This week has been pretty amazing, not only has the light been less shadowed and the days noticeably longer but I have started a new journey too. On Monday, I moved to a new school for lots of different reasons. I moved to Erne Integrated College, an all ability school which prides itself on diversity, acceptance and tolerance and wow, did it accept me!! If my first week is anything to go by, the decision to move will be the most important decision to help me on way to being the person I really want to be. One of the cool things about my new school is how it has embraced all things wild! Ulster Wildlife have been working with the school and they have planted a magnificent meadow! I am so excited about this as it’s a project I really love and care about – you can read my original blog on this here Meadows and grasslands are astonishingly important habitats for wildflowers, insects and many other species. Singing grasshoppers, buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, orchids, hay rattle; a stunning amount of song, colour and biodiversity. They are just incredible!
Last night, myself, my dad and my sister (mum and Lorcan are both poorly) travelled to the Céilí (the Irish word for socialising through culture, music and storytelling) House for a fireside celebration of Save Our Magnificent Meadows, in the traditional céilí way! The venue is a really unique place, full of memorabilia from the past, old farm equipment and lots of interesting photos and facts about an older way of life. This way of life has been lost along the way but this is what Save Our Magnificent Meadows is all about. The making of hay, the sowing of wildflower meadows were a way of keeping in balance with nature, but due to a focus on intense agriculture and high production yield in post WWII UK, these traditions have gradually declined. In Fermanagh some farmers, landowners and community projects are fighting the decline and not only conserving and restoring the art of hay and meadow making but are engaging communities in the importance of biodiversity and wildlife.
The place was packed full of farmers, conservationists, foresters and lots of people excited by the achievements and the future of this incredible mission. The night started off with a short presentation by Giles Knight, his words were inspiring. He talked about people going back to nature, engagement and the special place that Fermanagh is and hopefully (despite the spotlight on high production agriculture) will continue to be. I had lovely chats with Michael Stinson, Eva Fernandez (both great Ulster Wildlife conservationists) and our local Green Party representative Tanya Jones. Traditional music was playing and a local story-teller Brian Gallagher wistfully told stories of old. He spoke of people and their connection to the land through love, tradition and superstition. The Corncrake call can be mimicked by two chicken bones, the heron’s leg was used to strengthen the neck of a violin, don’t mess with a Whitethorn tree (or the wrath of the fairies will descend upon you) and the many stories of people’s love of their land, landscape and their connection with it. I certainly felt a connection with the people there, we were united in our passion for nature, wildlife and our love of the land – not the money that can be made from it.
The blaze of the fire, the joyous sound of the fiddle and accordion, the invisible bond that connected us all made it a really magical and special evening. I loved listening to the stories, hearing the voices from the past makes our existence in the present more immediate and more urgent. Learning from the past is not apart from embracing new ideas, technology and ways of living but finding strands to weave into how we live today ensures that connections aren’t lost. Save Our Magnificent Meadows is definitely resurrecting these ideals. To hold on to our cultural and environmental heritage not only benefits us but also the many species our landscape supports and the dynamic relationship we can have with it all!
Photos by Eva Fernandez and Conor McKinney
Many thanks to Ulster Wildlife for a great evening’s Craic agus Ceol!
Thanks for reading