Large parts of the Belfast Hills are made up of privately owned agricultural land (approx 65%). Farming is essential to maintain this landscape and conserve the biodiversity of the Belfast Hills. Despite difficult times for agriculture, we need farmers and landowners to maintain the correct levels of grazing and management to preserve our species-rich grasslands. Grasslands are associated with iconic species such as the Irish hare, Marsh Fritillary butterfly and skylarks which are all NI priority species.
Due to the general decline in farming in the current economic climate, compounded by the difficulties of farming in the urban fringe and uplands, there is a reduction in the number of farm businesses in the wards that make up the Belfast Hills (Belfast Hills baseline study 2009). Consequently some farmland has been left in an abandoned state, while farmyards become a neglected eyesore and hedges are overgrown or gappy. These all have a negative impact upon the Belfast Hills landscape.
We are offering a grant scheme for local farmers/landowners to provide both the motivation and financial assistance needed to transform farms, both aesthetically and for the benefit of biodiversity. To date a number of hedging projects have been undertaken, plantation of a small woodland, along with the creation of a wildflower meadow.