County Fermanagh

Wildflower meadows and grasslands in Northern Ireland are important for biodiversity at a European and national scale and are unique due to the country’s biogeography, climate and culture.

In County Fermanagh, Save Our Magnificent Meadows focuses on purple-moor grass/rush pasture, which is deteriorating in extent and quality, and on lowland meadows and their associated species, for which County Fermanagh is one of the main strongholds of lowland meadow in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Wildlife is the lead Save Our Magnificent Meadows partner in County Fermanagh, supported by a steering group of interested parties.  The project sites include:

Public meadows: Garrison Meadows ,Geopark Wildflower Knoll, Killykeeghan NNR, Tully Castle, Navar Meadows
Verges and other sites in Enniskillen: Devenish Partnership Forum, Race Course Lough Meadow, Monastery Meadows, CAFRE Meadow and Waterways Ireland HQ.
School Mini-meadows: Garrison Primary School, Killyhommon PS, Derrygonnelly PS, Enniskillen Integrated College, Pomeroy PS

Save our Magnificent Meadows has delivered significant benefits to this lovely region, including the highlights listed below:

* From a standing start, we have energised and engaged the local voluntary sector, who have in turn provided thousands of hours of free time and transformed the fortunes of key meadows such as Monastery and Garrison Meadows. Access has been improved, interpretation erected, swards have been enhanced with wildflower mixes and scrub cleared.

* The education community have received the project in great spirit, with 6 primary schools, 4 secondary schools, a farming college and Queens University all engaging in site visits, species studies, grassland restoration, mini-meadow creation and wider community engagement. We have created the hay heads blog (http://hayheads.com/) as a platform for the community to share wildlife, farming or cultural experiences by posting a story/poem/personal statement or clips/pictures celebrating conservation in Fermanagh.  Children, teachers, parents and students alike have been inspired by the can do approach to changing things for the better in both urban and rural settings.

* From small beginnings, the list of farmers involved has risen exponentially into the hundreds and continues to rise. A genuine appetite for a lower input / lower output approach to agriculture has been revealed as farmers have realised how unique this region is in still having species rich grasslands in the wider countryside. An exchange visit to AranLIFE and the limestone grasslands of Co Clare by 11 local farmers; well managed meadows days; restoration workshops; the nurturing of farm ‘champions’ and local advocacy on farm policy issues plus advisory visits and contacts across c4000ha of farmland.

* The cultural connections of haymaking and traditional grassland management have been highlighted by recorded reminiscing sessions in day care centres, anecdotes and memories from which have been related by story tellers at three fireside events, with a total of 236 people attending. These memorable events allowed us to “examine the present by speaking the past” as well as providing opportunities for a better understanding of how we can better look after both wildlife and human communities.

Great things lined up:

* Meadow restoration continues apace, with 32 ha of species rich lowland meadows already enhanced by deploying a range of techniques, many of them new to Ireland. Seed vacuuming, brush harvesting, green haying and sowing with everything from a seed fiddle to a high tech culti-pack seeder have been trialled, demonstrated and found to work well in a wide range of settings.
* This season will see more fields and restored - sites that can be used for demonstration and dissemination of project findings and practical techniques to a wide and warmed up audience. In fact skilling up is now central to project legacy - enabling people to do these things themselves, often at a much lower cost than they may think.
* The highly successful species rich verge project - later cutting and management tweaks to 15 of NI's best verges - will be rolled out into Tyrone, with wildlife corridors and project publicity the main winners.

2017 will see a complete resurvey of restored sites to ensure that the project has delivered measurable results in terms of biodiversity enhancement. Rapid Assessment surveys on restored sites will be complemented by Walkover Surveys by teams of volunteers from near and far, as word continues to spread about this innovative and progressive approach to multiple issues.

In Fermanagh, Magnificent Meadows is delivered with support from Butterfly Conservation, the Department of Agriculture and Rural DevelopmentFermanagh and Omagh District Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.