Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Forest School comes to Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus Central Primary School have begun their Forest School Programme in Shaftesbury Park. At the first session pupils found out about all the trees and wildlife in the park and made maps of the site from natural materials.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is committed to promoting our parks and open spaces as important educational and recreational resources and Forest Schools, delivered with Northern Ireland Forest School Association (NIFSA), is a great way to achieve this. The number of Forest Schools in Northern Ireland is increasing and we are proud to be at the forefront of this initiative. partner Council on the programme. 

Research has found that outdoor learning is invaluable for childrenThrough this initiative children will be able to increase their confidence, physical skills, social skills, motivation and concentration.  Above everything else, the Forest School Awards Scheme can help to connect children to their outdoor environment, stimulating curiosity and inspiring a love of the natural world that is likely to remain long after the programme. The benefits of Forest Schools are far reaching not only for the pupils and teachers directly involved but also for their families, school and local community.  Regular, ongoing and sustained use of Council parks and open spaces will help to develop a sense of ownership and, it is hoped, will lead to a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

Shaftesbury Park is a charming old Victorian park in Carrickfergus town centre with plenty of mature tree specimens and is connected to Carrickfergus Mill Ponds Nature Reserve which is home to a wide range of wildlife.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Blooming at the 2017 Garden Show Ireland

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has entered a Show Garden in the Garden Show Ireland for the first time this year. The garden celebrated the Councils 'in bloom' success and local heritage was celebrated throughout the garden, reflected the region’s local arts, crafts and storytelling through horticulture, biodiversity and community participation.

Teams from across the Council and the community helped make the elements of the garden come together.
The magnificent centrepiece was created by Gloonan House, in Ahoghill; Buick Memorial School, Cullybackey produced some wonderful decorated mosaic for the entrance to the garden and students from Castle Tower School in Ballymena decorated storytelling logs which were another key feature of the garden design.
Speaking at the recent launch of Mid and East Antrim in Bloom, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, said: “I am delighted that, for the first time, Council have entered a garden into the competition at the Garden Show Ireland in Antrim Castle Gardens.
“We are very proud of our horticultural achievements here in Mid and East Antrim and I am particularly delighted to hear that staff from across the Council and groups from across our borough have contributed to our garden design.”

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Out to Play!

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are in the process of developing a Borough wide Play Strategy entitled ‘Out to Play’. The initiative was officially launched on Wednesday 3 May in the beautiful setting of Dixon Park, Larne.

Speaking at the launch Cllr Wales said: “Play is extremely important in keeping our children fit and healthy, physically and mentally. Play has been proven to increase imagination, improve social skills, reduce stress and improve physical skills including strength, coordination and balance, so it is a major focus for Council.”
At the beginning of  2017, the Council extended an invitation to all schools in the Borough to get involved in a consultation process around ‘Out to Play’ and six schools were chosen - St Anthony’s Primary School; Gracehill Primary School; Glynn Primary School; Braidside Integrated Primary School; Carrickfergus Central Primary School and Millquarter Primary School.
The pupils worked alongside a facilitator, Dawn Aston, and enjoyed outdoor workshops and creative sessions to identify what they like about their area, what they think could be improved and how young people spend their free time.
The strategy is being developed by talking to and working with children, parents, the local community and partner organisations and always checking back to ensure we are doing it right.
Play also benefits the community by involving children in creative and positive activities, helping reduce anti-social behaviour and reducing the risk of crime. Play facilities become a focal point for the community, families are better supported and young people are helped to prepare for adult life.
The pupils created a wonderful display to showcase their thoughts which was presented at the launch event. The pupil’s opinions are very important to us and will help shape the strategy.
Council would also like to hear everyone’s views on current play provision in the Borough, and are particularly keen to hear from younger residents. Interested parties can complete a short survey online here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Translink Ulster in Bloom Award Winners

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, has hailed green-fingered residents after the Borough blossomed in the Translink Ulster in Bloom Awards.

The results of the competition officially recognised Northern Ireland’s top gardening talent, with a number of prestigious accolades awarded locally.
The 2016 Large Town category award went to Ballymena, the Small Town to Ahoghill and the Large Village award to Cullybackey, which also achieved the ‘Most Improved’ title.
The Best Community Rail Halt Award was bestowed on Whitehead Train Station. 
Meanwhile, Bill Pollock from ‘Brighter Whitehead’ was the winner of the Ulsterbus Tours Community Champion Award in recognition of the lasting and positive difference he has made to his local area by embracing the Ulster in Bloom ethos.
The Mayor said the impressive awards haul showed the Borough remains one of Northern Ireland’s best examples of floral expertise. “I am delighted and proud of the results of the competition. Translink Ulster in Bloom encourages cities, towns and villages right across Northern Ireland to look their best, boosting civic pride through beautiful plant and floral displays. Mid and East Antrim is renowned for its floral displays, which are enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. These awards are recognition of the fantastic work of residents to ensure our Borough is a beautiful place to live, work and visit. They are also a tribute to all the hard work of Council’s Parks and Open Spaces staff.”
This was the 38th year of the annual horticultural competition which celebrates Northern Ireland’s top gardening talent and their beautiful plant and floral displays.
Translink Chairman Frank Hewitt said: “Congratulations to all the Translink Ulster in Bloom champions. As we approach the 40th anniversary year, it’s wonderful to see the competition’s continued appeal with 156 entries covering all 11 council areas. We look forward to welcoming all our champions back to defend their titles when we launch the 2017 competition during Bus and Train Week, 5 to 11 June.”
The Translink Ulster in Bloom Competition is organised by the Northern Ireland local Government Association (NILGA).
Alderman Freda Donnelly, Vice President of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, said: “For everyone involved, not just the winners, Translink Ulster in Bloom helps us all to focus on improving the quality of life for citizens right across the region, taking pride in the places where we live and work, and together, create a better environment for everyone to enjoy.”

Friday, 12 May 2017

Pioneering CES project at Ecos Nature Park

Ecos Nature Park, Ballymena is the first public Constant Effort Site (CES) in Northern Ireland. The programme began on Monday 8 May 2017 and 11 more morning sessions will be spaced out across the summer. The bird ringing mornings are led by BTO licensed ringer and trainer Aidan Crean and will run from 8am to 12.30pm.

The Constant Effort Sites (CES) scheme is the first national standardised ringing programme within the BTO Ringing Scheme and has been running successfully since 1983.  Ringers operate the same mist nets in the same locations over the same time period at regular intervals through the breeding season at over 130 sites throughout Britain and Ireland. The results from the project provides valuable local site species knowledge plus builds a trend of information on abundance of adults and juveniles, productivity and also adult survival rates for 24 species of common songbird.

This programme is a great opportunity to see and appreciate all the small resident and migrant birds of Ecos Nature Park at close quarters and learn how and why we catch, ring and study wild birds.

Everyone is welcome along, there is no experience required. 

To find out when the next sessions are occurring, add your details to our CES mailing list via biodiversity@midandeastantrim.gov.uk

Thursday, 11 May 2017

2017 Mid and East Antrim in Bloom campaign officially launched

The 2017 campaign and community competitions were officially launched to coincide with Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) National Gardening Week.

The launch took place The People’s Park, Ballymena, on Friday 7 April and guests were invited to take part in a range of ‘in bloom’ activities.
Speaking at the event, Cllr Wales said: “Mid and East Antrim in Bloom is your opportunity to make your Borough bloom once again! Everyone can do their bit by filling a hanging basket, planting a tree or just keeping your garden tidy - there is something for everyone to do to ensure our Borough looks its best."
The Mid and East Antrim in Bloom community competitions are a great chance for people to be recognised for their gardening skills. Applications are welcome from all residents of the Borough and entry is free of charge. Why not consider nominating a neighbour’s garden and other properties that you think are attractive and deserve recognition?
There are 10 community competitions with great prizes available for winners and runners up in each. General categories include Best Kept Front Garden, Best Kept Allotment Garden, Best Kept Commercial Premises, Best Kept Community Planting Scheme and the Gardening for Wildlife Award.
There are four competitions specifically for our young horticulturalists too; Painting Competition, Poetry Competition, Best School Gardening Project and, of course, the hotly contested Tallest Sunflower Competition.
To get involved click here