A unique new nature reserve costing almost £800,000 located outside Maghera, on the edge of the Sperrin Mountains has been officially opened by Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan.
The minister cut the ribbon at a special event hosted by the Carntogher Community Association.
Unlike most nature reserves, which are owned by government or environmental charities, the Drumnaph Community Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the local community in partnership with the Woodland Trust.
Heritage Lottery Fund awarded funding of £512,000 and Northern Ireland Environment Agency added a further £255,000 to the project. NIEL has also provided additional funding to upgrade the existing walks on the Woodland Trust section of the reserve and these have also been completed.
Visitors to the area can now take a walk on the wild side at the reserve which
covers an area of 215 acres and boasts native habitats and species of national
and European importance. Ancient woodland, wildflower-rich wet pasture, salmon
spawning beds, raised bog and traditional hay meadows provide a natural treasure
trove for visitors.
In his speech, Mark H. Durkan said: “I would like to thank Carntogher Community
Association for their foresight and vision in creating a community owned Nature
Reserve. This marks an exciting and new venture for nature conservation in the
north of Ireland and indeed across Ireland and Europe”.
“This project is an excellent example of how Carntogher Community Association
is working in partnership with the Woodland Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and my
Department to bring this Community Nature Reserve to life. The outstanding work
that has been accomplished is of benefit to the local community, visitors to the area and our local biodiversity which is thriving across the Reserve.”
The reserve’s habitats are an important part of our natural heritage. They were once common throughout Ireland but have been lost due to intensive farming practices over the past 50 years.
In addition to protecting natural heritage, this project is preserving local culture and folklore, and has prompted a revival in traditional skills such as dry stone walling and the naming of local fields. Such events have provided the local community with volunteering opportunities and range of new heritage skills.