The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s programme to conserve and enhance some of the region’s most treasured landscapes. Led by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council a £1.4 million programme is underway which aims to engage people with the Ring of Gullion AONB and surrounding landscape. Actions range from trail construction to storytelling and from interpreting the history of Newry Canal to the enhancing the areas rich biodiversity.
Slieve Gullion and its mystical ring dyke formed over 60 million years ago with the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean! In more recent times the landscape has been shaped by the action of glaciers, leaving behind the stunning scenery you see today. Every nook and cranny has been exploited by wildlife over the millennia; Red Deer, Red Squirrels, Red Grouse, Irish Damselfly and Irish Hare have all made their home among the peat, wood and wetlands. The Ring of Gullion has been inhabited by people for up to 12,000 years and those who lived here have left their mark on the landscape; whether it be Neolithic tombs, Iron Age fortifications, Christian monasteries, 16th and 17th century castles and much more. The Ring of Gullion is bursting at the seams with myths, legends and folklore – it truly is a remarkable landscape.
The partners cover a wide spectrum of expertise from geology, built heritage, biodiversity, tourism, agriculture, forestry, and recreation, to everything that makes up a community: its storytelling, music, dance and history. The lead partner, Newry and Mourne District Council, has made the Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) a top priority and has committed substantial funding and resources to its delivery, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has also committed substantial funding, and all other partners have pledged their support for the LPS and have showed that it is a priority within their organisation.
Through extensive consultation, an agreed set of themes for this Landscape Partnership have emerged. Principle among them are the conservation of built, natural and cultural heritage in the Ring of Gullion and increasing access and understanding of the areas important heritage.
The scheme will help to conserve some of the most threatened habitats in Northern Ireland, such as the heather moorlands, the woodlands, and the wildflower meadows as well as the threatened species such as the red squirrel, the barn owl and many more. It will conserve age-old townland traditions that are being consigned to history; spark an interest in those involved to continue the work through local community engagement; and encourage participation in the area’s culture through festivals, storytelling and oral history projects. Schools will be able to learn about the landscape and its heritage, and access that heritage through new trails and the restoration of old ones. The bank of skills learned along the way by all those involved will ensure that this project leaves a long-lasting legacy.
During the ‘troubles’ South Armagh was heavily militarised and even now sixteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the Ring of Gullion is an area currently internationally known for its militarisation. The Landscape Partnership Scheme through the Heritage Lottery Fund has the potential of creating a new legacy of cooperative regeneration building on a shared heritage for a sustainable future. The Landscape Partnership Scheme will be seen as a flagship of the Peace Process.
It is important to offer a positive impact economically, socially and environmentally. Thus the delivery of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme will bring with it immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term economic development potential. It will immediately bring cash into the local economy through recruitment, overheads, and professional fees and crucially it will create four new jobs. In the short term the scheme will bring further cash to the local economy, the scheme will deliver outcomes for the conservation of the areas natural and built heritage, substantially increase access to the countryside resulting in greater visitor numbers, and health benefits for those who live and work in the scheme area. High quality training will be implemented in order to support local groups and societies. In the medium to long term (4 years +) the scheme will deliver a positive economic impact by creating the circumstances whereby local communities can create and improve on livelihoods by using the outcomes of the four programmes. Greater access and understanding of the area, highly trained individuals, and greater sense of pride will all help to bring about economic regeneration of the Landscape Partnership Areas by supporting the social and economic wellbeing of its communities.
The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership is an ambitious project with enthusiastic and qualified partners in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).