Nature nurturers in Northern Ireland say they have had “a dream come true” after winning funds to buy 130 acres of land in a project aimed at boosting the country’s relatively sparse woodland cover.
The Carntogether Community Association will spend £512,000 on a “wildlife haven” adjacent to the Drumnaph woodland site near Maghera, protecting habitats dating from the 1600s and increasing chances for the public to see two iron age forts.
“This is a grass-roots, community-driven project which will allow the entire community to get involved in a landmark heritage project,” said Niall O’Kane, of the association.
“This will bring the size of the Drumnaph reserve to over 200 acres, giving a critical mass of inter-linked habitats that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve.
“The involvement of the wider community in developing access and managing the reserve will also help develop the sense of community ownership, further underpinning its long-term sustainability for generations to come.”
Sparrowhawks, buzzards, otters, Irish hare and a variety of wading birds flourish at Drumnaph, enjoying grazing meadows, wetlands, riverbanks and bogs.
“The woodland was at significant risk of destruction had it not been purchased,” said Paul Mullan, the Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, which supplied much of the money.
“The association has recognised the importance of linking people back to their heritage. This project will equip volunteers with ecological conservation skills and provide a good practice model for community management of woodland, wetland, and grazing habitats.”
The investment is part of a ten-year plan which will protect thousands of animals and plants as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. It has also earned financial backing from the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency.