WITH strict Covid-19 social distancing guidelines still in place, John Davoren has trained his famous sheepdogs at Caherconnell cashel fort in the Burren to demonstrate the concept.
It makes for interesting viewing in an online Facebook video for those who might be contemplating visiting the award-winning visitor attraction after it reopens next week. The Border collies separate the sheep into small groups and get them to stay there no matter what distractions there might be.
Farming in an area where his family has lived for centuries, John began training dogs, teaching a variety of dogs to work with both sheep and cattle when he was a teenager.
Unable to open for 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic put the country into lockdown, John now has everything at the ready to allow visitors walk through the ancient stone fort and see the sheepdog demonstrations without any worries of being too close to anybody else but family members.
His unique enterprise attracts people from all over the world as day visitors, but the importance of the 1,000-year-old ring fort has resulted in a collaboration with NUI Galway and colleges in the US to give accreditation to students for summer archaeological excavations. The students from the US, Canada, and as far away as Australia to come to Caherconnell engage in the field school, which has been in progress for several years.
“It good to be reopening but my business will be slashed by at least two-thirds. We had students booked for the summer field work schools but that’s gone; deposits have been refunded.
“The CIE tours are gone, European tours, Australian tours, all gone – 70% of our business. We’re now looking at the 30% staycation market and if we can add even two percent to that it would be a help,” he says.
John is adopting a very cautious approach on the restart. “We won’t be stocking fully in the shop or café until we see how things are going. We’re going to space out visits a bit more with all ticketing and an allocated time. There’re two viewing canopies now for the sheepdog demonstrations, so social distancing isn’t a problem.
“If there’ s a bit of a build up we can always direct people to the Pol na Bron dolmen a shot distance away. There won’t be any long waits anyway,” he says.
Meanwhile, John is critical in the delay in bringing high speed broadband to the area.
Broadband is becoming more and more important for the likes of me in the tourism industry because we are dealing with customers and contacts overseas. With a proper broadband service communication would be quicker and it would cope with bigger file size documents. Time is very important in business. This is important for people trying to run small business from home or working remotely,” John maintains.