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