A group of people from across the midlands ventured onto Cloncrow bog, near Tyrellspass in Co. Westmeath, with botanist Dr. George Smith on Friday last (May 27) to learn how to identify plants on the cutover bog and the high bog.

They ventured out as part of a field trip organised by Connecting Communities with Peatlands, a project that has an overall aim of supporting community engagement with peatlands.

Connecting Communities with Peatlands has been engaging with community groups in the midlands since its launch last October, and has run a variety of workshops from conflict-resolution training for community groups to an online webinar series, ‘Build Your Bog Knowledge’.

The field trip brought the webinar series to a close and participants can put their newfound learning to practical use on the bog.

Connecting Communities with Peatlands is funded by the national Just Transition Fund, led by Irish Rural Link and the Community Wetlands Forum, with the support of local community group ETHOS (Everything Tyrellspass has On Show).

Just Transition

What does this have to do with Just Transition? Aoife Kirk, project coordinator, said that community involvement in the Just Transition process is critical for its success.

“It’s vital for local economies, the environment, and the very people it impacts,” she said.

“This project supports community engagement with bogs, and we are here to provide the knowledge, skills and training to communities that are the drivers of change.

“That means empowering communities to do this through training like that on Cloncrow bog.”

Just transition

Not only are community groups supported to learn about the biodiversity and ecosystems of the bog, but they are encouraged to develop project ideas and lead the change in their communities, Aoife said.

Connecting Communities with Peatlands workshops

Connecting Communities with Peatlands is currently hosting a series of online workshops to support communities to develop and progress ideas they have to further engage with their local peatland.

The workshops are free of charge and are led by ideas generation. Design thinking experts have been hired to facilitate the workshops, giving community groups access to expertise in the project planning process.

“These workshops will follow a creative problem solving process called ‘design thinking’. Design thinking is for everyone,” said Aoife.

“It lays out a clear path for people to follow and encourages a positive mindset so people can learn about each other and their needs.

“We hope that by the end of the workshop participants will have developed an idea or project based around their local bog which they can begin to implement with their community group, with the help and guidance of the Connecting Communities with Peatlands project.”

The workshops are county specific, and people living in Laois; Offaly; Longford; Roscommon; east Galway; north Tipperary; Kildare; and Westmeath are invited to participate.

Just transition

“Irish Rural Link and the Community Wetlands Forum realise the importance of community involvement in the conservation of peatlands,” said Aoife.

“The intended outcome of the project is to have community groups across the midlands engaging in their own projects in relation to their local peatland, which in turn can support the local economy.”

Community groups interested in engaging with their local peatland and individuals who may own peatland are encouraged to participate in Connecting Communities with Peatlands.