News

Brighter Belfast Awards!

We are very proud to announce that Eamonn Jordon, our youngest volunteer ranger, won the Judges Special Award for Brighter Belfast Environmentalist of the Year!
We are also thrilled that our Saturday Conservation Group were shortlisted for Best Conservation Group - go team!

Site Works at the Giant's Ring

Works are underway at the Giant's Ring to install gates that will improve access to the site from both the car park and rear path directions. Works are likely to continue at least into the following week. Pedestrians will be given access to the site throughout the duration, although it may be restricted at times. We hope this does not cause inconvenience to any of our visitors and it will be a huge improvement for the future.

Winners of the Coca Cola Inland Waterway Group Award 2014!!

We are very proud to announce that we won the 'Coca Cola Inland Waterway Group Award 2014' for our 'My River' Initiative at the Coca Cola Coast Care Awards held up in Stormont on 9th October!

Barge Arrival

August 18th saw the smooth arrival of Industry, an old barge or lighter, which used to transport coal in the 1870s on the Lagan canal from Belfast Harbour. It worked on the canal right up until at least the 1940s. Restoration began in 2008 in Rooskey before it's final journey back up to the Lagan in August 2014.

Tree Disease in Belvoir Park Forest

Phytpopthora-ramorum has been discovered within Belvoir Park Forest. Forest Service operations to save the veteran trees will take place in due course. Access to the forest will be affected. For more details please contact DARD or follow this link: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/plant-and-tree-health/horticulture-and-non-arable-plants-trees/pests-and-diseases/phytophthora-ramorum.htm

Lagan Valley Regional Park Facebook Page

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Feedback

The Park and AONB welcomes the views and opinions of our users. If you wish to have your say, you can download our questionnaire and return the completed form by post or email.

 

 

Welcome to Lagan Valley Regional Park and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

From the headwaters of Slieve Croob in the peaks of Dromara, beyond the Mountains of Mourne, the River Lagan grows in its vastness and arrangement of tributaries as it sweeps and meanders down to the Lagan Navigation and out to the Irish Sea. The patchwork of valley landscapes from wet meadows, ponds and ditches to mixed beech woodland, parkland and pine plantation provides a network for wildlife and a passage to our past.

Step out onto the towpath and immerse yourself with the sounds of the ebb and flow of the river. An alarm call from a shy moorhen as it quietly stalks the riverbank reeds and twists of overhanging willow. The male and female mallard duck and crested grebe weave silently or land like water-skiers along the surface. The many willows, looming beeches and hawthorn hedgerows provide their own music as they creek in the wind during the winter months, laden heavy with lichens.

Breathe in the pine scents of Belvoir Forest, the musky aroma of ancient oaks and fields of Meadowsweet at Lagan Meadows in the spring. Gasp at the hugeness of Ballyskeagh High Bridge and uncover the long history at Shaw’s Bridge. Discover carpets of bluebells in Minnowburn, whisper stories of faeries and folklore or let smells of the turf fire at Lock Keeper’s Cottage transport you back to another time.

Enjoy a picnic by the river or warm up with a hot drink at one of the few cafes. Pick a trail and explore the rose garden at Terrace Hill with superb views across the valley of the Belfast Hills, finishing the day as the sun casts a long shadow over the ancient stones of the Giant’s Ring.

Environment Sector in NI Facing its Worst Ever Crisis, LVRP Under Threat!

You may already be aware that the Department of the Environment (DOE) has issued a draft budget for 2015/16. Cuts to DOE expenditure appear to exceed other departmental cuts, something which the DOE oppose. This means that significant funding is being lost leading to what may be the biggest funding crisis ever faced across the whole environment sector. This will have a detrimental impact upon DOE and all that rely on funding from the department.

Lagan Valley Regional Park (LVRP) is under serious threat due to these cuts as the Natural Heritage Fund (see pg12 of draft budget, link below), which provides almost half our funding, is being terminated. This leaves us no option other than to cut our services and staff. Not only will this impact on the staff but also on all our volunteers and service users. The volunteers have won numerous awards, including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and regularly give up their time to better the park and provide excellent service to the public users.

LVRP currently supports around 100 volunteers annually; the towpath records over a million visitors annually; every £1 the DOE has given in funding has pulled in an additional £7 through other sources over the last 7 years. The loss of this would have a massive impact on the economy, not only directly but indirectly as well, as protecting our special areas supports tourism and all those ancillary small businesses that service tourism. Government seems to have given up on the Environment in Northern Ireland by completely removing funding from NGO's that are tirelessly meeting government targets. Do you support this stance?

It would be terrible to lose the benefits LVRP provides, including habitat provision, space for leisure and also personal health and wellbeing.

We would ask you to consider adding your voice to the consultation and express that you value LVRP and the services and support it provides. Your response need not be expert or detailed but simply express a desire to see continued support for what we do, and if possible some reasons for its significance. The closing date for responses is Monday 29th December 2014.

See below for a summary of some facts about LVRP to help support your responses, please feel free and copy and paste sections into your response.

You can contribute to the consultation via email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Or letter (see pg3 of draft budget)

To look at the draft budget in full please follow this link: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/doe-draft-budget-2015-2016-assessment-consultation.pdf

Some facts about the Regional Park and its work

A model that works:

When the area was designated in 1965 and the funding profile was originally set up, it was decided that setting up an organisation dedicated to managing the designated area would be more cost effective than each of the five funding organisations appointing officers and/or devoting the specialised resources required to its management. The Regional Park model continues to work well and due to its financially lean set up, still provides the most cost effective management instrument for Northern Irelands only Regional Park.

Additional Funds

As an NGO separated from the councils and central government we are able to pull in additional funds that would otherwise not be possible. These have included:

2013 - 5.5k secured from the NIEA to contribute to additional staff member

2013 - £25k secured from the challenge fund for wildflower meadow and the development of biodiversity

2011 - £49k secured from rural development program for paths at the giants ring

2006 - 2013 - £2.2 Million Landscape Partnership Scheme over 5 years secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a range of projects covering Heritage restoration, Biodiversity and habitat improvements, Education, Interpretation, Urban improvements and Community Projects

Beyond 2014 – HLF have agreed in principle to post project maintenance funding to support the Regional Park in maintaining many of the projects set up through the Landscape Partnership Scheme over the next 10 years – this is still to be finalised.

In summary for every £1 contributed by the Environment Agency, the park has been able to lever an additional £7 over the course of the past 7 years.

Community, Visitors, Education

The Regional Park supports and runs a program of volunteering actively engaging with the communities of Belfast and Lisburn

Last year we recorded a total of 386 volunteer days, which even at minimum wage would amount to an additional value of over £2.5k annually, but the non-monetary value of this level of engagement with the local community is self-evident.

The successful volunteer program operates under 4 roles: Heritage Guides, Volunteer Rangers, Wildlife Surveyors and A Saturday Conservation Group. In 2013 we engaged with over 100 volunteers, developing strong ties with the local community and bringing people from all backgrounds together to engage with their heritage and environment

The Regional Park records over 1 million visitors each year through counters along the towpath, the actual figure is probably much greater.

Meeting Government Targets

The Regional Park along with NGO’s work at the ‘coal face’ of the environmental sector and have accrued a wealth of experience and expertise in managing the environment and are as such much better placed to deliver government targets most effectively and most cost effectively. Our management plan renewed every five years helps government meet targets on habitat management, control and monitoring of invasive species, water framework directive and acts a vital connection to the public at large, educating and passing on government messages on the environment.

Our annual events program last year ran 33 events engaging with over 800 people

The Lagan Valley Ranger Service has for several years now dealt with over 1200 queries annually, requests for information and complaints from members of the public and the prominent office provides an important point of contact for the public

As well as scheduled events the Regional Park delivers around 20 guided walks and talks to groups throughout Belfast and Lisburn, promoting and informing people of the area and its importance.

The Regional Park offers an Educational Resource Pack, a web based teachers resource packed with new and innovative ways to teach ‘the world around us’ covering: language and literacy, mathematics and numeracy, the arts and personal development and mutual understanding.

Whilst with the Regional Park our volunteers are developing and leering new skills, essentially the park is ‘up skilling’ them and many of our volunteer rangers have gone on to full time employment with other organisations.

Planning and protection

The Regional Park is a statutory consultee in the planning process and deals specifically with the specialist policies relating the protection of the Regional Park Designation (the only Regional Park in Northern Ireland), and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the many smaller designations that exist to protect landscapes, biodiversity and heritage in the area. The Regional Parks stance is unique in that it takes an overview of the whole area and is not divided by council boundaries.

Awards and record of excellence

Lagan Valley Regional Park has a proven track record of excellence:

2014 Coca cola clean coast award winner for our ‘My River’ Initiative

Coordinating volunteers, groups and promoting awareness of benefits of a clean river to the local community

2013 The Queens Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteer and community groups

Highest standard possible for volunteer groups for the overall program, the work, welfare and motivation of our volunteers

2012 - 2015 Investing in volunteer’s accreditation by the UK volunteering forum

Setting the standard in the volunteer experience, proper protocols for recruiting, induction, management, motivation and support of volunteers

2013 – CBC Mayors Award for volunteering supporting volunteering for a large group

For the heritage guides at the Lock Keeper’s Cottage

2013 – Brighter Belfast Environmental Awards winner for Nature Conservation for the ‘Lagan Initiative’

A multi-agency initiative to co-ordinate river clean ups in the Lisburn, Belfast and Castlereagh areas of the River Lagan

 

 

Our next event is:

There are no more events now until 2015, watch this space for information on the first ones back or keep an eye on our facebook page for updates!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!!

 

See whats happening on our facebook page

 

 

 

 

 

Lock Keeper's cottage

Through the Laganscape Project the Lock Keeper's Cottage has been fully restored. Lock Keeper's CottageThis week, thanks to our volunteers, the cottage will be open:
Monday 15th December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Tuesday 16th December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Wednesday 17th December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Thursday 18th December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Friday 19th December 2014: 11:00 - 15:00
Monday 22nd December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Tuesday 23rd December 2014: 10:00 - 15:00
Times may be subject to change.

Cottage closed for Christmas holiday's from 24th December - 5th January

Lock No.3

Lock number threeWorks have been completed on Lock No.3. This project was delivered as part of the Laganscape Project with our partner Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL). Work commenced in June 2009 and involved the replacement of stone work on both sides of the canal chamber, removal of the watermain pipe and re-introduction of working Lock gates.

Along with the restoration of the Lock Keeper’s Cottage, this site is the only authentic example of lock, cottage and original bridge anywhere in the Lagan Valley.

Wildlife recording card

Calling all wildlife spotters

We have identified a number of key species that we would like to monitor and we’re hoping that you can help us by taking note where and when you see them as you walk through the park. The information we receive will help us to gain a better understanding of our local wildlife and will help us to direct management of the Regional Park to maximise its value for biodiversity. To download our wildlife monitoring leaflet click here or on the image (1.48MB).

Wildlife recording card

Volunteering

Laganscape volunteers in a willow weave bird-hideLagan Valley Regional Park has an exciting range of volunteer opportunities through the Laganscape Project. You can get involved in:

  • Saturday Conservation Team
  • Heritage Guides
  • Volunteer Rangers
  • Wildlife Monitoring
  • Red Squirrel Surveys
  • Wildlife & Heritage Photography
  • For more information on all of these opportunities check out volunteering section, or to speak to our Volunteer Coordinator: call us on 02890 491922.