An information event titled ‘The Future of Hill Farming in the Dublin Mountains’ took place at the end of last week in the picturesque south County Dublin townland of Glenasmole.
Attracting over 60 people, the open event held in the Glenasmole Community Centre was organised jointly between the SUAS Pilot Project and the state agency Teagasc, to explore a range of topics related to hill farming in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains and the issues affecting hill farming communities throughout Ireland.
Guest speakers from the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Teagasc and the SUAS Project, gave presentations on the ecological importance of our uplands, sustainable and profitable hill farming practices and the appropriate land and vegetation management approaches for upland terrain.
With the aid of visual slides, satellite footage and data collected from across Ireland’s upland farming community, much discussion was had about optimum grazing periods, flock sizes and breeds, and how best to create an upland farming model using a blend of modern and traditional farming techniques.
A number of contributions were also made from the attendees, with a general consensus that although quite challenging, the role of the upland farmers is of national importance and contribute widely to the greater public good and enhance sustainable rural communities.
In addition to managing the natural landscapes, it was agreed that healthy upland habitats play a vital role in providing good quality water sources, the prevention of flooding and the sequestrating of carbon stores.
After the 90 minutes of presentations and open discussion with attendees, many of the group travelled to a nearby hill to observe first-hand, the many ecological factors found in upland habitats.
Surrounded by stunning mountain views and overlooking the Glenasmole Valley and the 19th century Bohernabreena Reservoir, the group assembled for a short guided walk within the Wicklow Mountains National Park which is home to diverse collection of sheep flocks.
Leading the large group was Enda Mullen, the Divisional Ecologist for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who demonstrated many of the plant species found in the upland biodiversity and gave an overview of the impact recent fires have had to the areas’ sensitive ecology. Much discussion was had about the widespread use of burning to manage vegetation, with welcome contributions made from a number of attendees on the difference between controlled and planned burning and the wild burning that have plagued the area in recent years.
The attendees were made up of farmers, participants of the SUAS Project, representatives from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and other interested parties, with one group from Northern Ireland’s upland partnership groups travelling down for the occasion.
Launched in 2018, the Sustainable Upland Agri-Environmental Scheme (SUAS) is a locally-led Pilot Project designed to address the decline in hill farming activities and the promotion of sustainable practices in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands.
One of 23 EIP- Agri projects in operation in Ireland, the project is working with a number of commonage groups and individual farmers on selected sites in the region and it is anticipated that the project’s findings will contribute to future national decision making on a range of issues.
Speaking following the event, Declan Byrne, Project Manager of the SUAS Pilot Project shared,
“It was wonderful to see so many choosing to attend and actively participate in the discussion and the sharing of invaluable knowledge and experience with each other. As it is our first open event to be organised in the Dublin Mountains, the warm response received, clearly demonstrates the great interest there is to collectively find future solutions to managing our uplands”
Mr. Byrne continued,
“The importance of our uplands and the preservation of it’s healthy, thriving biodiversity, really cannot be underestimated. The work of the SUAS Project is to discover and promote the best approaches and methods for land management, to create a better understanding of the appropriate grazing and to better support hill-farming communities”.
Further information on the SUAS Pilot Project can be found by visiting www.wicklowuplands.ie