Drumnaph Community Nature Reserve is officially opened
A unique new nature reserve located outside Maghera, on the edge of the Sperrin Uplands, was officially opened on Wednesday 18th June. The Minister of the Environment, Mark H Durkin, cut the ribbon at a special event hosted by the Carntogher Community Association. Unlike most nature reserves, which are owned by government or environmental charities, the Drumnaph Community Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the local community in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Heritage Lottery Fund awarded funding of £512,000 and Northern Ireland Environment Agency added a further £255,000 to the project. NIEL has also provided additional funding to upgrade the existing walks on the Woodland Trust section of the reserve and these have also been completed.
Visitors to the area can now take a walk on the wild side at the reserve which covers an area of 215 acres and boasts native habitats and species of national and European importance. Ancient woodland, wildflower-rich wet pasture, salmon spawning beds, raised bog and traditional hay meadows provide a natural treasure trove for visitors.
Niall O'Kane, Director of Carntogher Community Association, said; This project provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire an amazing range of natural habitats that is effectively a microcosm of our ancient landscape. This project has secured a vast array of biodiversity and habitats for future generations. The community ownership is one of the vitally important aspects of this project – that will deliver community use and stewardship of the reserve and deliver the long-term sustainability of this important part of our community’s rich heritage.
Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund NI added his support “Heritage Lottery Fund has been investing in the important natural heritage of Drumnaph from back in 1999 when we awarded an initial grant. Over the years we have been delighted to watch this project grow as the local community have embraced the opportunities their natural heritage has to offer. We congratulate everyone involved in developing this fantastic and unique community managed nature reserve.”
In his speech, Mark H. Durkin said: “I would like to thank Carntogher Community Association for their foresight and vision in creating a community owned Nature Reserve. This marks an exciting and new venture for nature conservation in the north of Ireland and indeed across Ireland and Europe”.
“This project is an excellent example of how Carntogher Community Association is working in partnership with the Woodland Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and my Department to bring this Community Nature Reserve to life. The outstanding work that has been accomplished is of benefit to the local community, visitors to the area and our local biodiversity which is thriving across the Reserve.”
The reserve’s habitats are an important part of our natural heritage. They were once common throughout Ireland but have been lost due to intensive farming practices over the past 50 years. In addition to protecting natural heritage, this project is preserving local culture and folklore, and has prompted a revival in traditional skills such as dry stone walling and the naming of local fields. Such events have provided the local community with volunteering opportunities and range of new heritage skills.
The Reserve has been developed by Carntogher Community Association and the Woodland Trust. Substantial work has been completed at the reserve during the past two years to develop a new car park, 7 km of walkways, allotments and key interpretation signage. A new brochure, Website (www.drumnaph.org) and App has also be developed and will be available before the end of June.
The opening was attended by the local community, environmental non-governmental organisations, local and central government. Children from Maghera Primary School, St Patrick’s Glen and St Brigid’s Tirkane, attending the Envision Summer College, also enjoyed the occasion. Almost 75 guests went along to see the red ribbon cut before being given a tour of the Reserve.