First phase of Lough Erne heritage project begins

Lower Lough Erne

Published: 17th February 2016

Image: courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

A project developed by the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership to preserve and enhance the area’s unique heritage has begun.

With £253,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Lough Erne Landscape partnership – which is led by RSPB NI – is now recruiting staff to develop the first phase of the heritage project over the next two years.

A series of events and activities, such as ‘exploration days’ and events to celebrate the  Lough Erne landscape, will take place during the initial two year development phase to enable communities to reconnect with their natural, built and cultural heritage and get involved in the project.

A detailed review of existing built heritage, plant and wildlife species in the area will also take place as part of the development phase. This information will then be used to identify ways in which local communities can get involved.

A bid for further funding, including £2.64 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to extend the heritage project into a second phase lasting five years, will also be developed during the current phase. The project is funded through the HLF Landscape Partnerships grant programme which provides funding to conserve areas of distinctive landscape character throughout the UK.

Plans for the project’s second phase include improving access to the Lough with new paths, hides to watch wildlife and camp sites. Local people will also receive training in traditional skills such as thatching, boat building and stone work. There will also be training in oral history techniques so they can share stories of the area’s heritage and wildlife.

The Lough Erne Landscape Partnership is led by RSPB NI and supported by Waterways Ireland; National Trust; Fermanagh and Omagh District Council; Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark; Fermanagh Rural Community Network; the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and the Upper Lough Erne Region community organisation.

Speaking about the project, Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Thomas O’Reilly, said:

“Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is pleased to be involved in the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership project with a number of partner organisations. As well as protecting and enhancing one of our district’s greatest natural assets, the project will benefit local communities and businesses through increased opportunities to explore and enjoy the area.”

Ian McCurley, Consultancy Manager and Forestry Advisor for the National Trust, said:

“The National Trust is delighted that the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership moved through Heritage Lottery Fund Round 11 and is now in the first stages of development. This is a huge opportunity for Co. Fermanagh as the project will deliver environmental, heritage and tourism benefits which will all contribute to the local economy”.

Caroline McCarroll, Head of Strategy and Policy at Waterways Ireland, said:

“Waterways Ireland welcomes the announcement of the Heritage Lottery Funding to the Lough Erne Partnership and sees the grant award as providing a unique opportunity for the project partners and local community groups to develop and promote the Cultural, Natural and Built Heritage of the Erne System in tandem with the sustainable and appropriate development of the many recreational opportunities on both Upper and Lower Lough Erne. Already plans are being developed to implement projects that will assist Waterways Ireland in further developing the recreational potential of the navigation, whilst ensuring the continued protection and preservation of the wonderful natural and historical resource on which the navigation is located”.

Joanne Sherwood, NI Director with RSPB NI said:

“RSPB NI is delighted to be involved in the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership. This ambitious project will be a significant step forward in conserving the area’s unique heritage and is an excellent example of organisations working together to achieve positive outcomes. We’re also looking forward to getting involved with communities around Lough Erne over the next two years to develop projects that will make a real difference to the people, wildlife and landscapes of Fermanagh.”

Paul Mullan, Head of HLF NI added their support:

“The Landscape Partnership grant programme has been very important to Northern Ireland and it is Thanks to the National Lottery players we have been able to invest £37.5million in Northern Ireland on landscape and biodiversity programmes. We were delighted to offer our support to RSPB NI, their partners and the local community so they can develop their plans to tell the incredibly story of this landscape, preserve its beauty and heritage for current and future generations to enjoy and to boast the local economy through increasing visitors to the landscape.”

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