£2.9m grant to boost Lough Erne wildlife and traditional skills
A near-£3 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant is set to boost wildlife and conserve tradition at Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh.
Up to 400 local people will be trained in centuries-old skills such as thatching and boat building, as well as storytelling.
New paths, bird hides and campsites will be provided to offer better access to the lough and there will be festivals, exploring days and events .
The area has more than 100 scheduled monuments spanning 900 years, many neglected, in serious disrepair and all but forgotten. The project will protect and preserve them.
Paul Mullan, who heads the HLF in Northern Ireland, said: "We believe that it will make a huge contribution to preserving a unique place which is full of history, helping local people reconnect to the beauty on their doorsteps and encourage more visitors.
"It will also grow the local economy in a rural area by reintroducing traditional crafts and increasing tourism."
The £2.9 million is to go to the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership, which is led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
It will be used to conserve at-risk heritage buildings, preserve and improve wildlife species and their habitats and better manage a 500 square kilometre area of Fermanagh's lakelands.
A total of 200 local volunteers will work on the project.
The area is an important breeding ground for wading birds such as curlew, snipe and lapwing whose populations have decreased by 83% in 30 years.
Better land management and tackling invasive species which devastate native plant and animal life are part of the plan, while ancient woodlands and hedgerows will be restored and maintained.
Joanne Sherwood, from RSPB NI, said: "All the partners involved in this project are delighted that we have been successful in obtaining this funding to help preserve, protect and enhance one of Northern Ireland's most beautiful places.
"This funding will help create jobs and leave a lasting legacy for the people of Fermanagh.
"The landscape around Lough Erne is so special, and everyone involved in the project is looking forward to working together to make it an even more wonderful place for people and wildlife."