Heritage Week gets off to a wild start!
Kingfishers, swifts, bees and dippers all feature as the nature theme proves popular
National Heritage Week got off to a great start this week in Laois, with a great range of events for all ages. The theme for the week this year was nature, and there was a real focus on the wildlife of the county, with events like the Pollinator Party in Portlaoise Park, the National Reptile Zoo visiting libraries, a talk on Wildlife in the Workhouse at Donaghmore, and a slideshow on the special wildlife of Laois by local photographer Dominic Reddin, who has recently taken up post as President of the Irish Photographic Federation.
Catherine Casey, Heritage Officer with Laois County Council said “we are delighted with the public response to Heritage Week events across the county. The awareness of the week seems to grow each year, and we are so grateful to the organisations, communities and individuals who organise events to celebrate their own local heritage each year. This year all the groups in the county who were successful in getting Heritage Council community grants, held events to showcase their grant-aided projects, so there was a great range of projects on show, from conservation of the James Fintan Lalor Homeplace and Fort Protector to nestboxes for swifts and the Bulfin Heritage Cycle.”
Despite the changeable weather, big crowds turned out for two farm walks, at Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery near Stradbally, and at Castlewood Organic Farm near Durrow. Ireland’s long farming history means that much of the biodiversity of Ireland is inextricably bound to agriculture, and the great interest shown in these events demonstrates that communities have a great interest in learning more about farmland wildlife. It was particularly interesting to hear how both farms have put in place measures to protect native wildlife, from bees and trees to pine martens in the woods above Stradbally and freshwater pearl mussels in the Nore.
Voluntary conservation organisations in Laois have continued to go from strength to strength, with both the BirdWatch Ireland Laois Branch and the Irish Wildlife Trust Laois-Offaly Branch holding Heritage Week events. BirdWatch Ireland organised a walk in the Slieve Blooms to explore the habitat of dippers. These small river birds have been the subject of intense research in recent years and a great deal of conservation effort has gone into providing artificial nestboxes for them under bridges throughout the Slieve blooms. The group was rewarded with sightings of several dippers, and the chance to view one bird in the hand, as it was expertly trapped for research purposes by licensed bird ringer Alex Copland of BirdWatch Ireland.
The Irish Wildlife Trust, with funding from the Heritage Council, launched the Portlaoise Swift Project in Portlaoise Library during Heritage Week. The group will install artificial nestboxes for swifts on buildings across Portlaoise, including Áras an Chontae. Launching the project, Padraig Fleming, Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council said
“Through this project Laois County Council hopes to make a significant contribution to increasing the numbers of swifts nesting successfully in Portlaoise, but also just as importantly, to help in the raising of awareness of swifts and what we can all do to help them. Laois County Council is responsible for the management of a wide range of public buildings across County Laois. Several of these, such as Donaghmore Workhouse, are already important swift roosts, and we hope to do what we can to maximise the potential of our other buildings for swifts in the future.”
The built and cultural heritage of the county was not forgotten through the week, with the Stradbally Steam Trains running over the first weekend, kids archaeological digs held in Abbeyleix Heritage House and in Mountrath Amenity Park, and a “Morning Noon and Night” heritage tour organised by the Laois Tour Guides Forum explored the heritage of the county throughout the day, with sunrise at the Rock of Dunamase, noon walk at Monicknew in the Slieve Blooms and sunset over Cullahill Mountain. The museums of the county held open days and special events throughout the week, and great houses like Stradbally Hall and Abbey Leix Estate held open days.
The commemoration of Victoria Cross winner Sergeant Jack Moyney from Rathdowney, commenced with an inspiring re-enactment of part of the Third Battle of Ypres in Durrow. This was followed in September with the unveiling of a plaque to Sgt Moyney in Rathdowney, in a collaborative project between the Irish Guards, the British Legion and Laois County Council.
Click here to download our guide to Heritage Week Events in Laois this year. Our interactive Google Map shows what events took place across the county. Regular updates on Heritage Week and all other heritage events in Laois are always included on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. For events across the country, check out the Heritage Week website. Please contact us if you’d like to receive a hard copy of next year’s Heritage Week event guide in the post.
National Heritage Week is your opportunity to explore and learn more about Ireland’s natural heritage and helping to conserve and preserve it for the future. Heritage Week in Laois is coordinated by Laois Heritage Officer.