Beach conservation work is big winner at awards night

Beach conservation work is big winner at awards night

11 October 2017

THE Ballyhornan Development Association has won a major award for its conservation work.

At last week’s glittering Coast Care Awards at Stormont, the group won the Coast Care Group Award for its work to halt erosion at Ballyhornan beach which involved erecting fences and planting a variety of native beach grasses on sand dunes suffering from extensive erosion over recent years.

The work was carried out with the help of Downpatrick Scouts, and the community group is thrilled to have won an award for an experimental conservation project which has been a phenomenal success.

There was also success for Carryduff Beaver Scouts at last week’s awards ceremony when it was recognised for the conservation work it carried out at Kilclief beach in conjunction with the village’s residents’ group, winning the Brighter Futures Award.

Joining representatives from the Ballyhornan and Kilclief groups at last week’s awards ceremony was young Crossgar environmental hero Charlie Hamilton-Cooper who has been battling against litter on local beaches. He has taken part in a number of beach cleans including one at Ballyhornan and during the awards ceremony he met event host Barra Best from BBC Northern Ireland.

The Ballyhornan volunteers were nominated for the most improved beach award by South Down MP Chris Hazzard who is delighted they were recognised for the pivotal role they played in helping transform the area and who also praised project manager, Cadogan Enright.

The annual awards recognise the vital role volunteers play in protecting the coastline and inland waterways, and Mr Hazzard said he was “privileged” a number of months ago to sponsor the Ballyhornan volunteers to participate in the awards programme. He described them as a “phenomenal group of people who have worked miracles for the rejuvenation and protection of Ballyhornan beach and adjacent coastline.”

The MP continued: “To win an award of this calibre says an awful lot about the heroic work that they have undertaken in recent years, from cleaning the beach on a regular basis to their unprecedented success in planting thousands of native beach grasses to restore and protect the sand dunes.

“The volunteers have also campaigned tirelessly in securing EU Bathing Water status for local waters in east Down, an issue that is not only crucial in protecting the natural environment, but also vital in the overall growth and development of our local economy.”

Patrick Magee, one of the volunteers who worked on the Ballyhornan conservation project, said a section of the sand dunes have been “completely transformed” and hopes money can be secured to extend the conservation project to shore up the remaining area.

“What has surprised everyone who worked on this project is how much the sand dunes have been transformed for relatively little effort. The success of the scheme has really taken us aback,” he explained. “We are halfway across the sand dunes and would really like to complete the job if we can secure the money we need.”

Patrick said the volunteers viewed the work to shore up and regenerate the sand dunes as a pilot experiment and had no idea it would be such a success.

“We put in sand trap fences using sweet chestnut paling and planted native grasses. The fence posts were about four foot high when we started, but now only two foot is visible as we have been able to trap so much sand. The colour of the sand dunes has been transformed from brown to green as the new grasses have really taken off,” he continued.

“The beach and sand dunes have been completely regenerated and we would really love to complete this project. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the scheme with many people getting involved and more are keen to help to finish the job off.”

Patrick said when work on the project started, those involved kept asking “would it work?” and that six months after the fences and grass were put in place, no one could believe the difference.

He added: “For a very modest outlay, we have been successful in not only shoring up the sand dunes and halting erosion, but helped strengthen the Killard Road which runs along the top of the dunes which is no mean feat.

“We were chuffed to be nominated for the award in the first place but to win the Coast Care Group Award is fantastic. Given the success of the scheme to date, the Ballyhornan Development Association is now keen to get on and finish the job. We are all inspired by what we have been able to achieve so far.”