The Landscape Partnership Scheme is now rolling out and helping to protect some of our most treasured landscapes by bringing communities and organisations together to form partnerships that create a shared vision for the Belfast Hills.
The partnerships are helping to implement local action to boost the conservation and management of our landscape heritage. The overall vision for the Belfast Hills is:
That we will restore – physically and in the minds of our people – the Belfast Hills as a vital, living asset for Belfast and beyond; an asset to actively enjoy, gain inspiration from and protect as a living part of our Belfast and Lagan Valley region. It is time to reconnect our people to this great landscape after many years of political strife, which left many feeling afraid to visit our surrounding hills.The Belfast Hills will be improved, restored and more fully appreciated through managing the landscape in positive ways – ways which integrate with and add skills to the work of all of our statutory, farming, community, commercial, recreational and environmental partners who live and work in and around the Belfast Hills.We will ensure unique opportunities offered by having uplands and city so close together, are understood and taken in order to positively better this landscape, its people, heritage and wildlife, providing an inspirational model of how to sustainably manage urban fringe landscapes.
The main objectives that we want the Landscape Partnership to achieve are:
Directly address the current threats and opportunities to improve the landscape of the Belfast Hills
These threats are:
- Physical loss of landscape features, built heritage and habitats
- Decline in quality of landscape features, built heritage and habitats
Raise awareness and involvement of local communities in the historic and cultural features of the Belfast Hills
This will involve all facets of the local communities – rural, urban (near and far), working, and recreational.
Awareness-raising work will entail face-to-face outreach work, talks and events, publications and projects themed around the landscape, oral history, geology, rivers and healthy use of the hills.
Involvement will be gained by volunteering for projects such as local heritage mapping, improving community space and assistance with planning issues.
Create more opportunities for physical, intellectual and sensory access to the hills, recreation potential and local heritage
The creation of key access and link routes will provide physical access opportunities. With an emphasis on disability access, broadening recreation and activity opportunities through new facilities and sites, we will improve existing access.
Intellectual access will concentrate on a Schools Landscape and Environment Education Programme, our events programme and one-off heritage visits. Visitor surveys and other visitor research will support this. Sensory access will focus on sight, sound and touch through expanded access and interpretation, online virtual hills visits and on-the-ground improvements that enhance the aesthetics of the area.
Ensure that high quality up-to-date training and skills required to address the above are locally available
Training is a very high priority for the sustainability of this project, with our efforts concentrating on biological and archaeological surveying, practical conservation skills and GIS computer training for partners, staff and local volunteers. We will also provide tour guide training for volunteers and those interested in professional guiding in the hills, plus training on walking in the hills, and a Hills Apprentice project aimed at schools.Download Documents
Our revamping of existing paths that needed to be robust enought to survive harsh conditions up on the summits, has received overwhelming positive feedback.
Our partner the National Trust, has also been boosting the infrastructure with major installations including the Divis Ridge Trail – a major route stretching from the north end of Black Mountain to Divis Long Barn.
A raft of new and upgraded paths have also been put in place at Ligoniel Park and Dams, making this a great new place to discover.
We have also concentrated on new maps and panels to introduce people to more places in the hills.
Our wildlife work continues, with improvements at brownfield sites (land previously used for industrial/commercial uses that has the potential to be reused) such as Black Mountain quarry, and collaboration with farmers and landowners on hedgerow improvements.
Survey work has concentrated on a range of wildlife such as badgers, nesting birds, wildflowers and insects – reflected in our expanded events programme.
We have completed a major survey of often forgotten and enigmatic heritage sites in the hills, and produced a stunning leaflet map showing the townlands of the hills.
Hundreds of families and schoolchildren have been digging for archaeological victory on our big community digs, and enjoying our highly successful summer heritage festivals.
We have been expanding our series of school visits featuring a groundbreaking river and wildfire awareness programmes.
Pupils are also getting involved in our Salmon in the Classroom initiative while filmmaking talent has been in abundance among local schools with the production of a Wildfire in the Hills video for use in classroom across the Belfast Hills area.
Scores of volunteers have been recruited and trained and many are working on practical management, surveying, ranger and research work across sites in the hills.
So from practical ‘spade in the ground’ work to winning new people over who are appreciating the value of the hills and why they deserve such investment, there has been lots happening in the Belfast Hills.
This will ensure the benefits of our work in the hills continue for years to come.