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 the landscape of the hills.
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 business in the wards that make up the Belfast Hills, and indeed the number of young people staying in farming (Belfast Hills Baseline Study 2009). Consequently some farm land has been left in an abandoned state, while farm yards become a neglected eyesore, hedges are overgrown or gappy (leaving boundary/wildlife corridor gaps). These all have a negative impact upon the Belfast Hills landscape.
The ability to offer local farmers/landowners to undertake small practical biodiversity improvement works would provide both the motivation and assistance needed to transform small areas, both aesthetically and for the benefit of biodiversity.
We aim to:
- Transform farmland/disused land in the Belfast Hills both aesthetically and for wildlife through the manpower provided by young people
- To improve the condition of grasslands in the Belfast Hills for the benefit of biodiversity, including the iconic Irish Hare and butterflies such as the dark green fritillary and wood white.
- Encourage good practice and building up positive relationships with local landowners
- Develop positive attitudes and behaviour of young people (and through them their parents, peers etc) relating to their local environment and how it should be looked after
- Enable young people to gain practical skills that will enhance their employability