This farm initially comprised of three large fields of intensive grassland with little plant or animal diversity. Both Donna and her husband Brian studied ecology and are passionate about contributing to preserving biodiversity on their 43-acre farm, now transformed into Golashane nature reserve.
Under GLAS, 7 ½ acres of bird seed crop – oats, linseed and kale has been planted. There are now twenty-two species of birds on the farm, including species new to the farm: buzzards, mallard ducks, jays, woodcock and grasshopper warblers.
15 acres of woodland was added 15 years ago to increase species diversity. Deadwood habitat was added for insects. Two orchards of heritage Irish apple trees was planted as was an acre of wildflower meadow for pollinators with the bee species present mapped. Over the last six years 1km of hedgerow has been planted. Hedgehogs were reintroduced from the hedgehog hospital last year (the farm is approved as a wildlife release site) and are now breeding throughout the area. Pine martins were recorded on the farm for the first time last year. A lake was created to encourage newts and are now present on the farm.
No badger setts were present until one was built with local farmers as part of the Moynalty Goes Wild festival organised on the farm and which is now held every two years. An annual BioBlitz is held. The family has worked with NPWS, The Irish Wildlife Trust, Dept of Agriculture, Maio National School, Bat Conservation Ireland, Green Foundation Ireland, An Taisce, Mullagh Scout Group, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Farmers Association, PATCH Ireland, the Irish Environmental Network, the Environmental Pillar and the Irish Farmers Association, all of whom have taken part in events on the farm within the last 2 years.
Over 50 bat boxes are now on the farm. To hibernate bats need temperatures of 7C, which has been achieved in Britain by building costly underground structures. Donna designed false rafters backed with felt which cost less than €20 and achieves the 7C needed in the winter. 6 pipistrelle bats hibernated in these last year. This roost system has since been replicated on the GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grant Scheme. To date, only one bat box in Ireland has been used as a maternity roost, as they are not hot enough. They have built a heated bat box (built around a lizard pad from a pet shop) and are monitoring it, to hopefully come up with a cheap and widely replicable maternity roost box. This research has taken place over 18 years in partnership with Bat Conservation Ireland and will feed into national policy.
What Donna and her family are doing on their farm is easily replicable, providing species specific habitat enhancement for bats, other mammals, birds and insects. Sharing their knowledge and experiences through hosting classes, Bioblitz, the Moynalty Goes Wild festival and farm nature reserves, this farm is a testament to their passion for nature and a wonderful example of how everyone can make a difference for the better.
Nomination: Anna Meehan, Project Manager, The Heritage Council