The Landscape Partnership Scheme helped to protect some of our most treasured landscapes by bringing communities and organisations together to form partnerships which created a shared vision for the Belfast Hills.
The partnerships are still going strong and continue 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 wanted the Landscape Partnership to achieve were:
Directly address the current threats and opportunities to improve the landscape of the Belfast Hills
These threats were:
- Physical loss of landscape features, built heritage and habitats
- Decline in quality of landscape features, built heritage and habitats
Over the years, the Landscape Partnership Scheme has planted thousands of trees, removed large areas of invasive plant species and restored natural habitats across the Belfast Hills as well as conserving numerous heritage sites.
The threats above will always be an issue in the Belfast Hills though our work has and will continue to mitigate them successfully.
Raise awareness and involvement of local communities in the historic and cultural features of the Belfast Hills
This involved all facets of the local communities – rural, urban (near and far), working, and recreational.
Awareness-raising work entailed 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 was 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 provided physical access opportunities. With an emphasis on disability access, broadening recreation and activity opportunities through new facilities and sites, we improved existing access.
Intellectual access concentrated on a Schools Landscape and Environment Education Programme, our events programme and one-off heritage visits. Visitor surveys and other visitor research supported this.
Sensory access focussed on sight, sound and touch through expanded access and interpretation, online virtual hills visits and on-the-ground improvements that enhanced the aesthetics of the area.
Ensure that high quality up-to-date training and skills required to address the above are locally available
Training was and still 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 also provided 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.
Click here to view the report of key findings from our very successful Landscape Partnership Scheme.