Just thought I’d start with a nice shot of Lough Erne to grab your attention but now that I’ve got it lets get to the point. One of the difficulties of working in conservation is that you often have to imagine how things will be in the future rather than how they are here and now. As Doc Brown in Back to the future famously said “You’re not thinking 4th dimensionally Marty!” This might be due to the fact that in our beautiful part of the globe many things are seasonal or because you can’t turn waste ground into an ancient woodland overnight (no matter how hard you try!). This is a fact that I have struggled with over the past couple of months and many times previously but I think its a realisation that comes with experience.
There have been a couple of projects that have really got me thinking about this. The first is a community allotment in the centre of Omagh town. This site once was an allotment but with a lethal combination of neglect and bindweed it soon became a jungle. When I first visited it with the CAT team they had cleared much of the bindweed but there was still rubbish everywhere, weeds galore and an old shed that just needed to be put to rest. Now even at this stage you can look around and think that anything you do is futile and I’m not going to lie, the words “this is a dump” might have been heard once or twice.
What you have to do is imagine what it will look like rather than what it does look like! So far we’ve put up a new gate and fence, planted a beech hedge and turned over some of the beds. With continued time and effort this place will be filled with veg packed beds, a mature hedgerow, a bug hotel and a place for residents to relax and chat.
The other project that makes me think 4th dimensionally is an Ulster Wildlife project called Magnificent Meadows. This is an amazing project and TCV Fermanagh have been helping provide manpower to tackle scrub and other pesky vegetation on a number of sites. Its a great example of organisations working together for the benefit of the community and the environment. One of the project sites is in a prime location for education, access and as a showcase for the project itself. The only problem is that in its current state it’s not exactly a magnificent meadow! The plot of land behind one the local grammar schools has not been grazed for several years and was completely overgrown in some places.
You have to look past the encroaching hedgerow, the towering clumps of brambles and rushes to see the buzzing, bio-diverse, flower rich meadow that could be! So far that hedgerow has been forced back, much of the brambles have been cleared and a large portion of the rank grass has been cut. Now that image of bees, butterflies, buttercups and school kids carrying out surveys is becoming that bit easier to see. In a few years people walking along Queen Elizabeth St will stop dead in their tracks and stare across the river at this beacon of what can be done to bring us close to nature.