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 ( 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) 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Apple Day Saturday 24th October

From trees to bees – a celebration of all good things in the community orchard! Join us at Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead on Saturday 24th October, 12 noon - 2pm for a fun afternoon of apple pressing, native apple ID & tastings, orchard tree conservation, orchard biodiversity and traditional games. Please feel free to bring along your own apples (and other fruit) for pressing. This event is FREE.

Monday, 12 October 2015

'Friends of' Bashfordsland Wood & Oakfield Glen - October Task

Volunteers focused on pond maintenance for Octobers task and learnt about removing excess vegetation and silt. Vegetation can be detrimental to pond life as it can lead to deoxygenation. At least 25-35% of a pond should be open water, so if necessary you can rake off or pull out excess vegetation. Vegetation should be removed in a wedge shape to avoid removing plants at only one depth. Where algae is excessive, natural preventative measures such as barley straw can be helpful. The best time to work on your pond is autumn as this is after the breeding season and before hibernation in winter.

The next task day is Saturday 14th November 2015. Meeting at Oakfield Community Centre at 10am (to 1pm)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Seed Gathering Season

Pupils in Carrickfergus have been ‘putting down roots’ and gathering seeds in local green spaces and woodlands as part of Seed Gathering Season 2015 – a month-long festival organised by The Tree Council and supported by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council - which runs from 23rd September to 23rd October.

Pauline Buchanan Black, director-general of The Tree Council explained “The festival aims to inspire people to get outside and gather, nurture and germinate tree seeds for the benefit of their neighbourhoods. The trees that are most likely to put down the strongest roots are the ones whose seeds have been gathered from local stock. Walks in the autumn sunshine provide the perfect opportunity to collect local seeds from parks, streets, woods and hedgerows. A strong community, just like a healthy tree, starts with solid roots. So, what better way for a community to look back to its roots, and put down fresh ones, than by coming together to grow more plants from seed?”
Victoria Primary School’s Eco Club collected hawthorn, holly, rose hips, blackberries, 
elderberries and more in Oakfield Glen, Carrickfergus.

Mayor of MEA, Cllr Billy Ashe added “In addition to thinking about their local treescape and growing the trees of the future, MEA Council is also encouraging everyone to make the most of the autumn harvest by gathering nuts, fruits and berries to eat and make into delicious autumnal treats. We have a wide range of events coming up that celebrate our local landscape including Apple Day, Hedgelaying workshops and Tree Week, so why not get involved. The community that plants and eats together, puts down roots together.”

More information on seed gathering can be found here 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Carrickfergus in Bloom Painting and Poetry winners

The winners and runners up in the popular Carrickfergus in Bloom Children’s Painting and Poetry community competitions have been announced.

Children’s Painting Competition 15 and under
Winner: Lauren Hamill, Carrickfergus, Age 13
Runner-Up: Jamie Lennon, Carrickfergus, Age 14
Runner-Up: Erin Johnston, Carrickfergus, Age 12

Children’s Painting Competition 10 and under
Winner: Sophie McFaul, Carrickfergus, Age 10
Runner-Up: Lucy Doris, Carrickfergus, Age 10
Runner-Up: Emma-Louise Hartley, Greenisland, Age 8

Poetry Compeition
Winner: Rebecca Irvine, Carrickfergus, Age 13
Runner-Up: Ellie Kirk, Carrickfergus, Age 13
Runner-Up: Justin Irwin, Carrickfergus, Age 9

All the Carrickfergus in Bloom Community Competition winners and runners-up will be invited to a prize-giving ceremony at the end of October in Carrickfergus Town Hall to receive their certificates and prizes.”
 A full list of winners can be viewed here

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Light up your lanterns!

A spooky outdoor event to get you in the mood for Halloween. Meet at Oakfield Community Centre, Carrickfergus on Saturday 17th October at 6pm (to 9pm). Make lanterns to light your way through the woodland looking for nocturnal creatures including bats, and get involved in marshmallow toasting, bushcraft, storytelling and more surprises

To book a place please ring 0343 770 5750