Nature Trail

The Nature Trail at Greenmount Campus and the Hill Farm form the basis of the Project Management modules within the Foundation Degree course; where students are expected to manage and develop such areas under supervision of an advisory board.

The Trail attracts over 3,000 visitors per year. Field teaching experience using the Nature Trail is provided by a new RSPB/Greenmount partnership which offers the opportunity to investigate a variety of farmland habitats and their wildlife.

Education programmes

CAFRE have teamed up with the RSPB  to encourage a greater understanding of our natural environment.

Specially designed programmes include; curriculum linked primary and secondary school programmes. The learning experiences are designed to be hands on and are delivered by trained field teachers. Issues covered include:

  • Sustainable farming and your food
  • Biodiversity and endangered species
  • Waste management
  • Managing land for wildlife
  • Pollution

To find out more on the Primary School programmes click on the link below:

For information on tailor made programmes to support AS and A2 curriculum contact Deirdre Cooper by email:

Trail facilities and features

Groups will investigate farming, farmland habitats, wildlife and environmental issues when they make a visit to the Greenmount Trail. As part of your visit you may have the opportunity to view these features of the trail.

Trout pond

This ornamental pond is fed by a small stream from adjacent farmland. The pond provides an opportunity for groups to take part in pond dipping from a safe platform area. This activity highlights the variety of life found in a clean and healthy pond.


The Icehouse was built around 1800 for the storage of food, especially meat. Ice was removed from the lakes in winter and packed into the “well” of the Icehouse. The construction is partly underground and this helped to maintain the low internal temperature. The remains of metal meat hooks can be seen in the roof of the entrance passage.

Arch pond

The stone arch situated at the top end of the Arch Pond, built about 200 years ago, is constructed from selected stones that press together, holding the arch in place. This unusual landscape feature once connected an island in a large pond to the shore.


During the summer season, visitors can view bees in the observation hives. This facility is run in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Beekeepers Association.

Summer house

Built approximately 200 years ago, the ruins of the summer house still remain. This building was decorated with sea shells and would have been used by the estate family as a place to relax and enjoy the views over the Six Mile Water and Antrim.

Temple lake

This was originally featured in the demesne dating from the late 1700s; it was restored by the college in 1982. It is managed to provide a safe haven for wildfowl, – mallard, tufted duck, little grebe and moorhen can all be seen.

Constructed Wetland System (CWS)

This was constructed to evaluate the ability of a constructed wetland system to treat dirty water from a farmyard. The five ponds are connected by pipes and the dirty water flows through the system under gravity. As the water filters through it is cleaned by the reed beds before the water is discharged into the Six Mile Water.

Wild flower meadow

The area surrounding the wetland ponds has become a valuable habitat for wildlife as areas of scrub and wildflower meadows have been created. This supports a rich variety of wildlife and is a very attractive sight when in full bloom during the summer months.

Woodland wildlife

There are a number of woodland areas some of which contain some trees that are over 200 years old. The main species found on the trail are douglas fir, poplar, ash, beech and oak amongst others. These trees along with the herb and shrub layers underneath provide excellent habitats for wildlife.

Commonly occurring flowers include primrose, foxglove and bluebell; look out for the flowers of the wild garlic in April and May and later for the berries of shrubs such as elderberry, rowan and hawthorn.

Habitat log piles have been left at intervals along the trail. This gives an opportunity for a “mini-beast hunt” and to investigate food chains and biodiversity.

The fauna in the woods is equally varied; foxes, badgers, rabbits, field mice, pigmy shrew, hedgehogs, grey squirrels and stoats are present. Bird life includes the blackbird, buzzard, robin and wren, other species, such as, warblers and swallows spend the summer here.


The trail passes through grassland. Groups can view grazing farm animals such as cattle, sheep and horses. Slightly further away, depending on crop rotation patterns sometimes arable fields can be seen.

Renewable energy at HDC

The Horticulture Development Centre (HDC) uses several sources of renewable energy. A 5kW wind turbine has been installed, which generates eight percent of the electricity used by HDC. A Sustainable Energy Unit containing a 320 kW biomass boiler and solar heat store with 25 m2 of solar panels, burns non-fossil fuels (wood chip) to heat the glasshouse. The heat from the solar panels is used mainly for summertime heating. A rain water harvesting system collects the rain that falls on the glasshouse roof and this water is then used for irrigation.

Walled Garden

Walled Gardens were built in many estates and demesnes to provide a favourable micro-climate for fruit, vegetable and flower production. The Greenmount Walled Garden was built in 1801 and has continued in horticultural use until the present day. It was redesigned in 2000 as a Millennium Project and now includes a range of historical and modern horticultural features laid out within a formal framework. Adjacent to the Walled Garden is the DARD Rose Garden holding a collection of award winning roses, also a woodland garden and a wildlife garden displaying a range of features that enhance biodiversity.

DAIRY herd

CAFRE has a 200 cow autumn calving herd based at Greenmount Campus. Here the students take part in routine milking and husbandry duties on the herd, at the Dairy Centre, where a focus is placed on efficient and profitable milk production in a high welfare environment.