Organisations mark second anniversary of Mournes fire with ‘Forever Mournes’ milestone
Two years on from the devastating fire in the Mournes, key organisations with an interest in the special area have reached an important new milestone for the ‘Forever Mournes’ partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Today (Thursday 20 April) representatives from the National Trust, Mourne Heritage Trust, Woodland Trust, Northern Ireland Water, DAERA, Newry Mourne & Down District Council and Forest Service met to sign the document to establish a commitment to work together across their collective land holding in the Mournes and enhance co-operation, build resilience, and protect this special landscape.
Nearly 300 hectares of land in the Mournes were destroyed by the flames on 23 April 2021. One of the worst hit areas was Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain and a site that’s designated as a Special Area of Conservation due to the montane and dry heath, blanket bog and specialised species which thrive here.
Heather McLachlan, National Trust Director for Northern Ireland and speaking on behalf of Forever Mournes said:
“Our organisations have already been working together, as shown through the successful completion of the Mournes Community Renewal Through Nature Project which has produced a number of scoping studies and pieces of research to inform development of more comprehensive and coherent management approaches. There have already been some fantastic projects such as restoring woodland and upland heath in Annalong Valley and path repair along the Glen River. The benefits of this collaboration became really clear in the aftermath of the fire two years ago, highlighting the increasing danger of wildfires due to the climate emergency.
“Today we’re excited to have reached this really important milestone in caring for the Mournes as we formalise our commitment to work together and with others to develop a long-term vision for the area, looking at land use, visitor management and infrastructure management to tackle the emerging challenges of a changing climate.
“We want the Mournes to be an inspirational example of sustainable development in action, a place where a sustainable and prosperous economy, world class outdoor recreation, visitor experiences, educational experiences and vibrant communities all come together to sustain and restore the spectacular landscape, its wildlife and natural and cultural heritage. Local people, visitors and the many organisations working in the Mournes or have a contribution to make to it, must be united in achieving this.”
The fire has had a devastating and lasting impact on the surrounding environment which is a precious and scientifically important area, home to a rich variety of wildlife and habitats that need care. The National Trust has been involved in wildfire recovery since 2021 and thanks to funding from Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and support from partners in Forever Mournes further progress will be able to be made to restore the landscape.
Patrick Lynch, National Trust Countryside Manager says the land has been slowly recovering, but it may take decades for it to be restored to what it was before:
“Through carrying out land and drone surveys, National Trust rangers have been able to assess the fire damage and monitor the natural regeneration of the heathland. In some areas you can still see the scorched vegetation and permanent change to habitats. The land has been slowly recovering, but instead of heather and other important heathland plants, we are seeing that swathes of purple moor grass becoming dominant in the areas around Thomas Mountain and a reduction of species diversity. It could take decades for it to be restored to what it was.
“By working in partnership, we can achieve so much more and ensure the mountain gets back to full health as soon as possible for the plants, animals and insects that live there, but also for the many people who love, care for and visit this special place. Next month we plan to introduce cattle to graze the areas of dominant purple moor grass and increase the diversity of the sward and in turn, reduce the fire risk.”
For more information, please contact Caroline McIlwain National Trust Marketing & Communications Consultant on 07557295562 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editor
The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people: Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. Today, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we continue to look after places so people and nature can thrive.
The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have shown this is more important than ever. From finding fresh air and open skies to tracking a bee’s flight to a flower; from finding beauty in an exquisite painting or discovering the hidden history of a country house nearby – the places we care for enrich people’s lives.
Entirely independent of Government, the National Trust looks after more than 250,000 hectares of countryside, 780 miles of coastline and 500 historic properties, gardens and nature reserves.
The National Trust is for everyone – we were founded for the benefit of the whole nation. We receive on average more than 26.9 million visits each year to the places we care for that have an entry fee, and an estimated 100m visits to the outdoor places that are free of charge. Paying visitors, together with our 5.6 million members and more than 53,000 volunteers, support our work to care for nature, beauty, history. For everyone, for ever.
Mourne Heritage Trust