The Burren is set for Winterage weekend

Inspiring relationships between farming and nature are at the heart of the Burren Winterage weekend, which will run from October 25 to 28 in Gort, Kinvara and the Burren region.

For several hundred farmers in the Burren, the turning of autumn to winter is marked by an age-old agricultural practice; one that is seen to be of crucial relevance in today’s world.

The practice of Winterage (herding cattle from the lowlands up to the highlands for grazing over winter) might seem counter-intuitive, the organisers of the weekend acknowledged.

However, the landscape of upland limestone in the Burren provides a warm dry place for the cattle to rest, as well as water from calcium-rich springs to drink and a variety of plants to eat, they said.

Relationship Between Farming and Nature

Significantly, the practice of winter grazing ensures that every spring, the great biodiversity of Burren’s orchid-rich grasslands can rejuvenate and thrive.

Brendan Dunford, co-founder of the Burrenbeo Trust, said that the relationship between farming and nature in the Burren is celebrated annually when the Trust, together with the local community, joins the farmers over the October bank holiday weekend as they walk their cattle to the winter pastures.

The weekend of Burren Winterage, he said, brings with it an opportunity to recognise the broader role of farming in shaping the Irish landscape and its nature.

A rich variety of events to engage and inspire has been organised all through the Winterage Weekend in different places around the Burren; to which the Burrenbeo Trust would like to invite the local and wider community.

Saturday. October 27 will see Patrick McCormack lead the ‘herdsman’s walk’, with fascinating stories and folklore about the Burren and its farmers. The following day, the community will join in the Winterage cattle drive, a long uphill walk with the farmers and the cattle to commemorate the practice of Winterage.

Farmers Congregate

All through the weekend, talks; workshops; field trips; and a farm innovation fair have been planned as a part of the annual Burren Winterage School. There, farmers from various parts of the country – as well as different parts of Europe – will congregate to share their experiences and challenges around farming for nature.

Annalisa Murphy, co-ordinator of the Burrenbeo Trust, said the first time this year they will also partner in a national award ceremony for farmers who have done outstanding work on their farms for nature. The farming for nature awards will be held on the evening of Saturday, October 27 in Kinvara, Co. Galway.

“Members of the public can view short films on the six shortlisted farmers at: www.farmingfornature.ie.

“There is also an open invitation for people to share their own stories of positive connections between farming and nature, using the comment box on the website.”

Vintage Machinery Display

Other events taking place during the weekend include: A book reading by John Connell, author of ‘The Cow Book’; a children’s art and nature workshop with environmentalist Gordon D’Arcy; recycling workshops; pumpkin carving; a vintage machinery display; and the Burren Food Fair.

While many of the events are free of charge, some of the ticketed slots of the Winterage weekend are fundraisers for the not-for-profit landscape charity, Burrenbeo Trust.

Full details on the Winterage are on their website at: www.burrenwinterage.com. For information on the Burrenbeo, see: www.burrenbeo.com.