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Travel & Tourism

Act Responsibly and Remain Vigilant to Wildfires

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) are asking farmers, land managers and the public for their help during the current dry weather spell.

As the dry weather continues, DAERA, NIFRS, PSNI and UFU are once again advising visitors to rural areas, as well as residents, to act responsibly and be vigilant for wildfires especially over this bank holiday weekend.

Firefighters tackling the wildfire on Donard Mountain between Fri 23rd April and Sun 25th April. Photo credit: PressEye

Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA said; “The recent wildfire in the Mournes on Donard Mountain has shown how quickly a wildfire can spread creating significant risk to life and property while causing extensive environmental damage and diverting the emergency services resources away from where they are most needed, protecting and serving the community.

“With the COVID-19 restrictions starting to relax and people travelling to see friends, family and enjoy the countryside, the need for responsible behaviour and increased vigilance at this time cannot be overstated. The wildfire risk increases with members of the public taking advantage to get back into the countryside. The use of barbeques, camp fires and other open ignition sources should be avoided in or near areas where there is a risk of a vegetation fire starting (areas with gorse, forestry, heather or dry grasses).

“On behalf of all partner organisations I am asking the public, farmers, rural dwellers and other countryside users to be extremely vigilant regarding the use of fire. Please report any suspicious or illegal activity to the PSNI via 999 and report all fires immediately to the NIFRS via 999.”

There remains a risk of wildfire across Northern Ireland. Fires can take hold and spread quickly on dry ground, with potentially devastating consequences.

Extra caution is also advised with respect to use of machinery and other agricultural activity that may also present a risk of fire in dry vegetation on cultivated land in the current conditions. Operators of such equipment should ensure that the machinery is well maintained and that any heat insulation is in place, is intact and maintained to help reduce the risk of fire from exhausts or other exposed hot engine parts which may lead to ignition of the surrounding vegetation in these very dry conditions.

Firefighters tackling the wildfire on Donard Mountain between Fri 23rd April and Sun 25th April. Photo credit: PressEye

Wildfires are not natural, they are almost always started by humans either deliberately or through carelessness. They put lives at risk, destroy our surroundings and the wildlife in them, and are a real cost to society. 

Please heed the following advice:

If you are in the countryside:

  • Avoid using open fires in the countryside;
  • Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly
  • Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows
  • Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.
  • Only use barbecues in designated and safe areas and never leave them unattended. Keep children and ball games away from barbecues.
  • Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents. Better still take your used BBQ home for safe disposal
  • Do not leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin.
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Don’t attempt to tackle fires that will take more than a bucket of water to put out.  Leave the area as soon as possible.
  • Report any suspicious behaviour to the Police.

If you see a fire:

  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service;
  • Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;
  • Leave the area as soon as possible;
  • If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.

Travel & Tourism

Visitor Pledge to Support Tourism Now Open

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has launched a new visitor pledge to encourage safe and responsible tourism across Northern Ireland while supporting local businesses.   

Hosted on the Discover Northern Ireland website, visitors are asked to show their support by signing up to the pledge and committing to the three core guidelines: Take Care of Each Other, Take Care of the Land, and Take Care of Local Businesses.

By taking the pledge, visitors are promising to take small steps that will make a giant difference to how we all enjoy and benefit from the many tourism experiences, local businesses and great outdoors across Northern Ireland.

Visitors are being asked to look out for each other by acting safely, to take care of the beautiful landscape by leaving no trace, and to show support for local businesses and the safety procedures they have in place.

The pledge also provides industry with assets to promote both in their business premises and online to encourage visitors to follow the guidelines.

Commenting on the visitor pledge Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “These are challenging times for businesses so we welcome initiatives like the visitor pledge that encourages people to safely enjoy all that Northern Ireland has to offer. With the visitor pledge, we can all play a vital role in promoting safe and responsible tourism by committing to take care of each other, our beautiful outdoors and local businesses.”

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots, added: “Northern Ireland has wonderful landscapes for all to enjoy, from our mountains to our seas and from our forests to our beaches. Our landscapes support local foods and local businesses and play a vital role in our tourism and for our communities health and wellbeing.  We all must play our part in looking after these assets. Taking part in the visitor pledge will help to support local businesses and will help ensure that our environment remains clean, safe and vibrant for all users.”  

Director of Marketing at Tourism Northern Ireland Naomi Waite commented: “The launch of the visitor pledge will help to boost consumer confidence by setting out simple steps that we can all take together to make a difference. Whether it is social distancing, cleaning up litter after enjoying the outdoors or shopping local, I encourage all residents to take the pledge to support local businesses and our local environment.

“This has been a challenging time for the tourism industry in Northern Ireland, but our local businesses, our unique tourism and experience providers are ready to offer their giant welcome again. This is a fantastic way for people to show their support. It is important of all of us to play our part in protecting each other and embracing all that Northern Ireland has to offer in a safe way.”

The website asks visitors to sign their name online to take the pledge and share with friends and family via their social media channels.

To learn more about the visitor pledge and to sign up, or download assets visit https://discovernorthernireland.com/giantdifference

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Travel & Tourism

Marie Heaney Launches Seamus Heaney HomePlace ‘Open Ground’

Marie Heaney, declaring Seamus Heaney HomePlace Open Ground open

Marie Heaney, together with the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, have officially launched a new outdoor visitor experience which for the first time brings Seamus Heaney’s literature into the landscape of South Derry which so inspired him.

Seamus Heaney HomePlace ‘Open Ground’ is a series of 5 locations, all of which held a significance for the poet, from the Strand at Lough Beg to the banks of the Moyola River.

Seamus Heaney’s poetry is not only visible in each place where interpretation panels explain the literary connections, but also audible with the poet’s own voice heard via listening posts on site, as well as via a dedicated Open Ground App, with elements of augmented reality adding a new dimension to the experience.

Open Ground has been developed by Mid Ulster District Council which manages Seamus Heaney HomePlace, with funding from DAERA, and represents an overall investment of £750K.

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr Cathal Mallaghan; Chris Heaney; Marie Heaney; Michael Heaney; and Director of Rural Affairs at DAERA, Paul Donnelly

The Strand at Lough Beg, a place of ‘special memories’ for Seamus Heaney, has been made accessible to visitors for the first time.

A newly constructed boardwalk leads to a woodland pathway which gently opens out into a clearing with uninterrupted views across Lough Beg to ‘Church Island and its soft outline of yew’.

A riverside walk along the Moyola River, where Seamus Heaney walked, fished and thought, is now also more accessible to visitors who can meander alongside those same river banks, retracing the steps of the poet who was ‘at home on the water in all sorts of ways’.

Sculpture is at the heart of the remaining three locations, with a tall, steel structure at the Eelworks in Toome, symbolising the twists and turns of eels as they swim, and reflecting the poet’s fascination with both the lifecycle of eels and the fishermen who trapped them.

An alleyway in Magherafelt is now home to the sculpted silhouettes of people walking towards the town’s bus station which featured in Heaney’s poetry, with the ‘agitated rooks’ from ‘Route 110’, the poem which takes its title from the number of a local bus, flying just above their heads.

The existing Turfman sculpture in Bellaghy has benefited from an extended and freshly landscaped seating area, creating a new space for visitors to contemplate both the art piece and lines from ‘Digging’, one of Seamus Heaney’s most well-known poems.

Marie Heaney and Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr. Cathal Mallaghan at The Strand at Lough Beg, one of five new Seamus Heaney Open Ground sites.

Speaking at the launch, Chair of the Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, said:

“This is a truly unique development which brings Seamus Heaney’s poetry alive in the places which were so much a part of his formative years and had such an influence on the body of work which brought him literature’s highest accolade – the Nobel Prize.

“If you read Seamus Heaney’s speech from the day on which he became a Nobel Laureate, you will be left in no doubt about his roots being in South Derry and their significance on his journey from his home in the ‘traditional thatched farmstead’ to the stage on Stockholm.

“I consider it an honour to be launching Open Ground and to celebrate further the man, his work and his deep connections to this area”.

Council Chair Cllr Cathal Mallaghan pictured with the Heaney family at Longpoint Wood viewing point

Chris Heaney, speaking on behalf of the Heaney family, said:

“The names of the locations that make up this particular open ground – Bellaghy, Magherafelt, Toome, Moyola, Lough Beg – are familiar to people from this locale but they have also become familiar to readers of my father’s poetry throughout the world. The development of five sites linked to different poems was a great idea from the start and there is something special and genuinely powerful hearing the poems read in their own “home places”.

Director of Rural Affairs at DAERA, Paul Donnelly said:

“Tourism has the potential to create jobs and opportunities for our rural communities and economy and I am delighted that we have invested £471k from our Rural Tourism Scheme into the Heaney Open Ground Experience. This project will highlight the literacy significance of the sites in the life story of Seamus Heaney and in doing so will hopefully attract more people to visit the area and stay longer.” 

This project was 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, with contributions also via DAERA’s Environmental Challenge Fund, Department for Infrastructure and the Lough Neagh Partnership.

For further information visit www.seamusheaneyhome.com

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