Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Fascinating tales of Fermanagh's meadows brought to life for children

'If you lose those habitats you lose part of your culture'
'If you lose those habitats you lose part of your culture'

Wailing banshees, hungry grass that sucks out your life force if you walk on it and flowers that stop you getting into trouble for not doing your homework – these were some of the fascinating tales that emerged at a celebration of Fermanagh's meadows this week.

A hundred schoolchildren and senior citizens from the villages of Garrison, Kesh, Derrygonnelly and Belcoo celebrated the wildlife and cultural heritage of the county's magnificent meadows as part of an inspiring project led by Ulster Wildlife.

As part of the Growing Together project, they have been creating their own mini-wildflower meadows by designing their plot and setting seeds, while sharing knowledge and skills across the generations.

Earlier this week, they enjoyed a day of fun and friendship to strengthen community ties, with poetry, interviews with grandparents, folklore and tales of the county's meadows.

The children discovered how Fermanagh meadows are alive with stories and superstitions, learning how the legendary warrior Cuchulainn used meadowsweet to calm his battle rages and hearing eerie tales of the 'fear gortha' or hungry grass which could suck the life essence from unwary travellers.

"This project has provided a wonderful opportunity to bring young and old people together to experience the social, health and wildlife benefits of creating a colourful outdoor classroom," said Conor McKinney, Living Landscapes Manager with Ulster Wildlife.

"It's also helped to enthuse and educate local people about the value of our wonderful wildflower meadows, by sharing and learning from one another."

Mr McKinney said that as wild habitats disappear, so do the stories associated with them.

"If you lose those habitats you lose part of your culture," he said.

"The corncrake is extinct now in that area and people don't tell the stories about the bird any more.

"It used to be that the cuckoo call was the first sign of spring – now that it is disappearing, people look to the swallow."

Carol Connor from Silverhill, who took park in the project, said: "It's astonishing how much of the stories about the flowers and the wildlife I had forgotten."

The Growing Together project was assisted by Lakeland Community Care, EcoSeeds, Translink, Saddlers Restaurant Rasharkin and The Big Lunch – the UK's annual get together for neighbours.

To find out more about Ulster Wildlife's work, visit www.ulsterwildlife.org

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