THE Burren winterage festival takes place over the bank holiday weekend. The celebration honours generations of Burren farmers and includes re-enactments of ancient pastoral traditions and Samhain pursuits.
For hundreds of years, Burren farmers have marked the end of the summer by herding their cattle up onto winter pastures in the limestone uplands, in the tradition known as winterage and the Burren is one of the only places in the world where it still occurs.
Recent years have seen a decline in many rural traditions but one local group is trying to not only ensure the continuation of this important Burren tradition but is celebrating it in a community-led weekend event.
Along with the local community, the Burrenbeo Trust is coordinating the 2013 Burren Winterage Weekend, which celebrates the Burren’s farming heritage and the broader significance of pastoral farming in the Burren and beyond.
The weekend includes a prize for the best shorthorn heifer, an open farm day, a fancy dress scavenger hunt for children, tales and songs from the land, a food fayre of local delights, craft demonstrations, a herdsman’s walk and display of traditional machinery.
The festival culminates in a unique cattle drive in Fanore, where people can drive cattle up onto the highlands where they will graze for the winter.
The Herdsman’s Walk on Saturday is one of the weekend’s highlights, providing an insight into the farmers of the Burren and the traditions and folklore of the area, as well as allowing people to sample some of the great food being produced locally. The walk is also a fundraiser for the Burrenbeo Trust.
As well as the movement of cattle to winter pastures, Samhain was traditionally a time of harvesting and Oonagh O’Dwyer will lead a walk in Carron on Saturday looking at healthy hedgerows.
For all the family, there are Castle Capers on Saturday in Ballyvaughan where “Children will get to recreate life in the Burren as the first settlers by making bows and arrows, having a scavenger hunt and playing Samhain games, as well as a reading from a new children’s book by a local author……[it is] a great way to get out and enjoy the Burren as a family,” explained Áine Bird of the Burrenbeo Trust.
Further information on all the events is available at www.burrenwinterage.com. The Winterage Weekend is open to all and most of the events are free.