OVER £500k in conservation funding has been given to Carntogher Community Association to buy 130 acres of woodland near Maghera.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced they are providing £512,000 to save part of the remaining six per cent woodland cover in Northern Ireland. A further £250,000 is being provided by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The 130 acres of land at Drumnaph contains ecologically significant habitats and trees dating back to the 1600’s, but also includes two iron age forts.
The new site is situated adjacent to the Drumnaph woodland site, which was acquired and is managed by the Woodland Trust with previous grants from HLF. This project will create a larger publically accessible woodland site and secure the future of the trees and rich heritage of the site.
Niall O’Kane director of, Carnatogher Community Association said: “This is a dream come true for the local Community Association. This is a grass-roots, community-driven project that will provide the opportunity for the entire community to get involved in a landmark heritage project over the coming years.
“This will bring the size of the Drumnaph reserve to over 200 acres, giving a critical mass of inter-linked habitats that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve. The involvement of the wider community in developing access and managing the reserve will also help develop the sense of community ownership, further under pining its long-term sustainability for generations to come.”
Described as a wildlife haven, the woodland site is home to sparrowhawks, buzzards, otters, Irish hare, and wading birds including lapwing, curlew and snipe.
A fifth of the land is important woodland, the rest containing ecologically significant habitats such as grazing meadows, wetlands, river bank habitats and rare quaking bog which is listed in the Habitats Directive.
The directive is the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy, aiming to protect over 1000 animals and plant species, and over 200 habitat types. The scheme will also train school children, students and new volunteers to carry out research and help conservation in the area in addition to 90 volunteers already registered.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, commented on the funding: “This woodland was at significant risk of destruction if it had not been purchased by CCA. We are pleased to be able to help secure the future of site and consolidate our earlier investment in the biodiversity of Drumnaph. CCA have recognised the importance of linking people back to their heritage and this project will not only equip volunteers with ecological conservation skills but will also provide a good practice model for community management of woodland, wetland, and grazing habitats”.
SDLP councillor Kate Lagan praised the Commuity Association’s achievement. She said: “I am delighted the group has managed to get this money, they already do great work in Drumnaph to preserve the area and I wish them success with this undertaking.”