Thursday, 13 December 2012

Walkers asked to leave their dogs at home when accessing private land in the Wicklow Hills


An example of signage in the Peaks District
Over the last few years, dog control has become a major issue for Wicklow’s upland sheep farmers as increased recreational use of the hills clashes with the historic use of the hills for sheep farming. Wicklow has been at the forefront of opening up private land for recreational use since the establishment of the Wicklow Way in 1980 but the growing presence of uncontrolled dogs has the potential to threaten existing access agreements. In general, private landowners welcome responsible recreational use of the hills and central to this is responsible dog ownership. Wicklow Uplands Council has been working with the stakeholders to address this escalating problem. It aims to raise awareness, encourage reporting of incidents to Wicklow County Council and to work towards practical solutions. This is a complex issue given the mix of land use and ownership across the county.
Wicklow Uplands Council is considering offering support to farmers in the use of signage restricting access to walkers with dogs on private land where sheep are present. This move comes in an effort to alleviate the negative impacts of uncontrolled dogs at key hotspots where recreational use is high and sheep are present including Glenmalure, Glendalough, Glenmacnass and Lugnaquilla. This is with a view to promoting a consistent message to ask recreational users to respect grazing animals, wildlife and other recreational users and leave their dogs at home. The message is in keeping with the policies of Tinahely Community Projects (on their hill walks), Mountaineering Ireland, and the National Defence Force which owns land on the western approach to Lugnaquilla.
Uncontrolled dogs are a serious threat to the livelihood of upland farmers. Dogs loose on the hills cause anxiety within a flock of sheep often causing them to be displaced and get stuck in rough ground and vegetation. One of the impacts that is often unseen by recreational users is the early abortion of lambs and in the worst incidences; dogs directly attack sheep causing them severe injury or death. This is not just a problem for the landowner in terms of their livelihood but it is also a serious animal welfare issue. The problem is not limited to walker’s dogs with damage often being caused by local dogs which stray from neighbouring properties and their owners are unaware of their whereabouts. To prevent such occurrences please ensure that your dog is secure.

Dog owners also need to be aware of other people walking. Whether it is tourists, locals or visitors to the area many people are genuinely frightened of dogs. It can become very unpleasant to be confronted by a dog especially if they bark or come too close to people. Dogs can also become very nervous of people particularly if they have walking poles or sticks which often cause distress to the dog.
Walkers are welcome in County Wicklow but please respect local signage and leave dogs at home if you intend to access land where livestock are present. There are many places that are suitable for dog walking across the county including Coillte forests but please remember that dogs must be under ‘effectual control’ in these areas. This means that they will return to their owner when called.

If you witness an incident of sheep worrying or damage to livestock please report it immediately to: Wicklow County Council Ph: 0404 20236 or Email: If you see a stray dog in the hills please report it immediately to the ISPCA Dog Warden Service Ph: 0404 44873.
Author: Tommy Healy, Hill Sheep Farmer &Chairman of WUC’s Dog Control Subcommittee

Support Needed for Upland Vegetation Management

The Wicklow Uplands Council Vegetation Management Group which has been in place for the past couple of years has been very active in trying to get an upland environmental scheme to encourage better use of the mountains by sheep farmers to improve the management of upland vegetation. To this end, the group contacted all the different groups who use and have an interest in the hills and met with a great response from all concerned. Open meetings were held and people were very much in favour of such a scheme.
The Wicklow group also met people from the Cooley Mountains in Co. Louth and the Comeragh Mountains in Co. Waterford who experience similar issues and challenges on their hill areas. Given the similarity between these eastern hill areas and the management required to maintain them, a scheme for the eastern hill region was recommended. A number of field trips also took place at Djouce, Ballybraid and the Wicklow Gap to look at tall heather, burned heather and areas where swiping had been trialled. It became evident on the field trips that there is much common ground between hill sheep farmers and upland ecologists who both want to see a mosaic of habitats of varying structure on the hills.
The group was disappointed not to be able to get a co-ordinating beneficiary (banker) to back its original plans for an EU LIFE application due to the ongoing financial downturn. The group subsequently sought and was approved LEADER funding from County Wicklow Partnership for a study to identify best management of upland habitats in County Wicklow. The report is due for completion in March 2013.
The Vegetation Management Group is determined to get support for the management of upland vegetation and to press to get a more sensible approach to heather burning including extending the permissible burning dates, rotational burning and to identify ways to encourage sheep owners to graze more stock on the hills therefore keeping the vegetation in better condition for wildlife, livestock, recreational users and all concerned.

Author: Pat Dunne, Hill Sheep Farmer & Chairman of WUC Vegetation Management Group

A Joint Approach to Deer Management

Deer mean different things to different people. If you're a hill walker they are magnificent, majestic animals, freely roaming the hills. If you're a hunter they are still magnificent and majestic, but they're also your quarry. If you're a restauranteur or a diner, venison is the most succulent of meat; the food of kings and peasants. However if you are a farmer and large numbers of deer are eating grass or damaging crops they are a threat to your livelihood. If you're a Forester and deer destroy your saplings or prevent the planting of broadleaves, they are a real problem. If you're a motorist who needs to drive through the Wicklow Uplands late at night or in the early morning, they are a hazard. These are just some of the many interests to be considered when managing deer.
The Wicklow Deer Management Group (WDMG) has been in existence for over a decade now and is made up of representatives of farmers, private foresters, Coillte, hunters and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).The purpose of the group is to promote through consensus the sustainable management of deer in the Wicklow hills. There is agreement among members that deer numbers in the area are too high and need to be reduced to a more manageable level. In 2010 the group, with grant aid from the Heritage Council, commissioned a report on deer management in Wicklow and last year initiated a deer management plan for the Ballinastoe area - again with Heritage Council assistance.
The ‘Ballinastoe Project’ is the first of its type ever undertaken in this country. Throughout the last decade the group has lobbied intensively on deer management issues, with moderate success. However there were two significant developments recently. A governmental inter-agency deer policy committee, consisting of representatives of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Heritage Arts and the Gaeltacht, Coillte and the NPWS began a consultation process which resulted in the publication of a draft discussion document on deer management. The document, while far from perfect, represents a radical change in thinking at official level on deer management.The thrust of the document is that deer cannot be managed by a single landowner, or hunters or even the state on its own; they can only be controlled effectively if all the interested parties work together.
A key proposal is the creation of deer management units (DMUs), which would essentially be very similar to the ‘Ballinastoe Project’. The second initiative is that following a number of meetings between the WDMG and Minister Deenihan, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has decided to carry out a long overdue review of the Open Seasons Order for deer. Both developments are significant and welcome.
Author: Declan O’Neill, Chairman, Wicklow Deer Management Group

A Note from the Chair

Chairman Philip Geoghegan (left) speaking at the awards ceremony for Wicklow's Living Landscape Photo Competition. Cllr Pat Casey Cathaoirleach WCC(centre) and Heritage Officer Deirdre Burns (right)

The autumn has been deluging this year; colour in the trees lingering before the storm which will certainly blow them away. And I find myself absenting from my duties here to be informed by life in the city of Helsinki, still far from rural Finland yet at the heart of a rural society which has a different agenda to our own. Reindeer, woodlands and lakes, frozen winter seas and tundra... and not so much uplands. In fact none.
Prior to leaving, I was delighted to look at the new Atlas of the Rural Landscape Edition 2, which includes a new chapter devoted to the Wicklow Uplands. At €69 Euro per copy we shall obtain one only for the Roundwood office so that all may see the review of the Uplands. I could not find an author to name, but surely it is someone with local knowledge.
Wicklow Uplands Council are winding up the 2012 year with a good record of activity and a full programme for the year to come. Cara Doyle is our Coordinator, back from New Zealand, still enthusiastic and committed to our upland pile even if Gollum, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins are not here. We shall make do with Braveheart and Cara. We shall progress our concerns for Upland vegetation management in a difficult period when there is little incentive to manage the uplands for sheep grazing. We are working towards a submission on CAP in an effort to improve those conditions.
We have installed interpretative panels in Kilmacanogue, Enniskerry, Rathdangan and Tinahely this year for locals and visitors to better know their villages, as part of a rolling programme with assistance from Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Wicklow County Council and not least the local communities.
We are exploring the extension of our activities into the communities which surround the uplands, and hopefully next year a select few will be working on a template for a sustainable village which recognises the mutual dependence with those who work in the uplands.
We are also working together to establish a complex yet important policy for dog control to arrive at consensus; on how to welcome the visitor with dog, whilst making it absolutely clear that dogs are not welcome on those mountains where sheep are grazing, as the risk of anxiety or injury to sheep is too great. Our Directors direct with determination, courtesy and concern to achieve a better life for those who live, work and take their recreation in the Wicklow Uplands. They struggle to maintain this unique place and those who look after it, and they proclaim its beauty as comparable as anywhere in Europe. Its inhabitants are stoic and persevering in their visions for an uncertain future, and I am privileged to be working among them.

Author: Wicklow Uplands Council Chairman, Philip Geoghegan

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Joint Response to Illegal Dumping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands

The PURE project is a partnership project and the first of its kind in Ireland which incorporates statutory and non-statutory organisations, including; Wicklow County Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council, as well as Coillte, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Fáilte Ireland, and the Wicklow Uplands Council, funded by The Department of Environment Community and Local Government and was established to combat illegal dumping/fly-tipping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands.
Since the establishment of PURE the project has removed over 1,900 tonnes of rubbish from the landscape. If you were to put all of this rubbish into standard household rubbish bags you would fill over 270,000 bags. If you lined up each of the bags that PURE has removed from the uplands they would stretch over 270 kilometres in length, which is longer than a journey from Glendalough to Cork City. Due to the economic slowdown PURE has seen an increase in small scale illegal dumping, in particular domestic rubbish bags.
A continuing problem for the project is householders and businesses handing over their waste to illegal waste collectors. In an attempt to highlight this problem the project appeared in two special TV programmes with TV3 in 2012 where PURE appealed to the general public to check that waste collectors had a valid waste collection permit before handing over their rubbish. Over the years a number of people have been convicted and fined for handing over their waste to unauthorised waste collectors and PURE continue to work closely with local authorities.
This year PURE were again involved in PURE WICKED and PURE ANIMATION, a two week environmental/animation training programme for teenagers that introduces students to important environmental issues that are related to The PURE Project, e.g., illegal dumping, litter, fly-tipping, recycling, pollution, etc., all done through the medium of animation. With the guidance of professional animators the students learned how to produce, direct and create their own short animated films. To date the training programme has produced 14 short animated films, one of which, Rubbish Express, recently won Best Film in the 12-18 years category at the 2012 Blackrock Animation Film Festival. Participants involved in the creation of Rubbish Express were presented with a trophy by Jimmy Deenihan, TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The 2012 Blackrock Animation Film Festival received 146 entries from all over the world including, China, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Malaysia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, USA, and the UK.  To view Rubbish Express and other Pure Animations logo on to

Rubbish Express

‘The PURE Mile’, an initiative of the PURE project, has been a great success, with over 30 communities and groups having already participated in the competition. The competition is similar to the Tidy Towns, but for rural areas and encourages communities in county Wicklow to keep a mile stretch of road (approx. 1.6 km), and the immediate environment litter/rubbish free. Groups are also encouraged to find out more about the local wild plants, animals, heritage, history and the folklore and traditions associated with their areas. The regular picking up of litter and rubbish, repairing and painting of traditional gates, retaining stone walls and stiles, identifying and researching local heritage and local folklore, benefits both the local people and the local environment. PURE also design and distribute the hugely popular PURE Mile Calendar. This calendar depicts all of the areas who participate in the PURE Mile competition.
PURE invite all rural communities, organisations, or a group of people living along a mile in a rural area of county Wicklow to enter competition. Applications for The 2013 PURE Mile competition are now closed but if you are interested in finding out more you can request an information pack by emailing or it can be downloaded from . You can also write to; PURE Project, Wicklow Mountains, National Park, Kilafin, Laragh, Bray, Co. Wicklow and they will post the information to you. There is over €2500 worth of prize money to be won and all entries feature in the PURE Mile Calendar.
Author: Ian Davis, PURE Project Manager
  For further information Ph:0404 45547 – 087 2518064

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Get to Know the Story of Your Home Town - Tinahely Interpretative Panel

The Village Interpretative Panel Project is managed by the Wicklow Uplands Council and panels produced in 2012 in Tinahely and Enniskerry were funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The project provides a wonderful opportunity to find out about the rich history and breathtaking landscape that surrounds our local towns. We are privileged to be the current caretakers of our towns and villages and these interpretative panels are a unique contribution that we can make to visitors and to future generations.
Each panel consists of an artist's visualisation of your village. This is surrounded by 15 - 18 items of interest in your local landscape. These can be historic buildings which tell the story of your community's involvement in aspects of Irish history, archaelogical remnants from our ancient ancestors in Celtic, pre Christian and early Christian Wicklow and former residents. This is combined with the profound contribution that our breathtaking Wicklow landscape gives to all who live and visit our towns and villages. By taking part in these panels your community will be surprised by what you will learn about where you live and produce a wonderful addition to your local built heritage.

Author: John Mullen, Tinahely Community Projects

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wicklow's Living Landscape Photographic Exhibition

This event is a joint initiative of Wicklow Uplands Council and the Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council to celebrate National Heritage Week 2012 and the International Year of the Rural Landscape. The standard of photographs entered was of a very high quality and gives a real appreciation of ‘the living landscape’ of the Wicklow Uplands. Of the 85 entries received, 31 were selected for exhibition at the County Buildings, Wicklow Town from 20th – 31st August. There are already plans to move the exhibition to Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and Roundwood Parish Hall thereafter. The photographic exhibition beautifully illustrates the components that make up a living landscape including the people living, working, recreating and visiting the area; our iconic landscapes and the biodiversity and nature that make up its fabric. For the 26 person board of Wicklow Uplands Council, the exhibition is a wonderful reminder of what we are working for. It is an illustration of our core mission: ‘To support the sustainable use of the Wicklow uplands through consensus and partnership with those who live, work and recreate there’ It also provides a unique opportunity for local people who may not often venture into the hills, to get an appreciation for the splendour that lies on their doorstep. Wicklow Uplands Council is an independent, voluntary organisation which represents the shared interests of over 50 member groups and individual members. The Uplands Council successfully operates on the basis of consensus, community participation and partnership and collaboration. Sincere thanks to all the photographers who entered the competition without whom the exhibition would not be so spectacular. Their appreciation for beauty and the ability to capture that beauty has allowed us all to see the living landscape afresh. Sincere thanks to the panel of judges for giving their time and expertise in selecting the exhibition and winning entries namely; Eve Holmes, Still Photographer with RTE, Eamon Doran, Wildlife Ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Philip Geoghegan; the newly elected Chairman of Wicklow Uplands Council. All entries are available to view on the Wicklow Uplands Council BlogSpot: or via the home page of . The BlogSpot includes other interesting posts and articles on issues affecting the Wicklow Uplands so please check us out or befriend us on Facebook. Author: Cara Doyle, Co-ordinator, Wicklow Uplands Council

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wicklow Uplands Council Announces Photographic Competition - €500 in Prizes!

To celebrate National Heritage Week Wicklow Uplands Council are running a photographic competition on the theme ' Wicklow's Living Landscape'. Entries and welcome from young and old and should be submitted to by 2nd August 2012.

The theme includes all aspects of the uplands landscape including town and village scapes as well as photos of people living, working or recreating in the uplands, wildlife and mountain landscapes.

Entries will form a photographic exhibition in County Buildings facilitated by the Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council during National Heritage Week (20th -25th August 2012) and winners will feature on . So get out there and get snapping!

Download further information and competition guidelines

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Guidance Note from National Trails Office

Bulls & Sucklar Cows along Waymarked Walking Trails in Ireland
A Guidance note from the National Trails Office / Irish Sports Council

Many waymarked walking trails around the country go through open fields and farming areas.  On some walking routes, walkers may on occasion come into contact with farm animals including bulls and suckler cows.
The National Trails Office would encourage all trail management groups to promote the following to trail users if there is a chance that they may come into contact with bulls and suckler cows on waymarked walking trails.
  1. When walking through a field with animals always keep them in view. Don’t turn your back on them.
  2. Do not bring dogs into fields where there are farm animals.
  3. Carry a walking stick through fields with animals.
  4. Be prepared for cattle to react, and, where possible, walk carefully and quietly around them - do not split up a clustered group and do not run.
  5. Should a bull or cow come up very closely, turn round to face it. If necessary take a couple of steps towards it, waving your arms and shouting firmly.
  6. Above all, do not put yourself at risk. If you feel threatened, find another way round, returning to the original path as soon as is possible.
  7. Remember to leave gates as you find them (open or closed) when walking through fields containing livestock.
  8. If you are attacked or suffer a frightening incident, report this to the landowner, trail management group/agency and the National Trails Office.

A walking route should not be routed through lands with unpredictable and threatening animals present. In a circumstance where there is a bull or suckler cows in a field where there is a waymarked walking trail, the National Trails Office recommend a warning notice be erected to notify trail users.
When the National Trails Office report the presence of a bull or suckle cow along a walking trail, as part of an annual inspection, it will report this as an important maintenance issue.  The recommended remedial action should be undertaken as quickly as possible by the agency responsible for the walking trail.

The National Trails Office recommends that all trail management group’s work in partnership with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure appropriate measures are taken to inform trail users of the presence of livestock.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Red Kite Community Talk - 14th April 2012 at 10.30am Woodenbridge Hotel

The Golden Eagle Trust Presents:

'Red Kites Return' a public talk on the reintroduction of the species to Wicklow.

Red Kites were extinct in Ireland for over 200 years. Between 2007 and 2011 the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with National Parks & Wildlife Service and Welsh Kite Trust re-introduced 120 Red Kites to County Wicklow. The project has been funded and supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Coillte, Greenstar Ireland, KPMG and The Heritage Council.

The project team will give a presentation to share the highs and lows over the past five years.

This event is sponsored and supported by Wicklow County Council.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Conference on Forest Fires in Ireland

10th February 2012 - Conference on Forest Fires in Ireland, Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association (IFFPA)

Shane McEntee T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry announced the publication of A Code of Practice for Prescribed Burning for Ireland at a recent conference on Forest Fires in Ireland organised by the Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association. The guide was produced in order to provide guidance to landowners who use controlled burning as a land management tool. The conference aimed to bring together the parties and stakeholders affected by forest fires and those engaged in prevention, emergency assistance and follow-up activities resulting from fire outbreak.

Wicklow Uplands Council Co-ordinator, Cara Doyle attended the conference and reports below on some of the key findings.

In the twenty years prior to 2010, it is estimated that an average of 250-300 hectares of forest, both public and private was destroyed annually by fire. During 2010 and 2011 the total loss due to fire amounted to 1500ha and 1465ha per annum respectively. In 2011, 865 ha of Coillte forest and approximately 600 ha of private forest was destroyed. Most of these fire incidents happened over one weekend in May.

Arising from the level of uncontrolled fires in 2010 and requests from the private and public sector, a Land and Forest Fires Working Group was established. The remit of the group is to make recommendations to tackle the problem of illegal and uncontrolled burning. Priority recommendations made by the working group include; changing the mind set and production of the guidelines.

There is an obligation on forest owners in receipt of forest grants to maintain their plantations for up to twenty years. This means there is an obligation to replant where a forest is damaged by fire. In the absence of reconstitution grants there is an emphasis on the need for adequate insurance cover. Insurance covers the cost of the timber lost but not the opportunity cost of the timber nor obligatory replanting costs.

It is estimated that the Donegal fires in 2011 caused €2.5 million worth of damage. Around the same period forest fires across Coillte estates destroyed 985 ha of forest with an estimated cost of €5 million. Estimated costs include fire fighting, replanting trees and timber revenue foregone.

Full conference presentations are available on

Heritage Council Strategic Plan 2012-2016

1st March 2012 - Launch of the Heritage Council Strategic Plan 2012 – 2016

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan launched the Heritage Council Strategic Plan on Thursday 1st March at Buswells Hotel, Dublin.

The launch of the plan comes at a time of uncertainty for the Heritage Council which is due for critical review by the Minister Department over the coming months. Nonetheless the support from Ireland’s heritage sector was overwhelmingly evident at the launch.

The plan focuses on developing the value of the heritage sector to employment, education and heritage based tourism. It outlines that every €1 million spent on grants by the Heritage Council supports 70 jobs and 300 jobs across a range of related sectors and can thereby make a significant contribution to the national recovery. Additionally research shows that in 2010, Heritage Council projects attracted approximately 18,700 tourists, while every €1 spent by the Heritage Council resulted in €4.10 for the Irish tourism industry.

Speaking at the launch the Minister Deenihan said ‘Today is both a celebration and recognition of the achievements of the heritage council, and an acknowledgement of its aspirations for the heritage sector in the years ahead. It is important that we recognise that the conservation, preservation and management of our national heritage, has economic as well as cultural benefits.’

Dr Conor Newman, Chairman of the Heritage Council added ‘Of utmost importance to the Heritage Council is that the significance of heritage in supporting jobs, as an educational resource and in maintaining the quality of our heritage tourism is fully recognised and realised.’

Download a copy of the Heritage Council Strategic Plan 2012-2016

Download Wicklow Uplands Council submission on the Draft Plan

National Landscape Strategy for Ireland

15th September 2011 - A National Landscape Strategy for Ireland

The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is in the process of preparing a National Landscape Strategy for Ireland. On 15th September 2011, Minister Jimmy Deenihan T.D. invited the public and interested parties to have their say on the Strategy Issues Paper. Minister Deenihan stated “the Strategy Issues Paper sets out Ireland’s aims and objectives with regard to landscape and sets it in the context of existing strategies, policies and objectives as well as the framework of the European Landscape Convention.”

The European Landscape Convention was adopted in 2000 as a new Council of Europe instrument with which to guide the management, planning and protection of all landscapes in Europe. Ireland has signed and ratified this Convention and the National Landscape Strategy for Ireland will be the vehicle used for complying with it.

The Minister went on to say, “the aim of a National Landscape Strategy will be to put in place a framework to achieve balance between the active management, forward-planning and protection of our internationally renowned landscape as a physical, economic and cultural asset. A core objective of a National Landscape Strategy is for the sustainable management of change affecting landscape and not the preservation or “freezing” of the landscape at a particular point in its continuing evolution.”

The closing date for submissions was 17th November 2011.

Download A National Landscape Strategy for Ireland – Strategy Issues Paper
View Wicklow Uplands Council’s submission on the Strategy Issues Paper