Strangford Lough welcomed Ben Fogle recently, as the adventurer filmed a new TV series on outdoors and nature.
The National Trust team on Strangford took Ben out on the Lough to show him their essential conservation work including seal counting. Ben also learned about the huge range of birds and wildlife that inhabit the Lough.
The highlight of the day was the unveiling of the National Trust’s new barge, recently named Cuan Brig.
The barge transports livestock out to the islands on Strangford Lough for conservation grazing. The Trust has operated a barge on the Lough for several decades but the last vessel had to be scrapped after many years of service.
Andrew Upton, Coast and Countryside Manager with the National Trust said; “It was a real pleasure to welcome Ben to Strangford Lough and show him the sights of this special place. We have an abundance of wildlife with more than 2,000 different types of marine creatures calling this place home, many of which are found nowhere else in Northern Ireland.
“We had a great morning showing Ben how we monitor the seal population on the Lough. Both Common and Grey Seals can be seen here all year round. Other marine mammals to keep an eye out for are porpoises and otters.”
In the afternoon Ben met with local farmers Oisin and Anne-Marie Murnion who explained the history and challenges of farming on the islands. Some of Oisin’s cattle were able to be moved for the first time in more than 12 months to Island Taggart with the help of Ben and the National Trust rangers.
Speaking about the new National Trust barge, Hugh Thurgate, Head Ranger on Strangford Lough said; “We are very proud of the new barge which will be a hugely important asset to Strangford and the farming community here. It ensures that this long history of farming on the islands can continue. It also has huge conservation benefits for the natural and built heritage of this internationally important site. In particular, wildflower rich meadows found on the islands will be conserved through grazing by traditional breeds of livestock.
The National Trust secured £130,000 of funding to construct a new barge from a range of internal and external sources including the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who also provide ongoing support for the Trust’s work on the Lough.