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Ballymoney pilot project highlights the importance of locally-led initiatives for enhancing biodiversity

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Brian Keeley and Donna Mullen from Bat Conservation Ireland with Joe Roche.

Brian Keeley and Donna Mullen from Bat Conservation Ireland with Joe Roche.

Joe Roche at one of the ponds constructed on his land.

Joe Roche at one of the ponds constructed on his land.

Minister Pippa Hackett with Joe Roche and Patti Roche at the open day in Ballymoney

Minister Pippa Hackett with Joe Roche and Patti Roche at the open day in Ballymoney

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Brian Keeley and Donna Mullen from Bat Conservation Ireland with Joe Roche.

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Protecting our local environment needs to start with action on the ground and at their recent open day, Ballymoney EIP Community Group showcased some of the locally-led work that has been done to protect Ballymoney Stream catchment and all that lives in it.

Entitled ‘Protect, Restore, Enjoy’, the Ballymoney EIP Open Day saw people from across the community gather on Joe Roche’s farm for a walk that highlighted measures taken to improve the health and subsequently, the biodiversity of the watershed of Ballymoney Stream. The event was opened by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Pippa Hackett, who commended the success of the pilot project. ‘Enhancing Biodiversity in the Ballymoney Stream Catchment’ was one of the pilot projects to be allocated funding under the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Programme, using the European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) model. 

"I’m delighted to see the progress that has been made on the project over the past 11 months. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when communities work together to support their environment. This initiative will provide a blueprint for similar projects in other coastal communities throughout Ireland,” she said.

Following Minister Hackett’s introduction, Joe gave an introductory talk to his farm and the measures he has taken to improve soil health, improve the health of the stream and support biodiversity. This included the construction of several ponds and a beaver dam to slow water flow at the top of the stream and prevent run-off from the land. 

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Visitors also had an opportunity to explore some of the farmland, where the planting of multispecies grassland has allowed Joe to reduce his inputs, make the land more workable and bring life back to the soil.

The group also heard from Brian Keeley and Donna Mullen from Bat Conservation Ireland, who talked about the bats that have made the area their home and the ‘different personalities’ that bat species have. Seven of the nine native bat species have been found in the Ballymoney Stream Watershed. This includes the Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Daubenton’s Bat, Natterer’s Bat, Whiskered Bat, Leisler’s Bat and the Brown Long-eared Bat.

Also speaking at the event was Chair of the Ballymoney EIP Group, Paul Dubsky.

"A key aspect of the success of the project is the cooperation between neighbours and visitors on a common biodiversity and water quality improvement mission,” he said. 

The Ballymoney stream biodiversity project in an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) locally-led scheme being administered by Ballymoney EIP Community Group. To date, the project has yielded a significant increase in local biodiversity knowledge with expert visits and wildlife camera recordings. The primary goal of the project is to protect and enhance biodiversity in the watershed of the Ballymoney stream, which rises on the Roche family farm on Tara Hill and enters the sea through Ballymoney Beach. This is being achieved through a combination of research, practical actions and community outreach. 


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