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Brave new era for Belfast Hills A massive £1.8 million cash injection has been announced that heralds a brave new era for the Belfast Hills. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has approved a £1.15 million grant for the Belfast Hills Landscape Partnership (LP) scheme. A host of organisations including the NI Environmental Agency, the Rural Development Programme and Belfast, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Antrim councils have provided further funding. The scheme to enhance the Belfast Hills will galvanise local communities to become involved in the legacy and future protection of this unique rural environment that nestles in the midst of a large urban population. The initiative will deliver four and a half new posts within the Belfast Hills Partnership offices and provide a boost to the social economy. Landscape Partnership Scheme Development Manager Dr Lizzy Pinkerton welcomed the announcement. “The Landscape Partnership scheme will be the impetus for an ongoing process of growth and development that will result in a sustainable legacy for our landscape and its people. “We would like to thank our partner organisations who have provided vital support and guidance during the development of this project.” Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted to announce this funding which will bring together the communities of Belfast, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Antrim to engage with, and enjoy the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Belfast Hills. The Landscape Partnership scheme will involve a portfolio of projects that provide long term social, economic and environmental benefits for the area, ensuring this outstanding asset is protected, cherished and valued for generations to come.” “The Belfast Hills Partnership is to be commended on having the vision to make this project a reality,” the Minister said. Read on to discover training and volunteering opportunities in the Belfast Hills

Image copyright Northern Irelan d Tourist Board

The Landscape Partnership Scheme is tasked to: ■ Sustainably develop the landscape of the Belfast Hills ■ Promote a shared vision of community action to ensure the conservation of the hills ■ Reconnect local populations to their heritage with an oral history project, a heritage booklet, community archaeology digs, improved signage at sites and photographic exhibitions ■ Develop sustainable tourism with improved paths, information panels, guides and recreation facilities ■ Address threats of fires, erosion, farming decline, invasive species, inappropriate development, climate change and anti-social behaviour ■ Provide high-quality local training for volunteers including a warden scheme ■ Improve access to the hills and foster social interaction among communities isolated from each other during the Troubles ■ Spearhead biodiversity projects with private landowners and businesses in the Belfast Hills Funders of the Landscape Partnership Scheme.


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Invasives Task force needed to halt alien attacks! The Landscape Partnership Scheme aims to step up the war on alien invasives and plans to train a crack squad of volunteer warriors to seek out and destroy colonies of harmful plants. A team of Belfast Hills Partnership staff and volunteers have made dramatic improvements to the Colin Glen river in the west of Above: the city, in helping to reduce the The invasive spread of the biggest threats Japanese Knotweed Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed. Instances of invasive species have reduced as a result of the pilot scheme, while specially trained contractors have sprayed Japanese Knotweed at Colin Glen and Glenside Community Woodland. Now the successful scheme is being rolled out across sites such as Cave Hill and Ligoniel. The Partnership aims to train people in the use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to survey and map out invasive plants in the Belfast Hills. Learning is open to all ages and abilities, however you must be able to cover some hill walking distances. Alien invasive plants are not native to Irish shores. They are highly adaptable, aggressive and have a high reproductive capacity. After habitat destruction invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide. The plants negatively impact on native flora and threaten whole ecosystems causing serious problems to the environment and economy. Their vigour, combined with a lack of natural enemies, often lead to major outbreaks and requires lots of mapping, surveying and eradication. Unlike Himalayan Balsam that can easily be pulled by hand in May and June, Japanese Knotweed has a very extensive root system and needs spraying by qualified contractors. Indeed, the size of the roots requires spraying for at least three years. Unfortunately there are known to be high levels of invasive species in the Belfast Hills. River corridors can provide the perfect habitat for the invasives to spread. Right: The invasive Himalayan Balsam

Biological surveys The Belfast Hills provide a refuge to many different species, including a number of priority species. These include birds like barn owls, meadow pipits, marsh fritillary butterfly and Irish hare. Bird, bat, moth, butterfly and plant identification and surveying techniques are among training courses planned under the Landscape Partnership Scheme.

The close location of the hills to a large urban population makes them a convenient training ground where people can be taught the various methods of biological surveying. The training is aimed at raising people’s awareness of the wildlife, flora and fauna in the hills. They can learn about the nature and habitat that makes up the Belfast Hills and how they can get involved in protecting and encouraging wildlife. It is hoped those who attend the courses will join our volunteers to help monitor wildlife. We have previously held many events which have included elements of biological surveying. New courses will provide vital data along with greater levels of species monitoring and recording within the Belfast Hills. This will result in better understanding of the environment and positive management changes.


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No fear - just volunteer!!

The Partnership will be offering a massive 1,000 volunteer days for people to learn about nature, get involved in conservation and experience the best of what the Belfast Hills have to offer. The aim is for the people of Belfast, Newtownabbey and Lisburn to reclaim the hills as their own precious environment. At the same time, they will get practical hands-on work experience in conservation and heritage survey techniques. The volunteer army will be getting the lowdown on heritage training and skills as well as ranger duties - looking after certain areas in the hills. The work of the volunteers will

have a huge impact. Tasks are wide ranging and include restoring built heritage sites, mapping wildfire damage, recording wildlife, building homes for animals and birds and carrying out archaeological surveys. It is aimed that the volunteering days will interest a broad range of people and provide an opportunity to get involved in the work of the Partnership. Our current volunteers say they feel pride, greater ownership and knowledge of the work done by the Partnership. When a project is completed, they also see a real difference and feel a sense of achievement

Pathworks This scheme will oversee the installation of new paths and the improvement of existing paths across the whole of the Belfast Hills. Path works in year one will include Cave Hill Country Park, from McArt’s Fort towards Hazelwood and around the limestone quarry, along with Divis Mountain from the Tipperary road to the summit.

upgrade Above: Volunteer working on path

as a group. This project is in response to the many requests for volunteering received by the Partnership. There will be a dedicated volunteering officer recruited in 2012 who will co-ordinate this massive and varied project.

Carving out the paths to access. A new pathways infrastructure project will be built under the new Landscape Partnership Project

The new Divis trail will enable a circular route to be created for recreational users to the mountain. Due to the steep slopes and boggy conditions on the side of the hill, the new stone pitched path will help prevent erosion. The work has been funded by the Rural Development Programme, Ulster Garden Villages and the Alpha Programme. Landscape Partnership Manager Lizzy Pinkerton said the improvements would benefit the communities around the Belfast Hills. “The paths, complete with waymarkers, information and other facilities will upgrade access making the sites more accessible to everyone. They will attract

visitors to the Belfast Hills from local communities and from the tourist and visitor markets,” she said. “Information about the different facilities, route terrain and access will also be clearly presented for people tackling the longer distance walks in the Belfast Hills. Less able-bodied people will benefit from seats to rest upon and being able to access the shorter, easier walks. “Communities will be physically connected by the new access, breaking down mental divides and the concept of areas being accessible to only one section of the community,” she added.

Get signed up to our E-Newsletter To receive updates and events go to www.belfasthills.org and click on ‘sign up for our E-Newsletter’. Become our Friend! - Why not support the Partnership by becoming a Friend of the Belfast Hills? Get free entry to most events and enjoy other benefits for just £10 a year. Details are on our homepage. We’re at ‘Belfast Hills Partnership’ on Facebook, ‘Belfast Hills’ on Twitter and ‘Belfasthills’ on YouTube!


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ng in the Hil Practical conservation - Hands on learni r conservation skills

You can hone you in a series of workshops on offer that st will deliver practical skills and boo your expertise. You don’t need any qualifications and you can be of any age and from any walk of life. The how with s grip to get to t wan ht You mig training you receive is aimed at to plant traditional hedgerows. encouraging the management and live e of the to on the people in the communities that maintenance of the special heritag Perhaps you’d like to twig test grea our around the hills are expertise involved in woodland the Belfast Hills. y fanc even ht mig you or t, resource in helping to protect and managemen be a mentoring scheme will e ther And n. r improve them,” says Lizzy Pinkerto yourself as a volunteer warden in you red to aid prospective wardens - to offe ful area of the Belfast Hills. So sign up for some really wonder be the eyes and ears on the ground the ut is abo gy n opportunities to lear You could look into how technolo throughout the Belfast Hills and itor mon , map ly ical tron environment in the Belfast Hills and elec helping us protect their patch. how we aim to look after them. and eradicate invasive plants in the fast Hills belong to us all and Bel e “Th ion. etat veg hills that crowd out native for more information. ortunities offered, just contact us opp ning trai al ctic pra the of any If you are interested in or telephone 028 9060 3466. r lizzy.pinkerton@belfasthills.org age man ip rsh tne par pe sca land Email

you There’s no end to opportunities for r to do your bit for conservation in you g local environment with training bein ape dsc Lan new delivered under the Partnership Scheme.

Vocal heroes - Belfast Hills tour guiding Efforts are underway to launch a task force of hill walking tour guides to reveal our spectacular hills to visitors to Belfast. We have identified massive potential to showcase the dramatic hills that frame Belfast to tourists. The recent MTV EMA awards provided a huge boost to the improving image of Belfast and next year’s Titanic anniversary is expected to have tourists flocking to the city. The Belfast Hills are acknowledged in local tourism strategies to be an important destination for tourists and visitors alike. And now the Belfast Hills Partnership will be offering tour guide training courses to bring career opportunities for local people from the communities around the hills to be ambassadors for their areas. Trained guides may be used by various site managers in places like Cave Hill to lead groups of visitors. So if you’re a people person with bags of personality, value the benefits of sustainable tourism, are fiercely proud of our city’s heritage and favour working and hill walking in the outdoors, then this course will be perfect for you. You don’t need any qualifications and you can be of any age. Number of visitors and spend to Belfast Year

No. of visitors

Visitor spend

2009

9.3 million

£451 million

2008

7.1 million

£437 million

2007

6.9 million

£313.3 million

2006

6.8 million

£324.1 million

2005

6.4 million

£285.2 million

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ing and footwear should be worn. be accompanied by an adult. Suitable cloth t mus 16 r unde ren child All : note se Plea s can be steep or difficult. if kept under control. Parts of some walk Dogs are allowed on some walks but only


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The Belfast Hills a people’s history Are you spoken for? That’s the question being posed as part of a major oral history project for the Belfast Hills. The word-of-mouth initiative will feature ordinary people who lived, worked and played in the Belfast Hills in times gone by. And the search is on for people of a certain vintage to get involved in recording their memories and sharing their photographs for the project. So if your granny, granda, mother, father, uncle or greatgrandfather can talk about their glory days around Divis and Black Mountain, Cave Hill, Carnmoney, Colin Glen or Slievenacloy, then get in touch with us. The aim of the initiative - which it is hoped will also involve

It’s hoped the finished product will lead to a greater awareness of local traditions and stories connected to the Belfast Hills

local history groups - is to ensure that our community history is not lost over time.

And a number of oral history books have been produced about the Belfast Hills in recent years.

It’s hoped the finished product will lead to a greater awareness of local traditions and stories connected to the Belfast Hills.

Voices From Cave Hill by Ben Simon and Liz McShane’s Divis and the Black Mountain, Local History and Memories have proved popular.

This coincides with an increase in demand of people researching their family connections to the Belfast Hills.

Many aspects of life and work in Belfast were connected to the Belfast Hills.

Lots of history and genealogy has been collected and is available on our website. This has sparked lots of interest with queries from as far away as America and Australia with people trying to trace relatives in the Belfast Hills.

“Whether you or your relative tickled trout on Divis, experienced the Belfast Blitz of 1941 around Cave Hill and Carnmoney or spent endless summers in the Rumbling Hole, we want to hear your story,” said Jim Bradley of the Partnership.


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Transforming farmland for wildlife The farming landscape of the hills will benefit from almost £60,000 as part of the Landscape Partnership Scheme. Farmers will be able to apply for grants towards a range of works such as hedgerow and wildflower planting, removal of invasive species and painting of farm outhouses. The aim is to transform farmland in the hills aesthetically, encourage wildlife and best environmental practice. More details of the scheme will be released in spring. Farmers can contact us now to be put on the contact list and receive details as soon as the programme starts.

o t n i t o o b e h t t e G hill walking

If you’re itching to get your feet onto the Belfast Hills but feel you lack knowledge about the terrain and how to gear up, then step into our practical hill walking course. People often set out from the city badly equipped and prepared for a mountain walk, given the speed at which weather conditions can change rapidly in the hills.

But you’ll be in the know about the places to go, what to wear, all the precautions you’ll need for walking in all seasons and basic safety for you and your future companions. This basic hill walking course assumes no previous knowledge but will open up ways for people to access and enjoy walking in the hills. This

will put you on a strong footing to pass your knowledge onto your friends and family. The course aims to encourage and inspire confidence in new walkers who wouldn’t attempt to go walking by themselves. This initiative to teach best practice, will also help break down social barriers and get more people walking and knowing about the Belfast Hills. It is hoped that at least 50 local people will be trained in hill walking skills over the next three years. To ensure commitment to the course, there will be a small charge, which will then help fund future courses. This training is open to all members of the general public, walking group leaders and potential volunteers.

It’s your Belfast Hills: The Partnership brings together statutory bodies with a role to play in the Belfast Hills, including Belfast, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Antrim councils. These representatives are joined by people from the farming, community, commercial, recreation and environmental sectors. All have pledged to work together to benefit the Belfast Hills. Charity No: XR70288 Company No: NI053189 Address: 9 Social Economy Village, Hannahstown Hill, Belfast, BT17 OXS T: 028 9060 3466 • F: 028 9030 9867 • E: info@belfasthills.org • www.belfasthills.org Design & Print NEWCREATION.com 028 38 321 255


07116 - BH Newsletter Winter 11_0