The organisers of the inaugural SUAS Project (Sustainable Uplands Agri-environment Scheme) Open Day held this week in west Wicklow, were delighted with the high numbers that attended, with many travelling from outside of County Wicklow.

Organised to coincide with National Heritage Week, the day began with the large group assembling in the Hollywood Community Centre where a number of short presentations were given to provide an overview of the 5 year SUAS Pilot Project and the work it is undertaking with hill farmers and commonage groups across the Wicklow and Dublin uplands.

The estimated 120 people in attendance then travelled in a fleet of buses to the nearby Granamore Commonage, one of the locations included in the project with all of its shareholders collectively participating as a formal commonage group. Despite the arrival of some showers, the group were guided around the Wicklow Mountains National Park setting to a number of stops for a series of short presentations given by a range of speakers.

With the aid of information boards, speakers from the SUAS Project, National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Agriculture and Food Science, Teagasc and a number of the local farmers delivered informative talks on topics such as commonage management, roadway and culvert repair, gully planting, streamside vegetation, and vegetation management practices such as controlled burning and cutting.

Afterwards, the full group returned to Hollywood for refreshments and to see an exhibition on all of Ireland’s EIP-Agri projects from the National Rural Network.

Speaking after the event, Declan Byrne, Project Manager of the SUAS Pilot Project shared: “We were delighted to see so many people arrive and participate in the event. The diverse number of groups and individuals who travelled to be here, demonstrates the wide interest that this project has generated and we look forward to continuing the sharing of information and findings as the project evolves.”

Launched in 2018 by Wicklow Uplands Council, the five-year SUAS Pilot Project is one of 23 European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) projects established in Ireland. The project is working with upland farmers in the Wicklow and Dublin uplands to address the decline in the area’s biodiversity and traditional hill farming.

Speaking about the project’s connection with National Heritage Week, Pat Dunne, Project Lead of the SUAS Pilot Project said: “The uplands are one of our great natural heritage locations and the culture of hill-farming collectively as a community, goes back centuries. Organising our Open Day to coincide with Heritage Week, was a wonderful opportunity to bring a group onto the slopes of the Wicklow uplands to discuss, share and experience first-hand, what the hill-farmers are doing to restore the area.”

Further information on the project can be found at www.wicklowuplands.ie/suasproject