So last week I (Simon Gray) moved across to the opposite side of my relatively small country to county Fermanagh to start my new role as the Lough Erne Living Landscape trainee. The TCV branch in this neck of the woods has the smallest team but covers the largest area in Northern Ireland. For those of you that don’t know Fermanagh it’s an area with few people (the biggest town has 14 thousand people!) but a lot of nature! Some of the best wildflower meadows in the UK, an intricate network of rivers and loughs, and some of Northern Irelands last remaining native woodland make it a haven for species such as otters, red squirrels and silver washed fritillary to name just a few!
Over the past few years I’ve been travelling across the country gaining experience in the conservation sector to try and help me get the job I’ve always wanted. Wetland bird surveys, environmental education, barbed wire fencing, moth trapping, livestock handling, and wildlife tourism are some of the things I’ve got up to. I do feel like I’ve done a lot but there are many skills and abilities that I haven’t acquired and this traineeship could really help me on that front.
My role out here is centred around the Lough Erne Living Landscape project. This partnership project seeks to create a network of sites around Lough Erne which are managed in a way that enhances biodiversity, and connects communities, farmers and land owners with this incredible environment. The project is being spearheaded by the RSPB but there are many involved such as Waterways Ireland, NI Environment Agency, and of course TCV. It’s a great example of organisations working together to better connect people with nature and conserve wildlife.
So far I’ve been heading out with the Conservation action team to a number of sites across the county, getting a feel for the area and seeing some of the projects TCV is involved in out here. Clearing an encroaching hedgerow at one of Ulster Wildlifes magnificent meadows projects in Garrison, repairing dry stone walls at the marble arch caves and planting trees at the Gortin community allotment. I’m really looking forward to the Living landscape project getting properly under way and hearing what the local people want to see happen within it. Not only that but I can’t wait to show people what an amazing area they have on their doorstep!