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There was huge participation in the winterage drive last year. Photograph by William O'Reilly

Winterage festival celebrates ancient Burren tradition and more

THE ancient and unique farming practice of out-wintering cattle in the Burren will be celebrated this month at the annual Burren Winterage Weekend festival.

The festival takes place between October 26 and 30 in Corofin and various locations across the Burren region.

Co-ordinated by local landscape charity The Burrenbeo Trust, this year’s festival features a wide range of farming, heritage, and cultural events.

Among these will be several Burren farm walks, a Tea Talk on farming and archaeology, book reading and discussions with bestselling authors James Rebanks and Jane Clarke.
There will be ‘transhumance’ cheese tasting, a butter making workshop, a children’s creative nature-writing workshop and much more.

A day-long Burren Winterage School will be held on the theme of Education for Sustainable Development in Rural Areas, Farming for Nature Networking Day and National Farming for Nature Awards.
The flagship event of weekend, the Community Cattle Drive where hundreds of people will be invited to join a local farming family in herding their cattle to the upland winterage pastures, will take place on Sunday, October 30 and will be joined this year by the Burren Food Fayre.

The Burren Food Fayre, organised by the Burren Eco-tourism Network, will offer a chance to all attendees to ‘taste the Burren’ through food samplings from some of the best of local food producers.

Brendan Dunford, manager at the Burren Programme and one of the event organisers said, “The Winterage festival is as good as it gets in terms of an authentic, intimate celebration of our farming heritage in Ireland.

At its core is the ancient practice of ‘transhumance’ – the seasonal movement of livestock – whereby Burren farmers sustain an ancient tradition that is also key to conserving the region’s famous flora and fauna.

“Transhumance is practiced all over the world so the cattle drove is a nice way to connect with rural cultures and landscapes everywhere.

“We’re delighted this year to welcome farmers, scientists and policymakers from all over Europe to join us in this festival of learning and celebration, in particular our ‘farming for nature’ ambassadors from Ireland, Lithuania and Austria,” he added.

Local farmer and community leader Michael Davoren said, “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.

“It is thought that Burren farmers initially adopted this practice in response to the shortage of water in summertime, only to find that the warmth of the limestone and the ample grazing on the rocky winter pastures made the Burren an ideal, low-cost ‘outwintering’ environment for their stock.”

Winter grazing by cattle which slows down encroachment of scrub, enables the Burren’s renowned complement of flowers and insects to flourish unhindered in summer, making the practice of
‘winterage’ crucial to the conservation of biodiversity in the region and of the extraordinary array of monuments built by farmers in the past.”

Places are limited for all events and will require pre-booking. Discounts apply for Burrenbeo Members. More information available on  www.burrenwinterage.com

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