Croagh Patrick walking festival protects smallholdings’ viability

A Mayo heritage walking festival initiated in response to the threat to the viability of smallholdings in the county is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail Walking Festival will take place on the weekend of March 8, 9 and 10. It will feature three days of guided walks, conducted by experts on heritage interpretation on this national waymarked trail which extends from the town of Balla to the seaside village of Murrisk.

Covering 63km, it will pass through rolling fields, boreens, deciduous woodlands and raised bog.

“The impetus for making this journey, be it spiritual, holistic or historical, is enhanced by the spirit of community and hospitality running through this heritage festival and it’s what keeps it alive today,” said development worker, Pauline Dixon.

Future of agriculture

Sr. Maureen Lally, Mayo person of the year, 2018, spearheaded the project. Having been a rural development worker with Teagasc for many years, she was challenged by the findings of a Teagasc study carried out in the mid-90s to establish the future of agriculture in the county.

The findings predicted a severe threat to the viability of smallholders in a changing agricultural climate and indicated a need for off-farm income, with only 8% of farms being viable at the time.

Terry Gallagher who was then CEO of Teagasc in Mayo and who commissioned the study by Dr. Jim Frawley of the Rural Economy Research Centre, Dublin, was also deeply concerned. This research stimulated further action which resulted in the birth of the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail with a view to generating income for smallholdings and the community in general.

With the continued co-operation and support of the local farmers, the trail continues to grow from strength to strength.

The 10th anniversary event will leave Balla community centre on Friday, March 8. Bus transfers are included and will bring walkers from the meeting point to the start point for registration. Food will be provided every day.

The fee is €20 per day or €50 for the three days. Proceeds will go to Croi, the heart and stroke foundation. For further information, phone: 094-9030687; or see: www.croaghpatrickheritagetrail.com.

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