In the process of applying for 'Local Nature Reserve' status for the Amphitheatre Mill Ponds, Carrickfergus.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are areas where nature and wildlife is protected and where people can visit and enjoy contact with the natural world. Sites protected with LNR status benefit both the local community and local species. A good LNR should make a contribution to conservation, environmental education, community involvement and enjoyment.
The Mill Ponds is 3 hectares of land which is rich in biodiversity including a large pond, wetlands area, mature trees, species rich hedgerows and grassland. This area is regularly used by casual users, walkers, naturalists and school groups for education and outdoor recreation.
The Mill Ponds form part of the rich and varied industrial heritage of Carrickfergus and the site also lies within a significant green corridor connecting the coast with Bashfordsland Wood/Oakfield Glen and the countryside beyond.
A wide range of important species of flora and fauna can be found on this site, for example, kingfisher (feeding along the river), snipe (roosting/feeding in marsh) and grey wagtail (a pair nesting at the stream outflow) In addition, the ponds contain a number of invertebrate species including the notable lake orb mussel which is red-listed in Ireland as Vulnerable (VU).
Year 11 pupils from Carrickfergus College secured AES funding to improve the Carrickfergus Mill Pond's area for the benefit of the local community and local wildlife.
The group, entitled "The Economical Environmentalists", took part in a Dragon's Den style competition where they had to pitch their ideas to a panel.
The best initiative would win £4000 funding. Part of the criteria was that the pupils had to work in partnership with a business so 'The Economical Environmentalists' got in touch with me. I thought it was a great project so met up with them a few times to develop the ideas and plan before the pitch.
The group decided to improve the Mill Pond area in Carrickfergus as they were keen to develop a central area so as many people as possible could enjoy/learn from the initiative.
The group won the competition and the full £4,000. We will soon begin work installing bird and bat boxes, hedgehog homes, an insect hotel, a sensory garden and display boards to promote environmental awareness and biodiversity.
Jordan Griffin, Marc Cummings, Philip Lindsay, Noah Barnley and Jonny Brown make up "The Economical Environmentalists".