Cathal Monaghan volunteers along the North West Greenway Network. It straddles the border between Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Muff in the Irish Republic. The Covid lockdowns inspired him to bring people together for the good of the local area, as he explains in this blog.
Sustrans volunteer, Cathal Monaghan.
I started a Greenway group after the pandemic to do something for the environment while getting people together again outdoors.
I wanted to raise awareness of biodiversity and the climate.
I’ve always had an interest in gardening, and biodiversity has gained real momentum now.
Starting with a few fruit trees
We started off planting a few fruit trees and bushes along with a couple of wildflower areas.
Then we progressed to bird and bat boxes and decided to put up signage to explain what they were.
One of our volunteers used his professional expertise to design something.
We now have 20 bilingual signs, in Irish and English, telling people about local folklore connected with the wildlife.
Biodiversity-friendly spring bulbs
We've planted more than 700 different kinds of spring bulbs that are biodiversity-friendly, so it’ll be interesting to see what they bring.
Cat Brogan, North West Greenway Network Active Travel Officer, has been very supportive.
She’s helped us gain access to the greenway and provided assistance with events such as our foraging talk, which is very popular.
Great achievement with led-rides
A group of us have also done the led rides a couple of times and they were really good experiences.
There were people who hadn’t been on a bike for years – or ever – and they had such a great sense of achievement afterwards.
We’ve put in a couple of seats and planted around them so there’s somewhere pleasant to rest and relax if you are out walking or cycling along the greenway.
The seats, like the planting and signage, create interest.
There is so much to see, including buzzards.
Plans to extend Greenway
There are plans to extend the greenway in both directions, to Quigley's Point in Donegal, and along the Culmore Road in Derry, so we can extend our work too.
Around 120 people have been involved since we started our group.
We’ve now got our own Facebook page, Muff Greenway Biodiversity Project.
Donegal Volunteer Project have awarded us for both the project and myself individually which is a great boost.
A selection of volunteers keeping the North West Greenway tidy. ©Sustrans
Good craic and always learning
The thing I enjoy is the craic. People are chatting and being active at the same time.
That in itself is enriching. Added to that, people are learning about plants and contributing to others’ knowledge.
Often if we’re talking about the old ways – like hawthorn supposedly being good for blood conditions – someone will say, "my granny used to do that".
It’s keeping things alive.
Organically growing project
This is a growing project, it can organically develop. There are so many benefits.
It’s a way to get local people using the North West Greenway Network and taking ownership of it.
It’s just good to get away from the noise of the traffic and enjoy the beauty and nature all around.
Discover more about the North West Greenway Network.
Get in touch to find out how you can volunteer with us in Northern Ireland.