Sperrins Gateway

Crowds come out for Spring Into The Sperrins event

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016

The Sperrins were alive with activity recently thanks to a packed programme of free events organised by Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership (SGLP).

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported ‘Spring Into the Sperrins’ weekend celebrated the sights and sounds of the region and attracted large crowds keen to find out more about the native plants, species and activities that can be found across the Area of Natural Beauty.

Held at An Rath Dubh Hall in Moneyneena, Draperstown, the two-day event got underway on Friday May 20th with a bus tour of the Moyola Valley Heritage Sites led by Graham Mawhinney of Ballinascreen Historical Society.

Despite the weather conditions on Saturday morning, there was a full turnout at 5.30am for a Dawn Chorus walk. Led by David Morrow, RSPB volunteer, walkers spotted dippers, listened to blackcaps, chaffinch and blackbirds to name a few. Walkers returned to Moneyneena hall for a warm and very welcome breakfast, catered by Moneyneena Community Association.

Visitors were then treated to a variety of talks, exhibitions and walks by a host of organisations including Ulster Wildlife, Ballinascreen Historical Society, Mid Ulster Photography Club, RSPB and Moyola Angling Association. Sebastian Graham, delivered an informative talk on the almost-forgotten history of local mills. Thirty local families now have homes for birds and bats as a result of a fun and practical box-building workshop with Mark Edgar, Biodiversity officer for Mid Ulster Council.

Popular attractions for children included Barney the barn owl, who accompanied Catherine Fegan, Ulster Wildlife and the menagerie of birds of prey, snakes and spiders displayed by Karl from Ecomantella. Ballinderry River Trust and Butterfly Conservation NI led afternoon walks giving everyone an opportunity to learn about the health of rivers and carry out kick sampling for river mini-beasts and to hunt for butterflies, while admiring the sunlit scenery. Visitors tried their hand at gold panning with Geological Survey NI, planted seeds with the National Trust, and had the opportunity to find out about the wide range of outdoor activities available in the Sperrin region including hill walking with the Sperrins Hillwalking Club and scouting life with 33rd Derry Ballinascreen Scouts.

Pupils from throughout the Sperrins Gateway area entered a Spring Into the Sperrins colouring competition. Winners were Amy Rose Mulligan, St Eoghan’s P.S., winner in the P4-P7 category and Ciaran McLaughlin, Knocknagin P.S, P1-P3 winner.

Speaking about the event, Fiona Bryant, Manager of Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership said:

“It was wonderful to see so many people come out and enjoy everything this beautiful area has to offer and learn more about it.

“We are hugely appreciative of all the support we received to help make this weekend possible and especially thank our funders Heritage Lottery who have enabled us to share the sights and sounds of the Sperrins with so many over the course of two days.

“We would hope that through the exhibitions and activities here people will develop a greater understanding of the local landscape and that it will encourage them to get involved and fully appreciate the wildlife and natural beauty of the Sperrins area.

“Thank you to everyone who supported Spring Into The Sperrins.”

A full gallery of photographs from the Spring Into The Sperrins weekend can be found at www.sperrinsgateway.com and on facebook: www.facebook.com/SperrinsGatewayLandscapePartnership

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