National Heritage Week 2022 - a review



The message for National Heritage Week 2022 was that of a resilient future for sustainable heritage and biodiversity – things that are very close to our hearts here on the LIVE Project.


There were events happening all over the peninsula and we were very excited to be collaborating with some great people to partake in some ourselves.


 
Meadows at the Met

Calum showing the difference in the abundance of flowering plants in the meadow compared to the lawn.


With the recent heatwave being the talk of the nation, it seemed appropriate that our first event was at Met Éireann’s Valentia Observatory in Cahersiveen. This historic location once had hay meadows blanketing the 19-acre site, but they have been absent since the 1980’s. It was wonderful to hear a local farmer, who attended the event, recall memories of helping cut the meadows as a young boy. The meadows have now returned and this event was a great way of highlighting the work to the public.


Staff at the Observatory have been working with Calum Sweeney (plant biologist) and Fiach Byrne (ecologist), both from the LIVE Project, on the meadow restoration plan. “I’m amazed by how much biodiversity has been recorded here in just the first season of the returning meadows. We’ve recorded 29 bird species, 6 types of butterfly and at least 4 types of bee” announced Fiach at the start of the event to the public, which included members of Iveragh’s tidy towns groups.

Fiach identifying one of the bumblebee species seen during the event.


Following a talk about the processes of the meadow work, we got to explore the biodiversity in more detail. Comparing the difference in plant and animal life between the species rich knee-high meadows to the mowed lawn was a real eye-opener. We had a chance to look closely at the plant, insect and bird life that was buzzing in the August heat” said Calum “and I especially enjoyed the conversations that came from the mix of attendees who shared their local knowledge and valuable insights”. We hope the meadows can continue as part of the biodiversity heritage of the Observatory site and inspire many more individuals, businesses, and town groups to follow suit.



 
Kerry Eco-Social Farm Visit

Fiach talking about farmland biodiversity. Safe from the heavy rain in Mike O’Sé’s shed


Monday saw the end of the heatwave with dramatic effect. Overnight thunderstorms and some well needed rain drenched a parched Iveragh. Thankfully, Mike O’Sé provided attendees with a grand dry shed at his farm near Dromid so we could hear all about the fantastic work of Kerry Social Farming from their Biodiversity Officer Luke Myers. Several of those at the event were participants themselves and they provide a great outlet for people with mental disabilities who visit their farms. The project also offers training for farmers in skills such as first aid or conservation practices, assisting with biodiversity action plans for farms, and, of course, the all-important social gatherings.


Fiach Byrne (LIVE Project) gave a summary of some of the excellent data he had gathered while conducting biodiversity surveys on local farms. “We’ve recorded a total of 91 different types of birds, butterflies and bumblebees during the surveys which shows how important the mixed habitats of Iveragh’s farmlands can be to our wildlife” stated Fiach. The rugged nature of the landscape of our peninsula means that less intensive farming is conducted here. We have more hedgerows, banks, stone walls, and boglands, all of which combine to provide a mixture of habitats for our plants and animals.

Some of the findings from Fiach’s farmland surveys with the LIVE Project.


The rain didn’t let up so, unfortunately, we had to postpone a planned walk of the farm. Instead, our wonderful host Mike O’Sé provided us with tea, coffee, and the finest selection of cakes and biscuits you could imagine! A massive thank you to Mike for his wonderful hospitality and for hosting such a great event. Milé buíochas Mike.


 
Castlecove's Drowned Forest

Some of the trees of this ancient woodland are only visible at low tide


Whisperings of an ancient woodland that is revealed by the retreating tide enticed a huge crowd to Castlecove for what was a truly magical event. “I was blown away by the interest from both locals and visitors to our event, and it just shows how proud the locals are of these incredible sites” said Calum Sweeney, LIVE plant biologist and co-leader of the event. Local archaeologist with the LIVE Project, Aoibheann Lambe was thrilled to hear a couple of locals speak about seeing the tree stumps appear at low water as a child - “it was interesting to hear how long the tree remains have been exposed and you only get that kind of information from the local community”. Aoibheann gave a fascinating insight into the past geological events that shaped the landscape here. It was hard not to close your eyes and imagine what this site looked like thousands of years ago.


One of the younger attendees learning about ancient trees


The talk was held at low tide and ancient tree stumps (still upright) rose eerily from the sand and exposed peat. We gathered around one particularly impressive buttress which was revealed, through carbon dating, to be around 4,000 years old. Further down the shore towards the sea, the trees are even older with some dating to around 5,000 years old. Work is still ongoing, but so far the team have identified a number of species including Scot's pine and birch and have found pine needles and pine cones that still seem fresh in the bog. Kids and adults of all ages were enthralled by the information and really enjoyed exploring the site. It’s great to know that additional work, such as mapping, will be completed to find out more about the story of this ancient habitat. There were over 60 people at this event and judging by the interest there might be even more next time!


We had a huge turnout for the ancient woodland event near Castlecove


 
Whale Watch Ireland

Headlands, such as Bolus, give a great view of the water for land-based watches.


Bolus Head was the venue for our final event for Heritage Week 2022. Christina Winkler, marine biologist with LIVE, collaborated with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Sea Synergy to run a land-based whale watch. This event was synchronised between 18 different sites around the country for the All Ireland Whale-watch Day.


After gathering at Ducalla, the group headed towards Bolus and soon all eyes were trained on the sea. Everyone was eagerly searching for a ‘blow’ (the spray that comes from a whale taking a breath at the surface), a splash from a tail or a jumping dolphin, or some seabirds diving which might be a clue of there being food beneath the waves. Sightings of our whales, dolphins and porpoises are reported by members of the public all year round and are vital in assisting our understanding of these amazing animals that call our seas home.


Iveragh is ideal for such land-based surveys. As Christina pointed out: “Iveragh is unique not for just its beautiful scenery but that there are countless stops where you can see our bays and the ocean - perfect for spotting porpoises, dolphins and whales all year round”.


Image: Christina Winkler (LIVE) & Lucy Hunt (Sea Synergy) held this joint event as part of IWDG All Ireland Whale Watch Day.


While no cetaceans were spotted this time (it was a dry but windy day) it was another great event and a wonderful way to finish off Heritage Week 2022.



 

We hope you were able to attend something near you. If you are thinking of holding your own event next year then please don’t hesitate to contact us, we would be happy to offer tips, advice or perhaps put you in touch with someone locally who might be interested in collaborating with you.


Slán agus go raibh maith agat.


The LIVE Team