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Natural history and traditional countryside skills training

Natural history and traditional countryside skills training

The Natural history and traditional countryside skills training 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 £12,000

This project 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. The project will deliver on these aims by:
1. Hosting a series of workshops which provide participants the basic identification skills needed to determine species or class
2. Encouraging participants to form part of a Natural Heritage field studies group
3. Providing information on where to report findings and address queries
4. Providing reference guides and recommended reading lists
5. Creating a network of attending participants, so they may continue to be involved in natural heritage events.

Project Updates

Gardening with Wildlife

Update published on: September 19, 2018


During the spring and early summer we ran a Gardening with Wildlife course at the Tree Nursery. Participants learned various skills and tricks used by organic gardeners including:

  • using sea weed as fertiliser;
  • how to make your own compost;
  • how to save your own seeds;
  • how to control weeds by using mulch;
  • how to create a wild flower area to encourage useful insects and,
  • what to plant and when.

With the hot weather and good fertiliser we had a bumper crop of massive potatoes and sizeable squashes, enough to share round everyone in the group who came back for the harvest.

If you’d like to see other pictures from the course, visit the gallery here.

Back to Basics Training Course

Update published on: July 9, 2018


Our Back to Basics Course was designed to give participants the skills required to leave modern technology behind and be able to survive in the wild, getting close to nature.

The course covered:

  • shelter building
  • fire starting
  • sourcing drinking water
  • foraging
  • tree and plant identification
  • track and trail identification

Check out the gallery to see the different kinds of shelters that were constructed and the various fire starting techniques that were used.

Traditional Woodland Management Skills Training Course

Update published on: April 9, 2018


Our Traditional Woodland Management Skills course finished over the weekend, with participants learning how to use the products of woodland management for various kinds of wood craft including basket weaving, spoon carving and pole lathing. As with all the skills taught they require time, patience and skill to really master.

Throughout the course participants learned the useful skills of:

  • Winter tree identification
  • How to grow your own trees from seed
  • Managing a woodland for coppice
  • Managing a hedge via planting and laying
  • Creating and managing living willow structures
  • How to make products from wood

Altogether it was a comprehensive introductory course in all aspects of woodland management. We even had the honour of being filmed for BBC’s Home Ground.

If you’d like to see pictures of our work, visit the gallery.

Upcoming Gardening with Wildlife and Back to Basics training

Update published on: February 28, 2018


Planning has been completed for our final two traditional skills courses.

Gardening with Wildlife – will give participants the opportunity to learn how to work organically with the wildlife in their gardens to improve soil health, create compost heaps and grow tasty fruit and vegetables.

The course will be running for 10-weeks from 10th April to 12th June 2018.

Back to Basics Natural Skills Course – will give participants the opportunity to leave the gadgets at home and learn how to survive in the wild as our ancestors once did. The course will cover a range of bush craft skills from shelter and fire building to foraging and animal tracking and identification.

The course will be running for 8-weeks from 19th Mary to 7th July 2018.

Upcoming traditional woodland management training

Update published on: October 6, 2017


We have a fantastic, comprehensive course on woodland and hedgerow management starting next month. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about planting and growing your own woodland or hedgerow, through to looking after a mature one and the products you can make from them.

Full details can be found here.

Hedge laying training

Update published on: November 28, 2016


Once again the products of our coppicing weekend, held at the start of October, were pressed into service, this time as hedge stakes.   An enthusiastic group of learners joined David Thompson from WildEIreland for a weekend of hedge laying training.

The training covered the theory behind hedge management and why it is important to manage a hedge correctly, particularly if you want it to have a long life as an effective stock barrier.  We soon got stuck into the practicalities of hedge laying, learning how to effectively wield bill hooks; the hedge laying tool of choice.

Over the course of the weekend we laid roughly 10 metres worth of hedge, supported by our hazel stakes, and were thoroughly getting the hang of the technique.

Pictures of our work can be viewed in the gallery.

Budding hudlers

Update published on: October 3, 2016


We had a busy weekend running our coppicing training course, which covered the theory of woodland management as well as practical implementation of coppicing techniques to coppice some of the Hazel growing in Jonesborough Forest.  We also covered the correct technique for felling larger single trunked trees.

The Hazel hasn’t been managed for at least 15 years and as a result the trees have formed complex trunk structures.  This made the initial coppice more difficult than it would be on a well managed coppice, however it did highlight the importance of managing a coppiced Hazel tree correctly.

As part of the training we also took part in some general forest management, removing sickly or weaker trees which were growing too close to larger, healthier ones.  This management will help the overall health of the forest and improve the biodiversity by allowing more light to reach the forest floor.

An added bonus was learning how to make a traditional hazel hurdle from the products of our coppicing.

Natural history & traditional skills training 3rd quarter 2016

Update published on: September 30, 2016


With the exception of ‘Gardening for Wildlife’ training held in April we crammed most of our natural history and traditional skills training into the third quarter of 2016 as part of the Lúnasa Festival, which opened it up to a much larger audience.

Throughout August people were able to participate in bushcraft, wild food foraging, wildlife photography and the identification of nocturnal creatures as well as general mini-beasts and pond critters.  Straw crafting and basket weaving also proved very popular.  We will hopefully be getting the straw crafters back at Christmas to run a course in wreath making.

Natural history & traditional skills training 1st quarter 2016

Update published on: March 31, 2016


We’ve had a busy first quarter in 2016.  We ran our first traditional skills training in the form of an introduction to hedge laying and coppicing.  We will be running two weekends of practical training in hedge laying and coppicing in the autumn.

For nature enthusiasts we had bumblebee identification, training in how to garden sympathetically with wildlife and for the early risers, a dawn chorus walk.  The dawn chorus walk enabled attendees to learn the calls of our native birds, as they are often heard rather than seen.

We also ran the first of our wild food foraging workshops, one for each season excluding winter.  Our spring food foraging gave participants the opportunity to learn how to identify, collect and prepare wild spring food for eating or drinking.  They also had the opportunity to taste nettle soup, made from their freshly collected nettles.  Our summer food forage will take place in August, as part of the Lúnasa Festival.

Natural history training in the fourth quarter of 2015

Update published on: December 31, 2015


The last quarter of the year provided us with the opportunity to run workshops on how to identify trees without their usual leaf coverings.  We also ran workshops on the identification of mushrooms and the tracks and trails that animals leave behind.  You may not always be lucky enough to see our wildlife, but you can often find evidence that they are in the area.

We also ran a popular hedgerow harvest event which gave participants the opportunity to learn about the free food available in our autumn hedgerows and how it can prepared.

Natural history training in the third quarter of 2015

Update published on: September 30, 2015


We’d had a busy few months over the summer learning all about the wildlife which share the Ring of Gullion with us.  A series of ‘Go Wild in the Ring of Gullion’ events were run as part of our Lúnasa Festival.  The events covered plants, pond life, butterflies and mini-beasts.  It was fantastic to see lots of children taking an interest in their local wildlife.

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey randomly chose two squares in South Armagh to monitor.  Training was provided, by Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland, for people interested in adopting a square to survey.  We also held an event as part of National Moths Night which provided participants an opportunity to learn about moths and bats.

We have also began our Riverfly monitoring programme.

The Ring of Gullion is the perfect classroom for up and coming training

Update published on: September 21, 2015


A range of training sessions has been organised over the Autumn and Winter at Crossmaglen Community Centre. Everything from social media to world host, to hedgerow forays!

Read the full news article here.

Natural history training in the second quarter of 2015

Update published on: June 30, 2015


The quarter we had a focus on our feathered wildlife, with workshops on the identification of our garden birds and barn owls.  A number of early risers joined us on a May Dawn Chorus walk, guided by Breffni Martin, around the Poet’s Glen in Creggan.  Breffni certainly knew his stuff and we were treated to bird song from over 20 different species of birds.

Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

Quick Contact

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

Tel: +44 (0)330 137 4898


Visitor Servicing and Attractions: 0330 137 4046

for any visitor servicing questions.

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