Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sustainable Christmas

We have been running a series of Christmas tree planting workshops to encourage everyone to grow their own Christmas tree instead of buying and disposing of a tree each year. We use Norway Spruce, a traditional choice for Christmas tree, and recommend you plant them in a pot (unless you have a large garden) as Norway Spruce can grow 7 metres tall and 4 metres across if planted in the ground.

If you plant your tree in a large pot (at least 10-15 litres in volume) the tree will grow to approx 120cm tall. The larger the pot the larger your tree will grow. You can then choose to bring the tree inside each year to decorate for Christmas, or decorate it outside. You can care for your tree by adding organic material throughout the year, for example, seaweed, which will add nutrients to the soil in the pot.

Merry Christmas!

Andrew, Conrad & Tabby Ferguson

Monday, 14 December 2015

'Friends Of' December task

Our final task for the year was clearing cherry laurel from the site. Cherry laurel is an invasive species which grows quickly and if left uncut can block out all other plant species with its twining branches. 

Invasive species are animals, plants or other organisms introduced by man into places out of their natural range of distribution, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species.

The friends programme has proved popular and will continue to run on the second Saturday of each month.

The first task day of the New Year is Saturday 9th January, meeting at Oakfield Community Centre 10am (to 1pm) 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Hearty Walks - Carrickfergus Mill Ponds

Great weather and a great turn out for the first Hearty Walk which took place at Carrickfergus Mill Ponds on Sunday 6th December. 

Walk leaders Denise McVeigh, Ann Doherty & Alison Diver pictured
Walking is great for your physical and mental health and a there are additional benefits to walking in natural environments, such as parks, woods and other green spaces.  Walking in nature can have a positive effect on depression, memory, creativity and problem solving skills. 

Why not get out and celebrate winter walking?

The next Hearty Walk is on Sunday 10th January, 2.30pm-3.30pm, at Blackhead Path, Whitehead. Meeting in Blackhead Path car park.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Tree Planting and Wreath Making

Tree Week activities continued with a tree planting day in Carrickfergus Mill Ponds on Friday 4th December. Central Primary School's P1, P2, P3 & P4 classes planted a range of native tree species, including oak, hazel and rowan.

Tree Dressing Day was then celebrated on Saturday 5th December at Oakfield Community Centre, Carrickfergus. Participants collected materials including dog wood, holly and ivy, and made beautiful natural wreaths, bird feeders and decorations to dress their favourite tree.

Thanks to all who took part. Every tree counts!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Hard Working Hedge Layers

Participants learnt the ancient skill of hedge laying this Saturday (28th Nov) at Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead as part of National Tree Week. Hedge laying is the practice of partly cutting through each stem close to ground level, so the stem can be bent over without breaking and continues to grow. The stems are laid and staked into place where necessary to stabilise the hedge. This rejuvenates hedges and encourages new growth, ensuring a stock-proof boundary.

Coming up:

Tree Dressing Day
Bashfordsland Wood & Oakfield Glen Carrickfergus
 Saturday 5th December, 2pm-4pm
 Wreath making, arts and crafts, and biodiversity activities to celebrate our native trees 
Meeting at Oakfield Community Centre, Oakfield Drive

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Winter Walking - Health is a Walk in the Park

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is encouraging everyone to get outdoors this winter and celebrate winter walks with their Hearty Walks programme. 

Walking can help reduce your risk of heart disease, help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.  Research has also indicated that regular exercise can help to boost our immune systems, enabling us to better fight off colds and flu viruses that are prolific in winter months.

There are additional benefits to walking in natural environments, such as parks, woods and other green spaces. The National Environmental Education Foundation found that walking in nature can have a positive effect on depression, memory, creativity and problem solving skills. We have  some fantastic green spaces in Mid and East Antrim so why not get out and enjoy them this winter. 

Celebrate winter walking:

Sunday 6th December, Carrickfergus Mill Ponds, 10.30am-11.30am
Sunday 10th January, Blackhead Path, Whitehead, 2.30pm-3.30pm
Sunday 24th January, Bashfordsland Wood, Carrickfergus, 10.30am-11.30am
Sunday 14th February, Marine Gardens, Carrickfergus, 2.30pm-3.30pm

Walks will be led by trained walk leaders. Pedometers will be available for walkers to count their steps. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Hedgehog Heroes

A big thank you to all the hedgehog heroes who came out to plant a native hedgerow and build hedgehog homes at Eden Allotment Gardens on Saturday (21st November). 

New homes for hogs

Hedgehogs are in decline and one of the main reasons is loss of habitat. You can do your bit to help hedgehogs by providing suitable habitats such as hedges, leaf piles and wood piles, or by building a hedgehog home. Hedgehog homes should be placed out of direct sunlight and harsh winds, for example, behind a garden shed. Hedgehog nests are usually made from moss, grass and leaves, but you can also fill you hedgehog home with dry straw or newspaper. They should have a compartment for the hogs to sleep and a smaller entrance corridor that will keep them safe from badgers, foxes and dogs. 

For more information on helping hedgehogs you can visit: http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/

Gabriella Hooper & Lisa Haggan planting a native hedgerow 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Get Voting!

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has seven parks in the running to win an exciting new award – The Fields in Trust UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU!” award.

Voting is open for seven more days. If you think your local park is special and deserves the recognition of a Fields in Trust Award then please vote online.

Click here to vote.

Voting is open until 5pm on Wednesday 25th November.
Voting will be conducted via the one vote per email address rule.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Day Of The Hedgehog

Join us on Saturday 21st November, at Eden Allotment Gardens, Carrickfergus, from 11am-1pm, to celebrate hedgehog conservation.
Learn how to plant a native hedgerow and build 'hog hotels'

The number of hedgehogs in the UK has plummeted in recent decades and there are thought to be as few as one million remaining. Changes in in the way we manage our land have had a real impact - fewer hedgerows and woodlands mean a loss of vital habitat and the increased use of pesticides has reduced the number of insects for our spiky friends to feed on.

The popularity of hard wooden or metal fences has made it hard for hedgehogs to move from place to place. As they become isolated in smaller and smaller areas of greenery, they cannot feed or mate. It doesn't matter if you have a garden full of worms, beetles and other bugs which hedgehogs love, if they can’t get in, they can’t benefit.

You can plant a native hedge to help our local wildlife. To achieve a thick hedge, it is advisable to plant 5 plants per metre, in double staggered rows. It is beneficial to have as many different species in a hedge as you can. For a mixed native hedge try to include three plants of the same species per metre with one each of two other species. A recommended composition would be: hawthorn 50%; blackthorn 15%; hazel 15% and 20% of other species such as guelder rose, spindle, dog rose and holly. The best time to plant is between November and March.

By planting up native hedgerows and building ‘hog hotels’ people can play their part in giving hedgehogs a home now and into the future. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Tree-mendous 'Friends Of'

 A big thank you to the 'Friends of'' Bashfordsland Wood & Oakfield Glen for coming out in the rain this Saturday (14th November) and helping to thin and fell trees to make a clearing. Clearings and open spaces are very important structural elements within woodland, providing valuable habitat for a wide range of wildlife, different from that in densely wooded areas. A diverse range of sun-loving plants and insects benefit from sunny open areas. The 'Friends Of' group worked to create a large clearing which we will continue working on next year to create a wildflower meadow. 

The felled wood was used to create habitat piles. Dead and decaying wood is often an overlooked element of wildlife gardening, but is very important. Woodpiles are a valuable habitat for mosses, lichens, fungi, and many insects, which in turn feed birds, bats, frogs and small mammals such as hedgehogs. The natural cycle of dead wood breaking down also fertilises the soil which improves the growth of new trees and plants.

The group was especially pleased to see a frog hop across the newly created clearing and take up residence in one of the newly created habitat piles!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Friends Of Bashfordsland Wood & Oakfield Glen November Task

This month we will be focusing on tree thinning. Thinning is often the most important thing you can do to influence the growth and health of a woodland - proper spacing and thinning can reduce overcrowding and relieve tree stress. Thinning helps create a more open site and allows sunlight to reach the woodland floor. This can increase the biodiversity of the woodland as it encourages an under-storey of small plants, shrubs and flowers which attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which in turn provide food for a range of birds and bats. 

Meeting at Oakfield Community Centre, 10am (to 1pm), Saturday 14th November

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

UK's Best Park Voted By You!

The Fields in Trust Awards have been running since 2012 and this year are celebrating a new award category –“UK's Best Park, as voted by YOU!” This award provides the public with an opportunity to vote for their favourite local green space, whether that's a park, sports field, playground, woodland or something else entirely.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has seven parks in the running to win this exciting new award:

Carnfunnock Country Park, Larne
Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead
Dixon Park, Larne
Ecos Nature Park, Ballymena
Greenisland Play Park, Greenisland
Marine Gardens, Carrickfergus
The People’s Park, Ballymena

We have some fantastic parks in Mid and East Antrim and we encourage everyone to vote for their favourite. If you think your local park is special and deserves the recognition of a Fields in Trust Award then please vote online.

Voting opens at 5pm on Thursday 5th November and runs until 5pm on Wednesday 25th November. Voting will be conducted via the one vote per email address rule. Visit http://fieldsintrust.org/bestpark/nominations to vote.

Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead

Greenisland Play Park, Greenisland
Marine Gardens, Carrickfergus

Monday, 2 November 2015

Carrickfergus in Bloom Community Awards Ceremony

Winners and runners-up received their well-earned certificates and prizes at the Carrickfergus in Bloom Community Competition Prize Giving Ceremony at Carrickfergus Town Hall on Friday 30th October.

By actively supporting the competitions, residents not only make their own garden or business more attractive, but also assist Carrickfergus’ entry to the Translink Ulster in Bloom Competition and the Britain in Bloom Competition. The judges were very impressed with the number of high quality entries this year.

Congratulations everyone and thank you to all who took part.
 A full list of winners and runners-up can be viewed here

2015 winners and runners-up
The Mayor with Best Kept Garden winner Georgina Daphne Brown
Best Kept Community Planting Scheme winner: Charles Sheils Charity. The Mayor pictured with Christine Harper
The Mayor with Best Kept Allotment winner Jenny Hawthorn
The Mayor with Uel McClure, collecting the award for Best Kept Commercial Premises winner The Royal Oak
The Mayor with Children's Painting Competition 15 & Under winner Lauren Hamill
The Mayor with Children's Painting Competition 10 & Under winner Sophie McFaul 
The Mayor with Tallest Sunflower Competition winner Olivia Hadden
The Mayor with Poetry Competition winner Rebecca Irvine 

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Wild About Gardens Workshop

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council celebrated Wild About Gardens Week with its first a Wild About Gardens Workshop on Wednesday 28th October at Carrickfergus Mill Ponds. 
With a wide range of experts on site including RSPB, Ulster Wildlife and The Conservation Volunteers, attendees built bird boxes, bird feeders and homes for bees. Attendees also learnt how to make a mini pond in their own garden, went pond dipping, learnt about bugs, bats and red squirrels and had the chance to sign up to the Hedgehog Street campaign and make Hedgehog Street signs.
Many of our common garden species, such as sparrows, common frogs and stag beetles, are becoming much less common. Research has found that sixty percent of UK animal and plant species have declined in the past 50 years for a range of reasons including loss of habitat.
But it’s not hard to help. Together our gardens can be a vast living landscape that link urban green spaces with nature reserves and the countryside. With an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, the way they are cared for can make a huge difference to wildlife. So get creative for wildlife this autumn. Why have a plain fence when a green, living boundary can bring berries, flowers, scents, colours and wildlife?  Or why not dig a pond? Even a very small pond can be home to newts, dragonflies, and pond skaters, and you'll also be providing water for birds.

The Hedgehog Street campaign is encouraging everyone to make a hole in their garden fence or wall and map it on Hedgehog Street (http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/). Adult hedgehogs can travel between 1-2 kilometres per night and they love gardens. There are around half a million hectares of garden in the UK so it is important that hedgehogs can access all these different gardens, for food and shelter, via holes in our fences and walls. 

Making bird feeders

Making Hedgehog Street signs

Pond dipping

Bird box building


Monday, 26 October 2015

Apple Day Appeeling

Saturday 24th October saw the community gather at the orchard in Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s first Apple Day. Attendees gathered apples from the community orchard - which was planted in February 2013 with a range of apple, pear and nut trees - and enjoyed pressing the apples to make freshly squeezed apple juice.

Attendees also had the chance to help out with some tree maintenance and learn about orchard biodiversity, and The Carrickfergus Community Cultivators were on site to provide lunch which included apple and potato bread, Waldorf salad (made with apple, celery and walnuts) and home-made apple jam.


Mayor of Mid and East Antrim BC, Cllr Billy Ashe, said “Apple Day is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the wonderful community orchard at Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead. Community orchards encourage an interest in fruit growing and provide a way of sharing knowledge and horticultural skills. Orchards are also rich in biodiversity and at MEA we are committed to raising the awareness of local habitats and biodiversity.”

Cllr Ashe concluded “Our first Apple Day was a great success and we plan to run the event annually.”

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Mid and East Antrim get ready to celebrate the 25th annual Apple Day

Alison Diver, Growing Communities Officer, with Riley Bristow, Lacey Campbell and Anamika U Nair

Mid and East Antrim Borough is hosting its first Apple Day celebration this weekend.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Billy Ashe said: “Apple Day is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the wonderful community orchard at Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead.The orchard was planted in February 2014 and continues to flourish,” he said.

The event, on Saturday 24th October, will include apple pressing, native apple tastings and cookery, orchard tree conservation and traditional orchard games. Activities are taking place from 12noon-2pm.

It is an important ecological issue as two thirds of UK orchards have been lost since 1960. Orchards have been replanted with cereals, ousted by new developments or simply fade with neglect.

Community orchards, such as the one at Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead, help to revive an interest in fruit growing, provide a way of sharing knowledge and horticultural skills and stimulate us into growing food for ourselves again. Orchards also play a part in raising awareness in the provenance and traceability of food.

Orchards are also important for biodiversity, supporting a wide range of wildlife. The combination of fruit trees, grassland floor, hedgerows, deadwood and associated features such as ponds and streams mean orchards are home to a wide range of insects, birds, mammals and wildflower.

To support such orchards nationally, an annual Apple Day initiative was established in 1990 by the organisation, Common Ground.

This year, Wednesday 21st October, is the 25th such annual celebration being both a celebration and a demonstration the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture associated with apple growing.

Sue Clifford from Common Ground who helped devise the concept said: “Apple Day is not a marketing device, its creation has been impelled by altruism and idealism for living better with nature – the apple and the orchard are symbols of hope. They demonstrate how we can have our trees, bees, bats, butterflies, birds and badgers whilst growing good fruit to eat and drink.”

Monday, 19 October 2015

Magical evening in Oakfield Glen, Carrickfergus

Oakfield Glen was lit up with lanterns on the evening of Saturday 17 October. Woodland visitors created lanterns from recycled materials and followed a fairy light trail around the wood to the campfire, where they toasted marshmallows, enjoyed hot chocolate and learnt bush craft skills. Fiddle player Donard McClean, renowned storyteller Raquel McKee, and fairy friends Sylvr and Teal added to the magic of the evening.  The Northern Ireland Bat Group were also on site to educate on some of the woods nocturnal creatures, including common pipistrelle bats (pictured below)