Inspiring relationships between farming and nature are at the heart of the Burren Winterage weekend from the 25th to the 28th of October in Gort, Kinvara and the Burren region.
For farmers in the Burren, the turning of autumn to winter is marked by an intriguing, age-old agricultural practice, but one that is of crucial modern relevance.
The practice of Winterage, or herding cattle from the lowlands up to the highlands for grazing over winter, might seem counter-intuitive. But the landscape of upland limestone in the Burren provides a warm, dry place for the cattle to rest, as well as water from calcium-rich springs to drink and a great variety of plants to eat.
Significantly, the practice of winter grazing ensures that each spring, the great biodiversity of Burren’s orchid-rich grasslands can come back to life and thrive.
Brendan Dunford, Co-founder of the Burrenbeo Trust said, “To celebrate this inspiring relationship between farming and nature in the Burren, each year the Burrenbeo Trust, together with the local community, joins the farmers on the October bank holiday weekend as they walk their cattle to the winter pastures.” He added, “But the weekend of Burren Winterage also brings with it an opportunity to recognise the broader role of farming in shaping the Irish landscape and its nature. To this end, a rich variety of events to engage and inspire has been organised all through the Winterage Weekend, in different places around the Burren, to which the Burrenbeo Trust would like to invite the local and wider community.”
Saturday the 27th of October will have Patrick McCormack lead the unforgettable ‘Herdsman’s Walk’, with fascinating stories and folklore about the Burren and its farmers.
On Sunday the 28th of October, the community will join in the Winterage Cattle Drive, a long uphill walk with the farmers and the cattle to commemorate the practice of Winterage.
All through the weekend talks, workshops, field trips and a farm innovation fair have been planned as a part of the annual Burren Winterage School, where farmers from different parts of the country, as well as different parts of Europe, will come together to share their experiences and challenges around farming for nature.
“For the first time this year”, highlighted Annalisa Murphy, Coordinator for the Burrenbeo Trust, “we will also partner in a national award ceremony for farmers who have done outstanding work on their farms for nature. The Farming for Nature Awards will be held on the evening of Saturday 27th of October in Kinvara, Co. Galway.” She continued, “Members of the public can view short films on the six shortlisted farmers and vote at www.farmingfornature.ie. There is also an open invitation for people to share their own stories of positive connections between farming and nature using the comment box on the website.”
Other events taking place during the weekend include a book reading by John Connell, author of ‘The Cow Book’, a children’s art and nature workshop with environmentalist Gordon D’Arcy, recycling workshops, pumpkin carving, a vintage machinery display and the Burren Food Fayre.
While many of the events are free of charge, some of the ticketed events of the Winterage Weekend are fundraisers for the not-for-profit landscape charity, Burrenbeo Trust.
For more information on the Winterage Weekend programme please visit www.burrenwinterage.com