The Glens Great Grassland Trail

Warren at Cushendun

It has been widely documented that today’s society is becoming disconnected from nature, with people spending more and more time indoors, using their phones and tablets our health and well-being are suffering. As a Countryside Ranger for the National Trust I feel a vital part of my day job, is to re-establish people’s connection with nature and engage with the next generation. To inspire them with the passion I have for the natural environment, “as children who are connected with nature are more likely to be interested in their environment, will want to enjoy it and save it – now and in the future”.

The Glens Great Grassland Trail is a fantastic example of an innovative project which has created new ways for people to get ‘closer to nature’. The trail is a route consisting of eleven public meadow sites across thirty miles of the iconic Glens of Antrim Landscape. It provides locals and visitors a better understanding of endangered meadow habitats. The meadows also act as stop-off points to explore the landscape, beaches and rich local heritage of the area.

I had already started to transform a rather dull area of grassland called The Warren in the village of Cushendun, through hay meadow management.  I was then approached by The Heart of The Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, who was delivering the five-year grasslands trail project funded mainly by the Heritage Lottery Fund. To become part of this fantastic project and took my rather small scale conservation project and made it part of a much larger landscape scale project. The meadows along the trail were created through a range of management measures to return sterile mown areas or rank grassland to attractive species rich meadows for the benefit of people and wildlife.

The team at Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership have worked closely with a wide range of partners, and some dedicated volunteers, to demonstrate how easy it can be to make a real difference to our local environment. Helping to reverse the decline of our native species, which have suffered significant declines in recent years, whilst at the same time creating new ways for people to get ‘closer to nature’. The team have also created a trail booklet, which can be downloaded from the following link:

http://www.heartoftheglens.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Glens-Grasslands-Booklet_RevF.pdf

I have been delighted to have been part of this project and The Warren grassland I manage, now part of the trail, has continued to flourish year on year. Wildflower species such as Orchid’s, Yellow Rattle and Cat’s Ear are starting to spread across the grassland and many butterflies and bees can also be found there. The local community and visitors alike comment on the fantastic annual colour the meadow now brings throughout the summer months to the village of Cushendun.    

Kevin Duncan – Area Ranger