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Habitat protection, restoration and creation

Habitat protection, restoration and creation

The Habitat protection, restoration and creation project is implemented through The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme. The 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.

The total budget for this project is £63,000

This project aims to conserve the biodiversity in the Ring of Gullion landscape area through surveying, education and raising awareness in the community and beyond regarding good environmental practice. The project also aims to increase the amount of biodiversity by restoring habitats and removing the threat of non-native invasive species.

To view the full project plan please download the Ring of Gullion Landscape Conservation Action Plan below.

Project Updates

Sizzling Summer & Bumper Harvest

Update published on: September 30, 2018

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We have had a very busy summer out and about in the tree nursery and wider Ring of Gullion. We ran a Gardening with Wildlife Course in the spare beds of the tree nursery, planting potatoes, squash, carrots, parsnip and onions. We also created a lovely wildflower garden, complete with pond in a former bull rush bed, area of the nursery. The wildflower area encourages lots of useful insects in, which helped control pests on the fruit, vegetables and trees.

May saw us out with a determined volunteer, tackling the Giant Hogweed growing in the Ring of Gullion; our efforts are finally starting to make a difference with the Giant Hogweed becoming less frequent in the areas that we can spray regularly.

July had everything absolutely baking. The combined effects of the drought and heat wave took it’s toll on our young trees, but most in the nursery seem to have survived, though sadly we can’t say the same for ones that had been planted out the previous winter.

Still the heat did wonders for the growing rates of the vegetables and the trees that could cope with drying weather. We had a bumper crop of potatoes, squash and tomatoes.

Once the trees go into hibernation, it’ll be time to start finding permanent homes for many of them.

Spring has finally arrived

Update published on: April 30, 2018

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Spring seemed to be a long time in coming this year, but it is finally here. All our saplings are in full leaf burst, except for the oaks, which will take a bit longer. We managed to find a home for all of our free trees which has freed up beds for our new saplings.

Most of the tree seeds haven’t germinated yet, but it’s still early days. The crab apples have a head start as they have been kept in the poly-tunnel over the winter and are already 4cm tall. We’re just waiting for the temperature outside to warm up enough that there are definitely no overnight frosts before we transplant the seedlings out into the beds.

The local primary’s Gardening Club have planted up every available bed in the poly-tunnel, with onions, lettuce, strawberries, peas and carrots. They regularly tend their growing plants as well as water all the plants and trees growing in the nursery. If all goes well we should have a bountiful harvest of fruit, vegetables and trees come September.

Winter in the Ring of Gullion

Update published on: December 31, 2017

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In the tree nursery we have been working hard to process this autumn’s bounty of seeds and nuts. We collected a good crop of hazel nuts and acorns, as well as sloes, crab apples, alder and hawthorn. Hopefully, we’ll have lots of young saplings come May.

We have also started the process of digging up our one and two year old saplings, to measure them to see if they are ready for planting out. If they aren’t big enough their roots are checked and trimmed if they are too long and then they are planted in the nursery for another growing season. Once we have all the trees dug up and counted, those ready for planting out will be freely available to good homes in the Ring of Gullion.

Autumn in the Ring of Gullion

Update published on: September 30, 2017

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We’re back into the busy season of the tree nursery; collecting, processing and planting out the seeds of next year’s trees. Overall our young trees have been doing very well, our one year old trees shot up during the summer and many are ready for planting out. We have a good number of crab apples, oaks and willow saplings that are flourishing.

If you’re out and about for walk and feel like collecting some seeds from our native trees, all help is greatly appreciated. Just drop the seeds into the polytunnel at Tí Chulainn.

Glassdrummond Community Woodland and Wildlife Safari

Update published on: August 27, 2017

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Standing next to St Brigid’s church in Glassdrummond, a little plantation woodland had become a dark dank and litter strewn eyesore, but even 10 years ago the local Parish Priest could see the potential of Glassdrummond wood as a community resource. Father King then worked doggedly to find funding and community buy-in to improve the forest. With the aid of the AONB officer, a successful application was made to the Challenge Fund to create a footpath and access into the wood in 2015.

Once access was improved the Landscape Partnership worked with the primary school and a number of local people to set up a properly constituted community group who were able to negotiate a Permissive Path Agreement with the church which enabled Outdoor Recreation NI to class the route as a quality short walk.

Work over the following year with the community volunteers consisted of improving the biodiversity of the woodland by removing invasive cherry laurel, clearing undergrowth and removing at least two skip fulls of rubbish.  Over the winter a training course in hedge-laying created a traditional beautifully laid hedge around part of the site. In February a tree surgeon removed a number of large spruce trees to open areas of the wood and let the light into the forest floor. We were delighted to find bluebells, wild violets and wild raspberries all sprouting where dark shade had previously prevented growth.

Plans were hatched at a series of workshops with the primary school for the features that the children wanted to see in the woodland and a fabulous “Day in the Woods” event led by Celia Spouncer and David Thompson also acted as a catalyst for ideas. David also wrote a 10-year Biodiversity Management Plan for the wood after consulting with the community.

In July the Youth Rangers created a dead hedge around an old quarry to keep safe the edges of what was to be the future outdoor classroom and started to build a “secret path” into the depths of the wood for the childrens’ games.

The next stage of work was carried out by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) who created all the infrastructure of the outdoor classroom, built some 5-star insect hotels, cleared out some rain-fed ponds, and enlarged a series of ditches to create a pond- dipping zone. A picnic site and Den zone has also been created featuring a lovely willow sculpture teepee.

The woodland was formally opened on 27th August at a community picnic and over 80 people attended taking part in a huge range of wildlife activities and listening to a story teller.

Work to further improve the biodiversity of the wood will continue over the coming winter

 

Summer in the Ring of Gullion

Update published on: June 30, 2017

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Tree nursery

The warmer weather has kept us busy in the tree nursery bringing with it an excellent crop of oak saplings as well as the yearly weed invasion. The willow cuttings are also doing very well and growing fast. Unfortunately, the seed trays are still proving unfruitful, however we’ll keep tending them through the summer in case we get any late bloomers.

St. Mary’s Primary School gardening club have been busy filling the unused beds in the polytunnel with potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, onions and cabbages. It’ll be interesting to see what we can harvest in a few months. Hopefully some of the crops will be still needing harvested when the pupils come back to School in September.

Giant Hogweed spraying

A couple of hardy volunteered joined our staff to tackle the Giant Hogweed growing around Cloughoge and along the Bessbrook river. Unfortunately some of the Giant Hogweed was impossible to reach safely, so we ask locals to be vigilant of the plant spreading to new areas around Cloughoge in particular.

Tree nursery woes and triumphs

Update published on: March 31, 2017

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We’ve had an interesting quarter in the tree nursery, we finished off the last of the seed processing and planting and waited for the warmer weather to arrive to see what spring would bring us. The warmer weather came and went, came and went again, with wild temperature fluctuations which confused most of the plants in the tree nursery and caused havoc with our hazel and willow cuttings; killing off, all but a few.

Not to be deterred we waited to near the end of February, when the established trees started to bud, to redo our cuttings; so far, so good. During February we also took a trip to The Conservation Volunteer’s tree nursery in Clandeboye Estate to learn how an established tree nursery works. It was a very informative visit and has given us plenty of new techniques to try next autumn.

The crab apple saplings have gotten off to a good start in our polytunnel, where they were kept over winter to protect them from the worst of the weather. We should have a good crop come autumn. Outside however, the beds and seed trays remain disappointingly empty.

We have also continued the work of improving the biodiversity of Jonesborough forest by removing unwanted gorse as well as planting a few saplings in the cleared areas. We also planted a new hedge at St. Jude’s church, Camlough.

Old barracks to become a Peace Forest

Update published on: March 6, 2017

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The site of a Former British Army watchtower and barracks in Forkhill which became a symbol of the troubles of the past has been planted with 1000 native trees as part of a project to create a “peace forest” on sites along the border. A total of 4000 trees will be planted this year to form a remembrance for all those who lost their lives in the conflict.

Dismantled as part of the normalisation process under the Good Friday Agreement, Forkhill’s old barracks has remained a sea of concrete and gravel ever since. But that hostile environment had started to be reclaimed by nature as wildflowers pushed their way through tarmac. The creation of the Peace Forest will give this slow colonisation by the natural world a helping hand.

The Peace Forest project is being developed as a partnership between the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, Newry Mourne and Down District Council, the Woodland Trust, the Peace Forest Ireland Project and forest Friends Ireland.

Children from St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School began the first planting on the site with a low density spread of native trees and drifts of wildflower seeds in sunny glades. The inherited poor quality of the soil at the site will actually help to develop the natural beauty of this habitat.

One Million Trees in a Day project

Update published on: February 13, 2017

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The Ring of Gullion once again played it’s part in the reforestation of Ireland by acting as a distribution point for the One Million Trees in a Day project. With help from keen volunteers over 14,000 trees were bundled into orders and distributed at the weekend in a partnership between the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, the Woodland Trust and an All-Ireland initiative called One Million Trees in One Day.

Seeds, seeds and more seeds

Update published on: December 31, 2016

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We have had an extremely busy autumn season in the tree nursery; collecting, processing and planting seeds.  We reckon we have planted somewhere in the region of 2000 to 3000 seeds, possibly more.  As it was a good fruiting year for the oak trees we focused on collecting acorns and estimate we have around 600 squirrelled away.  The other plants we focused on were hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple and alder.  We were joined in the tree nursery by the Gardening Club from St. Mary’s Primary School, Mullaghbane.  The pupils learned how to identify the trees and their associated fruits and got stuck into the processing and planting.  In return we will be helping them grow vegetables in the polytunnel during the summer months.  Hopefully the spring will find us inundated with oak, blackthorn, alder and crab apple saplings.  The hawthorn and dog rose probably won’t make an appearance until spring 2018.

During the winter months we also took the opportunity to undertake some forest management in Jonesborough Forest.  We coppiced an area of hazel trees as well as removing invasive sycamore trees and gorse bushes.  We also thinned out a section of forest by removing weaker trees.  The removal of weaker trees is essential to give the stronger trees the space and opportunity to develop into large ‘standard’ trees, of the sort found in established forests like Slieve Gullion.  The coppicing of the hazel will allow more light to reach the forest floor increasing the biodiversity and making the forest a more open and brighter place to walk during the summer months.

The end of our first year in the tree nursery

Update published on: September 30, 2016

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We’ve reached the end of our first growing season in the tree nursery.  The majority of the saplings which were transferred from Slieve Gullion have gone from strength to strength.  A few of them didn’t overly appreciate the move, but we are hoping they will perk up next spring.

We have 111 saplings, by far our most successful species has been the Alder, of which we have 68.  We also have Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Rowan and Elder.  The majority of our wildflowers have now left the nursery and been ‘plug planted’ out in Forkhill Plantin and St. Jude’s Church, Camlough.  With luck these will flower in the spring and add to the wildflowers already on the sites.

Since August we have been busy gathering seeds and berries, we have a good collection of Elder, Rowan, Hawthorn and Broom.  Some of the broom collected in August has already sprouted and we are hoping that the winter frosts won’t kill them.  We’re also experimenting with Plum and Damson seeds.  Last week we gathered the first of our oak, it’s looking like this year will be a good year for acorns, so hopefully next spring we’ll have a lot oak saplings to tend.  Oak can support over 280 different invertebrate species so it’s an excellent tree to grow if you want to increase an area’s biodiversity.

Tree nursery moved to new home

Update published on: June 30, 2016

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With the arrival of spring and the warmer weather our first tree saplings started to sprout, resulting in them needing bigger pots and more space.  As a result we had to move from our temporary home in the Walled Garden at Slieve Gullion Forest Park and relocate to the allotment at Tí Chulainn, Mullaghbane.

The blackthorn and alder are all doing well, even some of the hawthorn seeds have sprouted; though they weren’t expected until spring 2017.  We even have some wildflowers which have started to sprout so all in all the tree nursery is doing well.

Help is always welcome, so if you’d like to be involved, please get in touch.

Fish in the Classroom

Update published on: May 27, 2016

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Four schools in the Ring of Gullion area participated in our Fish in the Classroom project supported by the Ballinderry River Trust.  The schools received everything they needed to look after fish from the egg stage through to fry; when they are ready for release.

After the eggs hatch the small trout are called alevin and have a yolk sac attached, which nourishes them for the first few weeks of life.  Once the yolk sac is absorbed they are called fry and are ready for release into local rivers.

The pupils who had the young trout in their classrooms took a trip to local rivers to help release their fry and examine the river life that the fish would be sharing their home with.

The Fish in the Classroom project enables pupils to examine life cycles up close and gives them the opportunity to take a greater interest in their local rivers and wider environment.

The programme will be running every November so if you would like your school to take part, please get in touch through the Contact Us page.

Additional trees giveaway

Update published on: March 24, 2016

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There was an additional 20,000 trees given away on the 24th March to landowners and gardeners from around south Armagh. A total of approximately 92,000 trees were planted in south Armagh this year. These extra trees were in secured by the Woodland trust.

Big tree giveaway 2016

Update published on: February 13, 2016

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Over 14km (61,000 saplings) of hedgerows and 11,000 saplings were given away at Slieve Gullion on Saturday 20thFebruary, to farmers, householders and community groups.  The crisp winter’s day saw the culmination of the Gullion’s Green Woodland Scheme, which is being run by Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership together with the One Million Trees in a Day project and the Woodland Trust. More than 20 volunteers helped run the mass tree give-away and loaded trees into everything from bicycle carriers to tractors. Click here for the full news article.

Staff and volunteers complete pesticide training

Update published on: December 4, 2015

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Two members of staff and two volunteers have completed their Pa1 and Pa6(w) Safe use of Pesticides training.  This means that we now have the equipment and skills necessary to safely use herbicides in our fight against invasive species, particularly the Giant Hogweed.

Areas with a Giant Hogweed infestation need regularly spraying of the Giant Hogweed plants throughout the growing season so that none of the plants mature and produce seeds.  The same area usually needs to be checked and treated for several years in order to achieve complete eradication.

With our qualifications we’ll be able to supervise other volunteers using knapsack sprayers, so if you’d like to help prevent the spread of Giant Hogweed in our area, you’ll be most welcome.

Gullion’s Green Woodlands and Hedgerows

Update published on: November 2, 2015

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The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to increase woodland cover in south Armagh. We have partnered up with various organisations in order to achieve our aims. Click here to download this leaflet to find out more information about how to get free trees in 2015/2016 planting season.

Collecting and processing seeds

Update published on: October 29, 2015

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Volunteers spent a day collecting and processing the first tree and wild flower seeds for our Slieve Gullion tree nursery.  Despite searching carefully for acorns and hazel nuts, none where to be found; however we did get a good crop of Black Thorn, Hawthorn, Rowan, Holly, Elder and Broom.

The Elder, Broom and Rowan were able to be planted into compost straight after being extracted from their seeds.  The Black Thorn will have to over winter in sand before being planted into pots in the early spring.  The Holly and Hawthorn however have to be stratified for 12 and 16 months respectively, before they can be planted out.  Stratifying requires the seeds to be placed in a container filled with a mixture of sand and leaf mulch.  The process is required to mimic the effect of the seed being eaten by a bird and helps to break the seeds hibernation, so that when the seeds are eventually planted into compost they should germinate.  If we didn’t stratify the seeds they could take up to 3 years to germinate!

School tree planting

Update published on: November 9, 2015

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Despite the miserable weather this morning, our Volunteer and Outreach Officer visited Cloughoge and St. Laurence O’Toole’s Primary Schools to help them plant new trees in their grounds.  The pupils rose admirably to the challenge, wrapping up in waterproofs and wellies before braving the muddy ground outside.  On the plus side all the rain over the weekend had made the ground nice and soft so it was very easy to plant the trees.

Pupils at Cloughoge Primary School planted some Oak, Hazel, Rowan and Blackthorn, and pupils at St. Laurence O’Toole’s Primary School planted Rowan.  Working as a team, the adults dug the holes, the pupils planted the trees and placed a supporting stake and tree guard over them.  Given a few years of growth the trees will provide an excellent habitat for invertebrates as well as providing fruit and nuts in the autumn for birds and mammals.  Twenty trees were also delivered to St. Paul’s High School, Bessbrook.

The trees were provided through the Woodland Trust’s Community Tree Packs.  They have a selection of packs which community groups can apply for depending on their needs; tree packs are available each spring and autumn.  If you are interested in applying for a tree pack for your community you can find information on the Woodland Trust’s website.  We are also facilitating the provision of free trees through Gullion’s Green Woodlands & Hedgerows; the deadline is midnight on 25th November.

Invasive species survey completed

Update published on: September 30, 2016

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Our two student placement volunteers, Brianna and Tom, have spent the summer surveying the Ring of Gullion for invasive species with assistance from other volunteers and the Youth Rangers.  The work has now been completed and we will use the information gathered to focus our control efforts and monitor their effectiveness.

Invasive species survey training

Update published on: April 30, 2015

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A number of volunteers successfully completed invasive species survey training.  The training provided volunteers with the key identification features of the most commonly encountered invasive species as well as guidance on survey techniques.  The volunteers’ new skills will be put to use over the summer months.

Crash Course in Bumblebees

Update published on: April 9, 2016

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The Ring of Gullion team and NIEA teamed up to provide a workshop for members of the public who are interested in finding out more about the bumblebee and how to find them. The workshop  took place in the Pastoral Centre Jonesborough.

An indoor session provided an introduction to some of the Ireland’s 20 species of bumblebee and NIEA’s Aoibhinn Corrigan discussed identification methods, bee behaviour and conservation issues associated with these essential pollinators.

We will then venture outdoors to some nearby bee-friendly habitats to explore the variety and abundance of bumblebees and sharpen up identification skills, using some of the common techniques, methods and materials associated with bee surveying.

We hope attendees will continue to put their new wildlife ID skills into action by recording what they see on the CEDaR Online Recording website, helping us to build a better picture of the wildlife in the Ring of Gullion area.

Bees are a very important for wildlife, gardeners and farmers. Ireland is home to 101 different known types of bee, including bumblebees, honeybees and solitary bees. Unfortunately more than half of Ireland’s bee species have declined in their numbers since 1980. Three species have become extinct in Ireland within the last 80 years. Bees are declining due to habitat loss, particularly of flower rich grasslands, hay meadows, and field margins and through the increased use of pesticides.

Gardens are where most people first experience wildlife and provide essential feeding sites and homes for lots of wildlife. Gardens may be small individually but collectively they make up a large proportion of greenspace, which is increasing as more houses are built. It is important for all of us to encourage wildlife into our gardens at home, school or workplace. In the summer, gardens provide a great source of nectar for bumblebees and butterflies, which in turn attract small mammals and birds.

National Plant Monitoring Scheme Workshop

Update published on: April 28, 2016

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The Ring of Gullion team are looking for volunteers to take part in the National Plant Monitoring Scheme. Designed by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Plantlife and the Join Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), the scheme will help provide an annual indication of changes in plant abundance and biodiversity.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council through the Ring of Gullion AONB and Landscape Partnership Scheme provided training to volunteers to take part in this great scheme in the Pastoral Centre, Jonesborough in April 2016 and August 2015 in Crossmaglen Community Centre.

Plants are the foundations of habitats and ecosystems, but we are currently lacking valuable information about changes in plants across the country and especially the Ring of Gullion.

The survey will help to provide robust evidence regarding which widespread plants are increasing or declining, and where. This is where the public comes in. We are looking for volunteers to carry out surveys in different parts of the Ring of Gullion.

This scheme is a newly developed habitat-based, volunteer-lead plant monitoring scheme. The aim is to collect data yearly and volunteers are randomly allocated a reasonably local 1km square to visit. For more information on the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in Northern Ireland, visit nmni.com/cedar/surveys/NPMS

Nationwide Butterfly Survey

Update published on: July 10, 2015

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The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey has randomly selected 2 squares in South Armagh to monitor. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council through the Ring of Gullion AONB and Landscape Partnership Scheme  teamed up with Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland to offer training to monitor these squares in 2015 in Crossmaglen Community Centre.

This is the first time that squares have been selected in this area. Adopting a square means setting up survey routes and a minimum of two visits between May and August to count butterflies along two 1km survey lines.

There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of biodiversity in the wider countryside. Butterfly populations are an excellent way to monitor the health of an environment.

Butterfly monitoring currently focuses on nature reserves and butterfly-rich places. This has lead to a lack of monitoring in vast areas of the wider countryside. These areas include farmland, plantation woodland, uplands and urban green spaces. The Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, run by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has developed a new Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) method to gauge the changing abundance of widespread species in the general countryside.

To find out more about the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme visit www.ukbms.org/wcbs.aspx or butterfly-conservation.org/113/wider-countryside-butterfly-survey.html.

Ring of Gullion River Watch Project

Update published on: July 27, 2016

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Training for the Ring of Gullion Riverfly Monitoring Project project took place on 27th July in Crossmaglen Community Centre.  Taking part in the project  involves monthly surveying using a three-minute health check with riverflies as a barometer for water quality examining the abundance of pollution sensitive riverfly larvae.

The Ring of Gullion has joined a national scheme, The Riverfly Partnership, to monitor water quality in the area’s rivers. Volunteers were trained how to sample and identify the invertebrate life present in the gravel and silt on the river bed. Many of these tiny creatures are sensitive to pollution so their presence and numbers help indicate the quality of the water.

The project will enable statutory bodies such as the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to respond quickly to sudden, severe water quality issues such as pesticide spills. Frequent sampling also acts as a neighbourhood river watch scheme deterring would-be polluters. In addition to helping address actute pollutions events, volunteers  have the potential to make a significant contribution to long term plans, for example local delivery of Water Framework Directive outcomes.

Community members are river custodian, they have a unique knowledge of their local rivers, and using a robust scientific health check their expertise can make a real, noticeable difference to how we monitor river quality. Healthy riverfly populations are a sure sign of healthy rivers, which means better water quality for everyone.

The monitoring programme is part of the on-going conservation work being undertaken by the Ring of Gullion AONB and Landscape Partnership in its bid to improve the overall river environment in the area.

The training was provided in partnership with the Ballinderry Rivers Trust, the Riverfly Partnership and Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

To find out more about the National Riverfly Partnership visit http://www.riverflies.org/.

Northern Ireland Pine marten and squirrel survey 2015 training

Update published on: January 31, 2015

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The Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red Squirrel Group  joined up with Quercus  in 2015 to carry out a survey of red/grey squirrel and pine martens across Northern Ireland. There will be a training session in the outdoor classroom in Slieve Gullion Forest Park on Saturday 31st January .

The project, funded by the Challenge Fund used camera traps to monitor the distribution of red/grey squirrels and pine martens in the area.  No experience was needed. Volunteers were required to work in pairs to set up the camera and feeder in a wooded area for a week and then take down the equipment when finished.

Quercus  hoped to find out more about the distribution status of the native and endangered red squirrel and pine martens across the Ring of Gullion area. This piece of work is being made possible via a grant from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s Challenge Fund.

Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

Quick Contact

Ring of Gullion AONB
Crossmaglen Community Centre,
O’Fiaich Square,
Crossmaglen,
BT35 9AA.

Tel: +44 (0)28 3086 1949
Slieve Gullion Forest Park: +44 (0)28 3031 3170
Email: info@ringofgullion.org

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