Organisers at a popular County Derry nature reserve have held a special tour of the facility to showcase its development over the last number of years.
Drumnaph Nature Reserve, jointly owned by Carntogher Community Association and The Woodland Trust, has benefited from £596,260 in Lottery Heritage Funding which has transformed the area.
The funding has helped the groups carry out a four-year project, providing activities like community gardening, guided walks and running groups.
Outdoor activities have also been developed, with activities like archery, orienteering and Forest School now underway at the site in Slaughtneil.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr Paul McLean, was among those who toured the reserve last week, and he praised the effort made by the community.
“It is great to see what a community can achieve over a short space of time by coming together,” he said.
“With the extensive programme of community events and heritage skills workshops, I am sure many people have learned something new and enjoyed their time here.
“I am very impressed to see the amount of work done to support people’s wellbeing by providing activities such as community gardening, guided walks and running groups.
“Many young people have also benefited from this funding by coming to Drumnaph to take part in outdoor activities including archery, orienteering and Forest School.”
The four-year project has strengthened existing relationships with The Woodland Trust and Butterfly Conservation and has generated research into a number of areas.
Mid Ulster District Council Chair Cllr Paul McLean with volunteers and project workers from Cairde Dhroim nDamh.
With the area acting as a 'retreat' for locals and visitors during the Covid-19 lockdowns, visitor numbers swelled to over 43,000 each year.
Many visitors have admired the new sculptures by renowned artist Kevin Killen and the installation of two interactive learning trails; the Slí na Sí (Fairy Trail) and the Ogham Hunt.
Liam Ó Flannagáin, Chair of Cairde Dhroim nDamh/Friends of Drumnaph, said he was delighted to see everyone together at the site.
“We are delighted that representatives from Council and our funders have joined us today to witness the success of The National Lottery Heritage Fund project,” he said.
“Members of the local community have volunteered their time over the past 10 years to support the restoration and development of this important natural heritage site.”
Project Co-ordinator Kelley Hann also praised the work of the volunteers.
“The work that has been achieved by volunteers through vital conservation, volunteering at events and project management equates to £51,615 worth of monetary contribution to this project,” she said.
“We wouldn’t have achieved half of it without them. We have a wee gathering planned for our volunteers to thank them for all their hard work and support.”
Jim McGreevy, Committee member at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the project honed in on the importance of nature.
“Landscapes and nature form the bedrock of our culture and heritage, improving wellbeing and protecting and providing for the communities surrounding them,” he said.
“Thanks to National Lottery players who have highlighted natural heritage as especially important we are delighted to see the results of the award given to Carntogher Community Association and Cairde Droim nDamh.
“This project highlights the value of nature to our daily lives and has provided a natural connection to the folklore, culture and heritage of the area.”
Visit Drumnaph Nature Reserve's Facebook page for more information.
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