Over 60 attend event on the future of hill-farming

By William O'Connor

An information event titled ‘The Future of Hill Farming in the Dublin Mountains’ took place last week in Glenasmole.

Attracting over 60 people, the open event held in the Glenasmole Community Centre and organised jointly between the SUAS Pilot Project and the state agency Teagasc,  explored a range of topics related to hill-farming in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains and the issues affecting hill-farming communities throughout Ireland.

Enda Mullen Divisional Ecologist at the National Parks and Wildlife Service speaking on the uplands above Glenasmole Valley compressor

Enda Mullen, Divisional Ecologist at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, speaking on the uplands above Glenasmole Valley

Guest speakers from the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Teagasc and the SUAS Project, gave presentations on the ecological importance of our uplands, sustainable and profitable hill-farming practices and the appropriate land and vegetation management approaches for upland terrain.

With the aid of visual slides, satellite footage and data collected from across Ireland’s upland farming community, much discussion was had about optimum grazing periods, flock sizes and breeds, and how best to create an upland farming model using a blend of modern and traditional farming techniques.

A number of contributions were also made from the attendees, with a general consensus that although quite challenging, the role of the upland farmers is of national importance and contributes widely to the greater public good and enhance sustainable rural communities.

In addition to managing the natural landscapes, it was agreed that healthy upland habitats play a vital role in providing good quality water sources, the prevention of flooding and the sequestrating of carbon stores.

After the 90 minutes of presentations and open discussion with attendees, many of the group travelled to a nearby hill to observe first-hand, the many ecological factors found in upland habitats.

Surrounded by stunning mountain views and overlooking the Glenasmole Valley and the 19th century Bohernabreena Reservoir, the group assembled for a short guided walk within the Wicklow Mountains National Park which is home to a diverse collection of sheep flocks.

Leading the large group was Enda Mullen, the Divisional Ecologist for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who demonstrated many of the plant species found in the upland biodiversity and gave an overview of the impact recent fires have had to the area’s sensitive ecology.

Much discussion was had about the use of burning to manage vegetation, with welcome contributions made on the difference between controlled and planned burning and the wild burning that have plagued the area in recent years.

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