Sean is based in West Cork. He keeps 150 Scotch Blackface mountain ewes and is ably assisted by his wife Anna their daughters Kayleigh, Abbey and Kera, and son Aidan. Sean’s love of his community is reflected in activism in the local IFA and Urhan GAA club. His inherent understanding of the importance of pride in our culture and heritage is clearly apparent around his 100ha farm that comprises a mosaic of high nature value wet grassland, peatland and semi- natural woodland habitats. When Séan took over management of the farm in the 1990’s, he initially had aspirations to ‘improve’ and agriculturally intensify the land, but he quickly learned that trying to fight against nature is a losing battle and it makes sense to work with nature. Today his land provides clean water, essential for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel, a highly endangered freshwater species. In fact, the Ownagappal River whose tributary flows through Sean’s land is one of the top 8 Freshwater Pearl Mussel catchments in Ireland. Séan and his family are maintaining these lands in a similar manner to forbearers who farmed and maintained this beautiful landscape for generations, and this in one of the reasons the Pearl Mussel still survives there.
There is also a wealth of archaeology on the farm, including standing stones, a fish palace (pilchard curing stations from the 16th/17th century) and a recently uncovered ancient burial structure. The Beara Way runs through his land and Séan helps maintain the path for the many tourists who visit.
Séan is a pilot farmer for the Pearl Mussel Project EIP and spoke with enthusiasm at the recent official project launch about the important role of projects like this in helping local wildlife and communities. His farm was used to develop and trial the Pearl Mussel Project prior to roll-out across 8 catchments along the western seaboard. He has been a great ambassador for the project and is generous with his advice on good management of high nature value landscapes in an economically difficult profession. He freely imparts his encouragement and support for nature and community issues.
When asked why he continues farming here when it is not economically viable, he smiles and says ‘’I love it, it helps keep me sane, I’m just a custodian holding the land for the next generation and leaving it in the best order I can’’.
Above all, the land itself tells the tale of its management over the last hundred years. The careful and thoughtful decisions that Séan has made on his farm are part of the reason that local children will get to know and understand the importance of the presence of Freshwater Pearl Mussel as a symbol of a healthy and natural environment. He represents the character and spirit that is vital to protect and enhance our communities, our landscapes and nature.
Nominator: Tara Challoner and Derek McLouglin, Assistant Project Manager, Pearl Mussel Project