Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots MLA has today cut the first sod on the OM Solar Walk with the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council following a £500,000 investment to boost rural tourism in the Mid Ulster region.
The Solar Walk links the OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory at Davagh Forest near Cookstown with Beaghmore Stone Circles, creating a 3.4km Solar Walk, linking the observed solar system in the sky with the astronomical solar and lunar alignments at the Beaghmore complex.
Speaking about the investment, Minister Poots said: “Tourism is vitally important to our rural economy and it is important that we invest in infrastructure that will help attract more visitors to Northern Ireland and encourage them to stay longer.
“I’m therefore delighted to announce this joint £500,000 investment with Mid Ulster Council, including just under £395K from my Department towards the creation of this unique visitor attraction. OM Solar Walk will attract visitors to this rural part of Northern Ireland and provide a much needed boost to the local economy through encouraging visitors, particularly those from out-of-state, to dwell longer and therefore potentially increase overnight stays.
“It is clear from my visit here, that the creation of visitor experiences that showcase our natural landscape which are compelling and accessible to all, can offer long term sustainability and growth for rural tourism in Northern Ireland.”
Augmented Reality App
The walk will use an Augmented Reality App to provide a digital guide of the solar system to explore space and planets in real time, linking the uniqueness of the sky above to the uniqueness of the area’s deep archaeological landscape.
The project is funded through the Rural Tourism Scheme of DAERA’s Rural Development Programme.
Chair of the Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said: “With the start of work on our new solar walk, we have reached another milestone in our plans to showcase the unique landscape and skyscape of Davagh Forest, connecting the significant archaeological heritage of this part of the Sperrins with its internationally recognised darks skies.
“The walk itself not only creates a new physical link between Beaghmore Stone Circles and the OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory, but a virtual one also, with a new App and the use of augmented reality set to enhance the overall visitor experience.
“The investment is considerable at over £500K and as always, we are grateful for the substantial funding support which we are receiving through DAERA’s Rural Tourism Scheme.”
Results of Maghera Leisure Enhancement Scheme Revealed
The results of the recently completed Maghera Leisure Centre enhancement scheme have been revealed today, as an inaugural exhibition match between representatives from the Northern Ireland Ladies and Mid Ulster Ladies footballs teams was the first game to be played on the new 3G pitch, a key element of the project.
Refereeing the official opening of the extension to the Leisure Centre facilities in Maghera were the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots, MLA.
The strategic scale project resulted in the construction of a brand new 3G pitch with floodlights; a trim trail and the upgrading of the existing play park at the complex with accessible and inclusive play apparatus. Work was also completed on the Crewe Road footpath as part of the scheme.
Councillor Paul McLean, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council said,
“It’s fantastic to see the enhancements made to recreational facilities here in Maghera, which improve the standard and quality of recreational opportunities for the residents of Maghera and its surrounding communities. Our goals with this development are to encourage greater engagement with sport, particularly for young people; to increase access to leisure for rural dwellers and develop grassroots amateur and professional sport; and to ensure inclusive play opportunities for all. We must thank the other team players in the project, DAERA for their significant funding support, and the Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership for assisting with delivery of the project.”
Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA said, “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic more people visited outdoor spaces for exercise and this trend has continued. As we continue on the pathway to recovery I am delighted to see the completion of these excellent outdoor facilities at Maghera Leisure Centre, which my Department has contributed £500,000 through the Rural Development Programme.
“The total £1M investment which has resulted in an excellent 3G pitch, an upgrade to the playpark, flood lighting and additional car parking will improve the standard and quality of the recreational infrastructure for the residents of Maghera and the surrounding communities.
“Recreational activities are very important and play a large part in sustaining the health and well-being of communities. These facilities will provide current and future generations in Maghera with an excellent resource to enjoy in the weeks, months and years ahead.
“I congratulate the Mid Ulster LAG for all their work in developing and delivering against their rural strategy for the benefit of rural communities in the Mid Ulster area.”
Chair of the Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership LAG, Conor Corr said,
“The Village Renewal Scheme is a central theme of our local rural development strategy and working in partnership we have managed to reach near every village across the district. To date we have allocated and approved over £3.6m in funding for these Village Renewal projects as part of our overall funding programme totalling £9.3m across Mid Ulster”.
“The LAG approved £500,000 in funding to this superb facility here in Maghera. This along with all of the funding approved under the Village Renewal Scheme has been vitally important in providing local, accessible and quality facilities in rural areas which helps strengthen the very nature of our rural community infrastructure”
Funding for this project was approved by Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership and part-funded under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and the European Union.
New Chatty Bench Installed in Dungannon Park
Mid Ulster Loneliness Network has placed its first ‘Chatty Bench’ in the Mid Ulster district, with the support of Mid Ulster District Council, marking the start of this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week (14 – 18 June).
Situated in the popular and picturesque surrounds of Dungannon Park, the special bench has been introduced to provide a place for people to come together to have a chat. Two other benches are also included in other sites within the park.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean welcomed the first chatty benches in the Mid Ulster district, saying:
“The restrictions of the past 18 months have exacerbated the experience of loneliness and isolation for many people. Some people may go days or even weeks without the simplest of human contact, so the installation of Chatty Benches here in Dungannon Park is a timely initiative as it seeks to break down that social barrier and allow us all to say hello.
“It is our hope that it will be a way of tackling loneliness by encouraging people who may be experiencing it to connect with others, and for others not experiencing loneliness to recognise that starting a welcomed conversation can bring so much to another person’s day.”
Sandra McKenna, Chair of the Mid Ulster Loneliness Network, said,
“As a volunteer for Agewell I witness increasing levels of loneliness on a daily basis. The Mid Ulster Loneliness Network members are totally committed to addressing this issue through many different initiatives. These are our first Chatty Benches to be installed, and we intend to place more in different towns throughout the district.”
The project is also supported by both the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trusts Neil Gillan, Promoting Wellbeing Locality Manager – Armagh and Dungannon at the Southern Trust added his support for the new benches in Dungannon Park, saying:
“The Southern Trust recognises that loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone, irrespective of their age and stage of life. We hope the Chatty Benches encourage conversation and makes it easier for people who feel alone to connect with other members of their local community.”
Yvonne Carson, Thematic Lead for Loneliness in the Northern Trust added
“Chatty Benches are designed to help tackle loneliness and support positive mental health within the community. We hope the Chatty Benches will be seen as a place for people to come together to chat and connect and be the first of many in the Mid Ulster district.”
Dungannon Park is a 70 acre oasis centred round an idyllic stream fed lake only 2 miles from Dungannon town centre. The park is open from 8.30am – 9.30pm from now until October, when it moves to closing at 5.30pm for winter. Further information on Mid Ulster Loneliness Network can be obtained by emailing email@example.com