Walter Phelan, native to Attanagh, Co. Laois, has worked tirelessly over many decades, at great personal cost, to ensure the traditional farming knowledge and local farm methods are preserved for future generations. It is with this deep-set determination that Walter has farmed his lands just over the County boundary in Ballyoskill, Co. Kilkenny, often in conflict with officialdom, to keep the natural character of his lands and hedgerows so that the intrinsic native biodiversity has a refuge from many of the intensive methods that surround his lands. In keeping with this objective Walter incorporates, up-cycles and reuses traditional farm wrought iron gates, dis-used electrical poles and local stone, where possible. The hedgerows are lovingly managed, by hand, with gaps infilled with native pollinator friendly species such as hawthorn, holly with ash and oak on drier banks.
Walter comes from a proud tradition of hunting and fishing in harmony with the land and species rich habitats are not just left but managed to ensure their survival and that they achieve their full biodiversity potential. To this end, Walter has established the National Fly-Fishing & Hunting Museum in Attanagh, Co. Laois, which holds a vast selection of hunting and farming implements, that would have been so familiar to most rural folk.
Walter’s farm is based on light-grazing of dry-stock grazing with his animals taken off the land by November at the latest, this gives the fields time to heal and recover until the primroses herald the on-sought of the coming Spring and the farming cycle completes.
Finally, the knowledge, care and his willingness to pass on this passion for close-to-nature farming makes Walter an ideal candidate for selection as a Farming for Nature Ambassador and I am delighted to put his name forward for this accolade.
Nominator: Lorcan Scott, Wildlife Officer, The Heritage Council