19/05/2015: Royal visit to flagship conservation project in the Burren
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in his first ever official visit to the west of Ireland, has been exploring the rare flowers of the Burren in the company of local farmers, schoolchildren, conservation staff and volunteers. During the visit, the Prince learned about the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (FCP), an award-winning Agri-environment programme which is funded by the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and by the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Prince was also introduced to the work of the Burrenbeo Trust, a local charity which co-ordinates a number of community-led education and conservation initiatives.
On his arrival, the Prince was welcomed by Dr Brendan Dunford, manager of the Burren FCP Programme, and introduced to some of the extraordinary botanical, geological and archaeological features of the Burren. Prince Charles discussed the farming of the land with his host, Burren FCP farmer Patrick Nagle, and local farm leader Michael Davoren. Mr Nagle showed off some of the work he had completed through the Burren FCP – including the construction of stone walls and the installation of traditional gates, the repair of disused livestock watering points and the removal of invasive scrub. The Prince was then briefed by Burren FCP scientist Dr. Sharon Parr who explained the unique field scoring system developed by the programme which captures the farmer’s environmental performance and rewards him/her accordingly. The Prince was also introduced to National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation ranger Emma Glanville who works closely with Burren FCP in the planning and delivery of programme actions.
Burren FCP manager Dr Brendan Dunford stated:
“We’re delighted that Prince Charles chose to feature the Burren FCP programme during his Irish visit. It is a welcome acknowledgement of the great esteem in which this locally targeted programme is held internationally. It was such a thrill to show our esteemed visitor around this wonderful site, to talk about the quality of the shorthorn cattle and to see first-hand Arctic Mountain Avens, Alpine gentians and Mediterranean orchids, all happily coexisting. That’s really what the Burren, and this programme, are all about and this has been a wonderful opportunity to share this story with the world.”
Patrick Nagle, on whose farm the Royal visit took place, said:
“It was a great honour to show Prince Charles around our farm. We told him about the work that my son Oliver and I have done over the past 5 years of the Programme – new walls built and gates hung, scrub taken out, water sources protected, silage replaced – and about how the improved grazing that has resulted from this work has helped us to earn better environmental payments. This is a very proud day for us, for the generations of farmers who have worked the land of the Burren in the past, and for the youngsters that we hope will farm it in the years ahead.”
The visit also included a meeting with four local schoolchildren, recent graduates of the Eco Beo programme, a 20-week intensive course in ‘place-based learning’ through which local schoolchildren learn all about the Burren, before graduating as ‘Burren experts’. Eco Beo is run by the Burrenbeo Trust, and over 1,000 local children have graduated from it over the past decade. The Prince also met local conservation volunteers and saw some of their work – repairing stone walls, monitoring butterflies and mapping archaeology. The visit concluded with a presentation of a hamper of local farm produce to the accompaniment of a quintet of local teenage musicians.