance on the management of plant life on the Derry Walls, controlling those which injurious, protecting those which add to the attractiveness of the Walls for visitors and wildlife. A walk around the walls with a botanist will be arranged – details to come.
The Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project is working with the Nerve Centre’s Teaching Divided Histories and Public Image – Events to create a light installation on the Plinth on Royal Bastion on the City Walls. Entitled ‘the Empty Plinth’ the artwork is part of the four day Lumiere Festival of Light in Derry from 28th November to 1st December. The emptiness of the Plinth will be be filled with a simple, pure beam of white light. This week’s light installation is the first of the series of artworks planned for 2013/4 to bring the Plinth and Bastion alive, reclaiming these contested spaces for everyone in Derry. For more information click here.
Derry City Council is hosting the 2013 European Walled Towns Symposium in later this month. A line-up of international and local speakers, plus hands-on workshops in Derry, Northern Ireland and Raphoe, County Donegal plus a study tour looking at heritage management along the Causeway Coastal Route, should be interest to heritage towns and walled towns across Ireland and Britain. Holywell Trust’s City Walls Heritage Project is helping Derry City Council with organising the symposium. Full details and special packages can be found here.