Our first ever Skerries Wild Bee Festival was a great success, partly down to all the hard work people put in and partly down to luck.

Noeleen Smythe explaining the make-up of a plant

It all began early this year when Una FitzPatrick of the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) proposed holding the event here. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Fingal CC came on board and between the two organizations the weekend was planned. Our own Fingal biodiversity officer, Debbie Tiernan, did most of the organizing for their end and must also be singled out for praise.

Perhaps not everyone who attended would have realised that some of the leading Irish experts in their various fields were there. Una, apart from being lead scientist at NBDC, heads up the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; Michelle Larkin, also NBDC, is their pollinating insect expert; Maria Long (NPWS) is Ireland’s leading grassland expert; Noeleen Smythe is an internationally renowned Irish botanist.

We, Sustainable Skerries, could never have hoped to assemble such an illustrious line-up.

Visitors came from far and wide. Apart from the expected East Coast attendees there were people from Kildare, a lady from Mayo, four guys made the trip down from Donegal, and another woman travelled up from Dingle. We were able not just to talk with local people but also network and establish connections nationwide.

We can also give ourselves a pat on the back. Sustainable Skerries had an information stall where we handed out literature, bumblebee swatch cards and the like as well as getting people to sign up and pledge their gardens for biodiversity. Right beside it bumblebee and butterfly face painting was happening which kept the kids entertained, and the whole thing became a focal point where people gathered to chat.

So that’s the hard work side of things covered, what about the luck? Well, first off, the weather held. Everyone had been dreading a typical Irish washout weekend and if it lashed down what would we do? We needn’t have worried, Sunday saw a little very light drizzle from time to time but Saturday was gorgeous. This meant that certain uninvited guests showed up.

The event had been widely publicized but it never occurred to anyone to invite the real stars
of the show: the bees themselves. They came anyway.

And not just any old bees. The primary focus of the weekend was the endangered Large Carder Bee, seen in a few locations around Skerries but never, until now, at Skerries Mills. It spread to here this summer, long after the venue was picked, and was ready and waiting for its admirers on the day.

Our stall was out in the garden, surrounded on three sides by bees buzzing around on the late season flowers, which couldn’t in itself have been more fitting; but what are the chances of being able to say to visitors, “Rare bumblebee? Certainly Sir/Madam, there’s one right beside you and another over there.”
That’s luck!

This is how Mark Broderick, Fingal County Council videographer, saw it. We don’t disagree!

Sustainable Skerries Committee Member Brendan Muldoon writes:

On a recent trip to the Ballygossan Park Playground in Skerries my eye was drawn to a rather barren-looking patch of ground in the playground. On closer inspection, I noticed that there were in fact many tiny, inconspicuous holes dotted throughout this area. Perhaps inspired by the recent Sustainable Skerries online talk on insects by Dave Goulson – I was intrigued as to what the tiny holes might be.  

Following a little bit of research (and confirmation from our local bee experts Charlie and Marion) it turns out these tiny holes are the nesting sites for solitary, wild bees. This shows that you can find some very interesting wildlife in the most surprising of places! Solitary bees are harmless. They do have a mild sting, but rarely use it. They generally just buzz around when disturbed.

I guess it also tells us that even a seemingly barren patch of earth can still be playing an important role in the ecosystem even if it is hard to see with the naked eye. Find out more about native solitary bees @ https://pollinators.ie/record-pollinators/solitary-bees-for-beginners/

Seasonal. Local. Organic. Waste-minimising. Ecosphere-enhancing. Regenerative
= SLOWER Food!

We braved the rain, saw the Community Gardens at Skerries Mills, welcomed platains, wholemeal sourdough bread, homemade popcorn, wonderful cake made by a 10 year old, wonderful cookies made by his 15-year-old sister (actually, they may be 9 and 16 or 11 and 14… apologies…), peppermint tea and good chat. Join us for August, 7 pm on Friday 5 August at the South Strand (meet at the public toilers) for a walk to see the biodiversity of Skerries South Strand.

See here for more about our First Fridays For Future events.

Sustainable Skerries welcomes the vision but has deep concerns at lack of staffing and funding for the draft Fingal Biodiversity Plan

With a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency declared in the Dáil in 2019, we need to do better than implementing only a fraction of actions deemed necessary by the draft Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan. This is the main observation made by Sustainable Skerries in their submission. Have you made yours? You have until tomorrow night, as it closes on 5 July 2022, 23:59 h.

Here is ours:

Sustainable Skerries commends Fingal County Council on the vision of, and the many targeted initiatives in, this plan. However, we are deeply concerned that of the 100 actions required to halt the loss of biodiversity in Fingal by 2030, only 30 are prioritised for implementation, due to the financial and staff constraints. Several actions seem to need relatively little extra funding, so it seems that human resources are the bottleneck. Extra staff for the biodiversity team should thus be a priority. Many additional actions might make it to the “prioritised for implementation” list if there were two, or maybe even just one, extra staff in the Fingal County Council Biodiversity Team.

It is understandable that the council faces difficult decisions with regard to funding initiatives in the county, but for something as important as this more efforts must be made to obtain the necessary budget. We would like to see Fingal County Council work with the government to get further, ring fenced, funding to meet our obligations to cope with the biodiversity emergency. For instance, Minister Malcolm Noonan recently launched the “Strategic Action Plan for the Renewal of the National Parks and Wildlife Service”. With the increased resourcing and staffing this plan provides for, there is an opportunity for Fingal County Council to work with the NPWS to implement more than the 30 prioritised actions.   

The current draft of the Biodiversity Action Plan seems to solely focus on actions that can be achieved with direct Council funding,  and does not identify how Fingal Coco might seek to bridge the gap by promoting existing centrally-funded schemes, targeting EU funding,  or maximising biodiversity benefits from privately funded initiatives. 

 It is noted that Action 72 (Explore funding models for carbon offsetting to fund wetland and

woodland development) could be a key and rapidly developing opportunity in this context,  which is why we feel it should be a priority action.  

There are obvious possible synergies with efforts being made outside Fingal in central and local government particularly with respect to the preparation of the numerous guidance documents, procedures and training requirements identified. 

Actions 33-38, especially those which involve producing guidance documents for biodiversity-friendly building and infrastructure projects, are relevant to all local authorities nationally, not just Fingal County Council. One example is Action 38:” Pilot a biodiversity inclusive design for a social housing estate with green roofs, green walls, wetland & pond SUDS, green carparking, nest boxes in facades, wildflower meadows and wildlife friendly shrubs and trees in open space.” 

A priority action to be added to the plan should be to identify partners (including other local authorities and national organisations) and together find new funding streams, thus maximising the potential for efficient use of public money by coordinating with other public bodies to deliver those actions not just in Fingal but nationwide. We note that they are not prioritised in the current draft and suggest that with additional staffing, and by cooperating with other bodies, they could still be achieved.

While we welcome the actions that are being prioritised, some of the actions which appear to have been de-scoped do not require significant funding to make progress in, rather a political will and staff resources for coordination.

Rewilding: There is no overarching objective relating to rewilding of small and marginal areas of public lands – areas that could be essential stepping stones in Fingals ecological network,, a potentially cost free exercise (apart from staffing implications for coordination) that could be begun simply by taking less actions and spending less money

Fingal County Council’s own webinar introducing the plan highlighted the importance of protecting the network which connects Nature Development areas with Special Areas of Conservation. Sustainable Skerries agrees that corridors linking these areas must be protected.  Providing corridors through which wildlife can move about is a priority. One simple, achievable action would be the revision of mowing regimes. Leave some areas completely unmown for the summer, leaving them to become natural wildflower meadows, while reducing mowing frequency on areas that still need to be cut, allowing pollinators a window of opportunity to harvest flowering plants. By extending the mowing interval by even a week, preferably longer, money is saved, staff can be redeployed to other activities, CO2 emissions reduced, fossil fuel usage reduced and nature benefits. A truly win/win situation. Allowing native wildflowers to flourish, which provide essential food for pollinators, will in turn maintain a biodiverse environment for other wildlife.

Coupled with this, there is an opportunity for the plans in Action 6, currently envisaged only for golf clubs, to be extended to other sports clubs as well. Plenty of local clubs (cricket, rugby, GAA, soccer etc) have significant green areas not used for playing on, as well as green areas around the playing fields.

The continued use of herbicide by the council in graveyards is a cause for concern. While this must undoubtedly be handled sensitively there are more appropriate ways to maintain these areas. Fingal County Council must ban the use of herbicides in all contexts across the whole county and work with grieving relatives to address their concerns in the context of the biodiversity emergency we are facing.

Action 40 (Support and promote All Ireland Pollinator Plan Actions for Councils and monitor resulting changes) has as an objective that Fingal County Council increase to only 20% the land in the council’s control to be given over to biodiversity improvement. This is too low, and there is a huge opportunity here for an inexpensive win for Fingal. This seems to cost little or no money, and if managed properly actually saves money for use in other areas of the plan.

Sustainable Skerries is disappointed that Action 18 (Incorporate measures for

biodiversity conservation in the management plans for a Regional Parks in Finga)l has not been prioritised. Such management plans give Fingal County Council an opportunity to set an example in best practice for biodiversity management. If Fingal County Council does not even draw up biodiversity management plans for its own regional parks, how can it expect other organisations to take biodiversity seriously? If funding is an issue please see our point on engaging with the government and NPWS above.

Actions 37 & 38, which cover social and council housing and associated parks and infrastructure, must be prioritised. Again, there are aspects of these actions that are low cost if some imagination is applied. If staffing resources were made available and some ways were found to involve residents directly the plans would be far more successful.

In the cases of privately owned property, altering planning restrictions to make it easier for people to make changes to their own properties in order to build for biodiversity would be welcomed. Furthermore Fingal County Council must be making sure that all of the items mentioned in these actions form part of any new building schemes in the county, as part of the planning process. Where planning of a new estate is with An Bord Pleanála, Fingal County Council must make submissions highlighting these needs.

Actions related to agriculture including overall targeted awareness raising in Fingal are underrepresented in the draft plan. Fingal County Council must do more to engage with farmers, many of whom are well aware of the biodiversity emergency we are witnessing. Fingal County Council itself could support farmers making changes by adopting an “Organic First” policy when purchasing food (for catering etc.). This should be an additional (and implemented) action.

Agroforestry, combining forestry and agriculture, is very promising for biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Action 48 (Acquire sites for woodland planting at St Catherine’s park and Ardgillan Demesne and prepare masterplans for the design of these woodlands) should be extended to include a “model farm” scheme.It could be combined with Action 61 (Develop a 400ha demonstration Agri-Environment EIP Scheme with local farmers in Fingal targeting farmland birds and habitats and water quality improvement measures).  A demonstration of regenerative agroforestry would enable farmers to see for themselves how regenerative agriculture can sequester carbon. The biodiversity crisis, after all, cannot be separated from climate change.

We were pleased to see the inclusion of a proposed education centre in Turvey Nature Park and nature education programme for primary and secondary schools. In order for the objectives of this plan to be met and sustained we believe education will play an essential role, otherwise these actions will be misunderstood or poorly prioritised across communities in Fingal in the future. In order to create, design and deliver such nature-based learning for schools, significant resources should be allocated to ensuring that this becomes embedded in curricula across schools in Fingal as soon as possible. Such education programmes should ideally go hand-in-hand with school’s management of their grounds to increase biodiversity and attract wildlife which in turn will create an ideal “classroom” / field site for such education programmes. The creation of education officer roles who liaise with schools directly in coordinating and delivering such programmes is vital to the longevity of this plan. The creation of an education centre in Turvey Nature Park would further embed such learning and act as an ideal site for school field trips / school tours to allow children and adults alike to immerse themselves in wild native Irish landscape and learn hands-on about what they can do in their communities.

Many of the Target KPI’s identified relate to preparation of guidance documents or production of reports.  Given the life-cycle of the Plan, the KPI’s should be extended to include the demonstrable implementation of the guidance measures or report recommendations.   Acknowledging some measures may require additional funding, it is suggested the KPI could commit Fingal to the swift implementation of no/low-cost measures/recommendations,  or the identification of funding routes for more costly or longer-term measures.

In summary, while we have some suggestions for changes, overall, we welcome this plan – and are shocked that only so few of its suggested actions are currently due to be implemented during its lifetime, due to staffing and financial constraints. With a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency declared in the Dáil in 2019, we need to do better than implementing only a fraction of actions deemed necessary.

From the draft Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan, title: Fingal Ecological Network by Jeroen Helmer, Ark Natuurontwikkeling. Wouldn’t it be great if Fingal was looking like that…?

If anyone here has kids in St Pat’s, they will probably know that some parents have taken the initiative to save torn, worn, and / or scruffy uniform items from the bin.

They are sharing the below message in class WhatsApp groups.

REQUEST for old uniforms destined for the bin – Dear Parents,

As we finish up this year many will be passing on old uniforms to friends or family and many will be donated which is great.

For those uniforms and tracksuits that are torn, worn, have holes or scuffs that you plan to throw into bin after this week can we ask that you instead donate them for a uniform upcycling workshop over the summer and next year?

Even those that seem well worn and beyond repair can be used as material for other ones.

You can either

1) hold onto them if you and your kids are interested in attending a fun repair cafe over the summer and message ….. to stay in the loop,

2) donate them now for the repair cafe once they have been washed.

You can drop them to…[address redacted]… where we will take them anytime. Thank you so much. 🧵🧶👍🌍♻️

This went out to the parents of St Patrick’s National School, Skerries.

If anyone has kids in Realt Na Mara or even Skerries Community College and wants to do similar collection and / or do repair cafés together, send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com and we’ll put you in touch. (The same applies if your kids do go to St Patrick’s and you somehow missed the WhatsApp messages!)

The parent in question, committee member Sarah-Jane, says: “Just throwing out the requests now to save what we can from the bin this week – we will organise the event then based on how much interest and donations we get. Thanks 👍”

Brilliant idea, don’t you think?

And thank you also to committee member Helen, who kindly provided us with this picture. We think that does certainly come under torn, worn, and / or scruffy!

Can’t wait to see what this will look like post-repair café!

For any outgrown uniforms not in need of repair, or for anyone looking to pick up a second-hand uniform, all three charity shops in Skerries are accepting donations and already have a growing stock of great quality uniforms for all schools in Skerries available throughout the summer.

By now we all know that we are living in a double emergency (if not triple or quadruple), given the situation of climate change and biodiversity loss. Wouldn’t you love to come along to the ecovillage in Cloughjordan and learn from them what we in Skerries could do about these emergencies? Sustainable Skerries have organised an eco course for anyone who wants to be involved locally in tackling the problem.

Join our blended course this autumn!  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

💚 Six weekly classes (online) addressing the most relevant aspects of climate action, how to deal with biodiversity loss, resilience, project management and community building: Tuesdays 8 pm from Tue 20 Sep to Tue 25 Oct

💚 Weekend session in Cloughjordan Co. Tipperary on Sat 24 / Sun 25 September: Eight classes in an existing ecovillage (immersive learning) to experience what is possible in real life, including learning from those who are actively involved in the development of the eco village

💚 Cost involved: €75 per person including the weekly sessions, multi-occupancy accommodation and most food in Cloughjordan.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the EAFRD
– The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas –
and the Irish Department of Rural and Community Development.

FAQs:

I’m not in any community group. Can I still do the course?
Yes, of course, as long as you’re willing to consider getting involved in some way after the course. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I can’t come for the entire weekend. Can I still do the course?
Ideally, everyone would be there for the weekend as well. This immersive learning from an eco village is invaluable. However, if you can only come for the Saturday or the Sunday, let us know in the comments of the form. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I already know a lot about biodiversity / climate / sustainable energy… Can I skip that weekly session?
The weekly sessions are no mere information-transfer sessions. They are about sharing what we already know, and applying what we are learning to our life and community in Skerries. Ideally, everyone would attend each session, the weekly ones as well as the weekend. Oh, and: Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

How much does this cost?
We’re glad you asked. It will cost about €350 per person, based on 20 people attending. Luckily, we have secured LEADER / EU funding for this, and each participant only pays €75! That covers the weekly sessions as well as some of the meals in Cloughjordan and the accommodation in shared rooms. Great value. Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

 What is the accommodation like?
We have full use of Django’s B&B (formerly Django’s Hostel) in the ecovillage of Cloughjordan. We have a number of triple rooms (including double beds and bunk beds), twin rooms and a double room. As we’re writing this, there are also three rooms available on Air BnB, so if you’d prefer not to share, or want to bring along a partner / family member who is not doing the course, secure one of them for yourself. Make sure to register all the same! We need to know who is coming as soon as possible, and:  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I want to bring my partner / child / dog…
That is fine, but you’ll have to arrange your own accommodation as we don’t have any extra spaces in Django’s…

Will I get a reduced rate if I’m staying elsewhere / not coming to Cloughjordan?
The €75 per person will apply in all cases. If that is not affordable for you, please send an email to Sabine in confidence via sustskerries@gmail.com and we will see how we can help. 

How will we get there, and when does the “weekend” start and end?
We hope to be car sharing as much as possible (travel costs will have to be met by participants themselves). We’ll probably leave around 8, 8.30 am on the Saturday and be back around 7, 7.30 pm on Sunday.

So what is expected of participants?
1.  Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!
2. Participate in the weekly classes (normally 90 min on Zoom or similar, with a strong participatory element). Extra reading / study is possible and is encouraged, but not “mandatory.”
3. Participate in the weekend in Cloughjordan, unless that is impossible.
4. Participate in a final event, format and date and time to be decided in the group, where we will bring our learning together and then share it with the wider community.

Will a lot of basic information be covered? Will the content be relevant to Skerries, or general in nature?
The Cloughjordan course team is going to tailor the classes to where we are. We are preparing inputs and will ask participants for their contributions, too, describing what is already happening in Skerries and what isn’t. We also will assume a general awareness around climate change, biodiversity loss, etc., and there will be pointers to good online material (short videos, texts etc.) for a refresher / basic introduction.
Please sign up as soon as possible while there are still spaces!

I have another question that is not covered here.
Great! Please send it ASAP to us via sustskerries@gmail.com

Last updated on 22 June 2022 by SMcK

The Skerries Bee Map was the result of a collaboration between members of the biodiversity team of Sustainable Skerries and local artist/illustrator Kristina Keegan.

The purpose of the map is to plot the locations (as known to us at this moment in time) of the Large Carder Bee habitats in Skerries, to invite members of the community to build bee corridors to connect these locations and to encourage recognition and conversation around the native Irish wildflowers that the Large Carder Bee and other pollinators feed off.

This map is part of the Large Carder Bee Action Plan. Watch out for more actions!

By studying and illustrating the distinct differences in these species (both flowers and bees) we hope that the Skerries Bee Map will serve as a learning tool in schools and public spaces and spark conversation around sightings of these beautiful plants and insects.

It looks even better in print, and we hope to have copies available at our future events, and we are delighted that it is included in the Skerries News edition of 24 June 2022!

Join Charlie and Marion Heasman on this stroll through the Ballast Bit, starting at the Bottle Bank on Barnageeragh Road.

We’ll explore the Ballast Pit looking not only at bumblebees but also learning about why it is such an incredible natural resource.

For instance, there are 100 different species of wild bee in Ireland and 70% of them have been recorded here. There are rare pyramidal orchids, the very rare Small Blue Butterfly and lots more.

Come and see for yourself!

Free, but please secure a space for yourself on Eventbrite – do so in good time as numbers are limited!

The terrain is uneven. Please wear good walking shoes.

The climate crisis has been growing, but we can’t just sit there and let doom and gloom ruin our lives.
We can do something!

In the book “Regeneration – Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation,” Paul Hawken says if everybody picks something they’re enthusiastic about and does something about that, that would spread. Don’t go: Oh, what do I have to do? Go: What do I WANT to do? Then go and do it.

At these First Fridays For Future, we want to highlight one thing every time that a part of the community is doing because they love doing it, and spread the word that way. And we hope we will be more and more.

Not in anger, but in hope and positivity.

We started on Friday 3 June 2022. You can see here how it went:

Join us for the next First Fridays For Future event:
1 July 2022: A picnic for climate and biodiversity. Meet at Skerries Mills at 7 pm.

It’s time to set visible signs for our and our children’s future.

Every first Friday of the month, we will meet at 7 pm for 45 minutes or so and share our passion for doing something positive for our lives, for our climate, for biodiversity.

Join us!

We are inspired by #FridaysForFuture, a youth-led and -organised movement that began in August 2018, after 15-year-old Greta Thunberg and other young activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it soon went viral.

Friday 3 June, 7 pm: Three Mini Orchards Walk. Meet at the pedestrian crossing at the Ballast Pit. Bring posters, bring flags, bring your enthusiasm. We’ll talk about ideas for July, August, September… while we walk from the Ballast Pit Open Orchard to the one in Kelly’s Bay to the Mourne View ones.

See you then?!?