This area like Magilligan would have been underwater after the last ice age. As the land slowly rose the area revealed glacial deposits of shingle and sand, tidal salt marshes and raised beaches. The fertile alluvial plain stretched from Enagh to the mouth of the River Roe. What we see today was artificially created during the 1800s when the Honourable Irish Society initiated a major drainage scheme for the area to facilitate the laying of the new railway line from Belfast to Londonderry and and also to develop new farmland.
Over 18,000 acres were drained and a large sea wall built to protect the land from the tidal Foyle. The man made bank run for some 8km from the mouth of the River Roe round to Ballykelly. Long drainage channels were cut inland with smaller drains interspersed at right angles. The overall result has created some of the most productive land in Northern Ireland. Here you will find crops such as cereals, potatoes, carrots, willow, rape seed oil as well as turf culture.
The area has two distinct sea walls, the Ballykelly Bank which runs towards Derry and the Ballymacran Bank which runs to the mouth of the River Roe. The road will take you to a car parking area between the two. These are high sea defences with a large back drain on the land side, this provides another haven for wildlife. Over the bank are the tidal mudflats which are well known for the thousands of waders and wildfowl that come to winter here. There are several hides and location for visitors to watch from. and the area is a designated RAMSAR site (wetlands of international importance). In 1820, the Broharris canal was constructed from the Foyle toward Limavady, it runs for approximately 3.2km. As well as providing a major drainage channel it also served to take goods by barge from Derry to near Limavady. The survey for the canal was carried out by the well know canal engineer John Killaly, who was responsible for the Grand Canal and the Newry Canal.
The land provided the ideal location for airbases during the Second World War when Ballykelly and and Eglinton were built. Ballykelly which is now closed lies behind the Ballykelly Bank, the large runway was expanded to take V Bombers during the late 50s. The only runway I know off that has a railway line crossing it, I think the trains had right of way! This area was extremely active during the Second World War and provided the main base for north Atlantic patrols. The evidence can still be seen from the car park area at the banks. On a low tide you can still clearly see the remains of a Chance - Vought Corsair (JT693) which ended up on the mud flats in October 1944. Having developed engine problems the pilot Lt C.H. Schwenger, RCN had to make a forced landing from which he escaped unhurt. The plane has lay there ever since with no attempts to salvage it due to the conditions of the mudflats. Although it has decayed over the years you can still make out the wings and part of the fuselage.
To find your way to the banks:- As you drive along the Causeway Coastal Route between Limavady and Ballykelly look out, on the shore side, for Broighter Road. Follow this until you come to a T junction and turn left onto Lomond Road, at the next T junction turn left onto Carrowclare Road, then take the first right. This will take you to a parking area between the two banks.
As you drive down Broighter Road you will pass near the field where the famous Broighter Gold Hoard was found in 1896 by Tom Nicholl and James Morrow while ploughing. The artefacts which date to the 1st century BC consist of small gold boat with oars (7ins long), a torc, collar and some smaller items of gold. It is believed it may have been offered as a sacrifice to the ancient sea god Manannan mac Lir. At that time this area would have been tidal with large pools of water.