Two Ring of Gullion volunteers, Claire Voigt and Sean Maxwell, have been presented with beautiful hand-carved wooden plaques celebrating the one hundred hours that each has volunteered in the Ring of Gullion over the last two years. The plaques were created by local artist and woodturner Padraig Carragher and were presented by Des Murphy, Chairperson of the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership and Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
“The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership wouldn’t be able to carry out half of the work it does without its fantastic volunteers. From overseeing the Partnership as board members to helping with planning and running the Lúnasa Festival as well as carrying out practical conservation work; volunteers are vital.” said Des Murphy at the award presentation.
The largest and most varied team of volunteers within the Partnership are the Conservation Volunteers. Since the project began in September 2014, members of this team have gifted over 2,000 hours of their time restoring various sites across South Armagh.
“The Ring of Gullion Conservation Volunteers have been instrumental in creating, renovating and maintaining areas of rich biodiversity and heritage within the Ring of Gullion area. The amazing work carried out at sites like St. Jude’s Church, Camlough; the Dorsey Embankment, Silverbridge and Jonesborough Forest has increased the number and variety of lovely places on offer for tourists and has also enriched the environment for local communities.” added Gillian Fitzpatrick.
The Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s programme to conserve and enhance some of the region’s most treasured landscapes. The LPS runs from September 2015 until August 2018.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of the LPS.” said Volunteer & Outreach Officer Alison Henderson, who organises a team of over 100 volunteers. “Some volunteers can spare just an hour or two here and there but some, like Sean and Claire, have broken all records and continually amaze us with their dedication” she continued.
Everyone on the team volunteers for different reasons: for Claire, it has helped her back into the workplace after staying at home with her young children, while Sean has started a BSc Environmental Management & Technology course linked to his voluntary work and hopes to make a career of conservation.
“I volunteer for many reasons, mostly because I care about the beautiful landscape and special places in the area. Volunteering has plenty of benefits though; I’ve met some really wonderful people and learned a lot about nature and myself. There’s also the health perks, it’s a great workout most days and gives you a great sense of accomplishment when projects are finished.” said Sean.
“I take part in conservation volunteering to show my children the importance of working to help the environment, if everybody helped a little our local area would benefit incredibly. Volunteering has not only taught me new skills but has also taught me about local historical sites and traditional crafts, all of which are important to pass on to younger generations in order to keep our heritage alive.” added Claire.