Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Heritage to the fore in novel REPS 4 course

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The historic landscape around Tulsk, Co Roscommon, was the setting for an innovative farmers' training day, which was held to coincide with Heritage Week.

Most of the 100 participants at the Roscommon event were attending a REPS 4 archaeological course organised by local Teagasc adviser Kieran Kenny.

This included indoor information sessions at the Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre in Tulsk and visits to some of the most important archaeological sites in the area.

Most of the farmers on the course have archaeological sites on their own farms and Mr Kenny stressed the important role landowners play in preserving monuments, which can date back more than 8,000 years.

"Farmers and landowners play a vital role in protecting and preserving our heritage," Mr Kenny said.

"Most of Ireland's 120,000 archaeological monuments are located on farms. The aim of this REPS archaeological course is to help farmers continue to preserve the historic landscape for the benefit of future generations."

More than 200 archaeological sites, in a four-square-mile area around Tulsk, were used by the first farmers to settle in the area. Here, they lived their lives in a practical, spiritual and ceremonial way.

The Teagasc course included a visit to the great mound of Rathcroghan -- the palace and sacred burial place for the kings and queens of Connacht, including the infamous warrior Queen Maeve.

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Nearby is a fallen standing stone, made of red sandstone and measuring 2.9m in length, which is said to mark the place of her burial.

The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge) also starts and ends at Rathcroghan. The 'white-horned' bull of Connacht (Fionn Bheannach) and the brown bull of Cooley (Donn Cúailnge) are said to have fought a bloody and fatal duel on Rathnadarva, a large ringfort to the west of the main mound.

At the event, a few brave individuals ventured into Oweynagat, or Cave of the Cats -- the entrance to the 'Celtic' otherworld.

Samhain, or October 31, is the ancient Irish New Year, when ghastly monsters emerge from Oweynagat to devastate the surrounding countryside -- a time for bonfires, feasting, honouring the dead and disguising the children to protect them. These Irish traditions are the root of all modern Hallowe'en festivities.

This Roscommon course is an example of the new REPS 4 training events, which are very different from previous initiatives.

Catherine Keena, Teagasc's countryside management specialist, explained that farmers who had previously completed a 20-hour REPS course may now attend a five-hour course with a specific focus as their REPS 4 requirement.

REPS farmers will be paid €100 on satisfactory completion of a five-hour module and can avail of payment for up to two training courses.

A course will normally cover two topics. Examples include: traditional orchards; watercourses; crops for wildlife; field boundaries; clover; extensive grassland; wildlife habitats; soil and nutrient management; field margins; rare breeds; and heritage buildings.

More than 31,000 farmers participating in REPS 4 must attend a training course.

Irish Independent