“Our main goal is legacy.”
1 Contact: Darren Rice, Landscape Partnership Manager, Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme, Comhairle an Iúir agus Mhúrn, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Crossmaglen Community Centre, O’Fiaich Square, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh. BT35 9HG. Email: email@example.com / Tel: 048 308 28592.
2 Territory: The Ring of Gullion is a unique geological landform lying on the south of County Armagh and extending into County Louth (the AONB designation go to the border). The ring of low, rugged hills forms a ‘rampart’ around the heather-clad Slieve Gullion mountain. Rich semi-wild habitats of heath, bog and woodland contrast with the neatly patterned fields and ladder farms. It is defined topographically by the hills of the impressive volcanic ring dyke. The boundary of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) generally includes these hills and their outer slopes. Slieve Gullion is rich in mythology arising from its associations with legends and the wider area’s archaeological heritage. It covers an area of 15,353ha. Slieev Gullion in the centre of the Ring Dyke and SAC is approximately half is owned by approx. 50 landowners / farmers and the other half by the NI Forest Sevice. Less than 6% of the Ring of Gullion being woodland. South Armagh is a highly populated rural area with the larger communities in the area include Crossmaglen, Newtownhamilton and Bessbrook with Forkhill, Mullaghbane and Jonesborough being inside the AONB designation. Camlough sits just outside the AONB designation
3 Founded: In 1966 it was designated as an AONB.
4 Genesis: The partners required to oversee the management of an AONB cover a wide spectrum of expertise from geology, built heritage, biodiversity, tourism, agriculture, forestry, and recreation, to everything that makes up a community. The lead partner, Newry and Mourne District Council, has made the Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) a top priority in their future planning. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has also contributes through its Environment Fund. The city of Newry bounds the AONB to the North East.
5 Vision: “To raise awareness and encourage a focus on the landscape – the beauty and distinctiveness of its natural features and cultural heritage, the opportunities to derive benefit from this landscape and its capacity to accommodate change. The Ring of Gullion landscape will be improved, restored and more fully appreciated through positive landscape management. To achieve our vision management will work with and commit to engage with our statutory, farming, community, commercial, recreational and environmental partners who live and work in and around the Ring of Gullion.”
6 Key Objectives:-. Conserve, enhance and restore the natural and built heritage that gives the Ring of Gullion LPS area its unique sense of place; Increase community participation in local heritage to make its conservation more sustainable, including developing new audiences and involving hard-to reach groups; Increase understanding about the importance of the landscape heritage and the role it plays in people’s lives to make its conservation more viable; Increase the skills and knowledge of local communities and partners to help them to conserve and promote the landscape heritage and to provide a legacy to the scheme.
7 Structure: As with the other AONB’s in NI a steering group has been convened for the Ring of Gullion comprising statutory, community, recreation and environment sectoral interests in order to raise awareness of the need for management of the AONB and to facilitate inter agency co-operation. The two main drivers of this are Newry and Mourne Council and the NI Environmental Agency. The Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) has a 16 person Board meeting every two months comprises. They include:- Voluntary / community sector X 5; Recreation X 1; Tourism X 3; Heritage X 1; Wildlife X 1 and Statutory / Agencies X 5. It should be acknowledged that many of these representatives straddle a number of different categories. This Board is supported by up to six informal and task orientated themed sub groups:- Conservation Volunteers; Oral History Working Group; Ring Dyke Working Group; Lunasa Festival Working Group; Arts and Craft Working Group and the Red Squirrel Working Group. [Note: Farmers are represented on all the Working Groups. Special forums and training events held to engage with the farming community.]
8 Operational Management: The LPS has a full time manager with three project related staff. Projects Officers deal mainly with capital works. A Volunteer and Outreach officer deals mainly with volunteers, outreach to communities, training and the annual Lúnasa Festival. There is also a part time administrator. The AONB has a dedicated Officer. There is a good productive working relationship between the two entities. The backend administration, procurement, and financial support from Newry and Mourne Council is a significant asset to the project.
9 Annual Core Budget: Approximately £300k pa [The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme is made up of 24 projects and has a budget of approx £1.4m 2014/2018 which includes project costs, salaries and associated costs, in-kind contribution and volunteer time.]
10 Sample Programming: The Community Walking Leader and Heritage Ambassador Project – The aim of this project was to create a pool of up to 48 people able to lead groups of walkers and visitors around the area over the LPS life. It also aimed to increase the knowledge base for current and future tour guides, accommodation providers and tour operators. Provide Workspace and Outlet for Local Artists – this aims to provide a workspace and outlet for local artists at Slieve Gullion Courtyard and exposure on the Ring of Gullion website which has in excess of 130k visits pa. Communications – management of the portal www.ringofgullion.org – there is a monthly email shot to 3k+ subscribers – Newsletter 6k in spring, 6k in winter distributed through the schools and 18k in the summer to all households in BT35 – there is a growing social media following on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Trip Advisor. Know Your Townlands – The project aims to raise awareness about the townlands in South Armagh, their history, their meaning and why they are important. It aims to regain the oral tradition with a new activity book being printed for each school. There will be school visits throughout 2016. Each townland will have a 30 second audio clip from some one from that townland to capture their accent as an historical record. Each townland will be marked with boundary markers on roads that intersect them. Volunteering and Youth Ranger Programme – this project aims to build capacity in the local population to carry out conservation work together with inspiring and build capacity in the area’s young people to manage protected areas. Natural History & Traditional Countryside Skills Training – aims to provide participants with the skills necessary to identify, record and report the species found within the Ring of Gullion, as well as the skills required to encourage biodiversity to thrive by employing traditional countryside skills. Historic Coach Tours – the delivery every Saturday / July & August of a single day guided coach tours of the area employing local guides. Training Delivery – the LPS is responsible for delivering a variety of bespoke training including GPS / Navigation Skills / Wildfire Management / and Natural Heritage.
11 Some Practical challenges Encountered: There tends to be a lot of paper work involved with Planning applications, and working with statutory partners; Another challenge is finding out information on landowners, if they haven’t their land registered on Landweb then its resource heavy having to write out to locals, contacting community groups etc.
12 Some Unresolved Issues:; Its challenging to get in touch with key landowners in order to progress projects. After checking with Landweb, local communities, advertsing in local media and checking with our partners – sometimes we have to go to plan B and move the project to a different site.
13 Lessons Learned: Relationship building – as the LPS Manager is a Council officer there is an immediate ‘point person’ into the Council at all levels enabling an excellent relationship develop with the likes of the access, biodiversity, rural development and tourism teams. The relationship with the Council enables the accelerated flow of information on EU funded programmes and cross border programming opportunities; Good projects don’t always require funding; People interested in the red squirrel and pine marten don’t need to go to meetings on mountain biking that is why we developed the specialist sub groups; Resilient Landscape: Tree planting – we never employ more than 60% of one species, they are all native and importantly sourced and grown locally.
14 Work Profile: Natural heritage 20%; Community engagement 25%; Training 20%; Route development 15%; Communications & information 10%. Funding applications and funding claims 10%