Winterage, the ancient and unique practice of winter grazing in the Burren, is the inspiration for the annual 4-day long Burren Winterage Weekend festival, due to take place this year between Oct 24th and 27th, in the beautiful Burren region.
This autumn, when they walk with the cattle to their upland winter pastures, farmers in the Burren will be following an agricultural tradition that is thousands of years old. This ancient farming practice, devised by farmers to respond to the constraints of the Burren’s rocky terrain, and which has played a vital role in sustaining the heritage and biodiversity of this remarkable landscape, was recently recognised by the Irish State as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ireland.
Brendan Dunford, Programme Manager at the Burren Programme said, “The Winterage Weekend is a chance for us all to come together to celebrate the invaluable legacy of Winterage, but also to expand the narrative around farming and nature, recognise the positive work being done locally and further afield, explore challenges to sustainable farming, and learn from and share with each other.”
“There is something for everyone at the Burren Winterage Weekend,” said Annalisa Murphy, Coordinator at the Burrenbeo Trust. “Focusing this year on the theme of Building a healthy future for people, food and nature, the programme promises a rich variety of events such as the Burren Winterage School, Herdman’s walks, a food fayre, book readings, film screenings, a children’s art workshop, the national Farming for Nature Awards and the much-loved flagship event of the weekend, the community Cattle Drive.”
A major event over the weekend is the Burren Winterage School, a 3-day gathering that will bring together farmers, researchers, farm advisors, government representatives and community members from the Burren and from across Ireland and the EU, to engage in a rich learning experience around sustainable farming. More information on the Burren Winterage School and bookings is available at www.burrenwinterage.com
Burren Winterage Weekend activities on Friday, 25th of October include book reading events with Fiona O’Connell, author of Lay of the Land and John Connell, author of The Cow Book, at 3pm and 5pm respectively at Lisdoonvarna library. There will also be a special film screening, at the Burren Centre in Kilfenora on Friday evening, of short films on farmers nominated for the Farming for Nature Ambassador Awards 2019.
A choice of guided walks on Saturday 26th of October include an early Herdsman’s Walk led by Patrick McCormack, who is sure to tell fascinating stories about farming and the Burren. On Saturday afternoon, environmentalist Gordon D’Arcy will lead a children’s art and nature workshop on the theme of ‘Wildlife on the Farm’ and announce winners of a children’s art competition on the theme of Winterage. This will be followed by the national Farming for Nature Ambassador Awards in the evening where sterling work in Irish farming that is benefiting nature will be highlighted and recognised.
On Sunday, the 27th of October, members of the public will be invited to join the Burren Winterage Cattle Drive, a long uphill walk with a Burren farming family as they walk, from the village of Carron, their cattle to the winter pastures. This most anticipated event of the weekend will commence with an orchestral performance by Sonic Strings, a local teen orchestra joined by their Swedish friends DalaViolinisterna.
The Burren Winterage Weekend is a community-led festival, coordinated by the landscape charity Burrenbeo Trust, made possible with the time and energy of many volunteers and with financial support from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, The Heritage Council and the FBD Trust.
While a lot of the events are free of charge, some of the ticketed events of the Winterage Weekend are fundraisers for the Burrenbeo Trust. Full information on the programme and booking details is available on www.burrenwinterage.com