With all the beautiful weather we’ve been having, it’s hard to believe that it’s nearly November! The Active Lifestyles volunteers have been out in force however, enjoying the bright weather and ignoring the slight chill in the air while we buckle down to prepare for the upcoming winter months. Here’s a few examples of what we have been getting up to this season!
In the Gardens
We’ve all been enjoying a small but satisfying harvest in the volunteer gardens over the last few months. Apples, Crab Apples, Spuds, Rose-hips and late Tomatoes have all been picked and shared amongst our dedicated volunteer teams and turned into delicious jams, jellies and chutneys by Alan!
We even had a go at pressing our own apple juice, however a kilo of apples and half a glass of juice later, we realise that there may be some troubleshooting to figure out before retrying again next Autumn!
On the 17th of September, we were treated to a visit from the knowledgeable Shelagh Henry for a lovely, sunny day of bird watching and bird feeder making. A relaxing dander along the Silent Valley Nature Trail didn’t fail to disappoint, as we were treated to the sights and sounds of Ravens, Buzzards, Gold Crests and even a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flying overhead! Afterwards it was back to the gate lodge to construct bird feeders out of plastic bottles collected from a recent beach clean. A spectacular day made better by the enthusiasm and interest shown by the volunteers who came along.
On the Beach
On a wet, cloudy Sunday, we stuck on our waterproofs and headed down to Kilkeel beach to take part in the Great Northern Irish Beach Clean! We spent the morning collecting and recording the litter along 100m of shoreline and found some interesting bits and pieces along the way (anyone need a pair of rubber overalls…?!). Afterwards our enthusiastic volunteers kept going and we managed to clear up a good stretch of shoreline despite the weather. The data we collected will be sent to the Marine Conservation Society, who organise this annual nationwide survey, and use the data to assess of the state of UK beaches. Thanks to everyone who came along and supported this important cause!
The long running volunteer path team have been hard at work over the last few months at the Glen River, repairing eroded pathways and constructing more sustainable routes along the popular trail which leads right up to Slieve Donard. The progress takes time, as each metre of path is carefully repaired under the watchful eye of Countryside Officer Phil in order to ensure that the path is not only well constructed, but blends expertly into the countryside. Working alongside these folks is always a privilege, as their experience and expertise is tempered by their genuine attachment and pride in the Mourne Landscape.
On the 1st of October we had a visit from the Northern Ireland Youth Walkers, who spent their day on the Slieve Binnian/ Slieve Lamagan col completing vital heathland restoration tasks such as constructing stone damns to retain surface water, and re-profiling peat hags. The guys were treated to a talk by Siobhan Thompson, who explained how footfall erosion can affect sensitive heathland areas; giving some much needed perspective for why the work is vital within the Mournes. The team had a great day and worked hard to complete the job at hand. Thanks very much guys!
Invasive Species Management
The cooler weather brought about great opportunities to tackle the encroachment of invasive species that cropped up over the summer. In September, the guys from the South Eastern Regional College did an absolutely fantastic job clearing bracken from the Wildfire Control Site in Silent Valley despite the wet weather (and a lot of midgeys)!
Next up, the Conservation Volunteers were hard at work at our Dunnywater garden uprooting Himalayan Balsam plants that were overtaking the hedgerows and native plant species. A hard days work successfully and cheerfully completed by our hardworking volunteers!
Guest tutor Leo Cullen had us all enthralled on Saturday 15th October by his fascinating Workshop showing us the tips and tricks of the wine making trade! Using local ingredients such as freshly picked apples, Rose Hips, Strawberries, Elderberries and Plums, Leo crafts delicious homemade wines which were all available to observe and taste during the day, inspiring everybody to give wine making a go for themselves in the future! Afterwards we had a go with the apple press making delicious fresh apple juice for everyone to enjoy. A great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon!