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Explore Our Whispering Landscape

Virtual Conference | 15 & 16 June 2021


Virtual conference on 15 & 16 June 2021

Our first ever conference, Explore Our Whispering Landscape, was part of the Joyce Country & Western Lakes Geopark Project. This project is funded primarily by the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (Project Ireland 2040) in the Department of Rural & Community Development and by a multi-agency partnership led by Geological Survey Ireland. Its key aim is to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark status for the region for the benefit of communities, local businesses, and the people. The Joyce Country & Western Lakes area of south County Mayo and north County Galway is worthy of UNESCO Global Geopark status due to its geology of international importance.

The conference took place on Tuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 June and opened a window on UNESCO Global Geoparks’ contributions to sustainable development, and how communities can benefit from more locally generated jobs and business. It also showcased the rich heritage in this proposed geopark region, providing models and ideas for cultural development, geotourism and networking.

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The event had:

  • presentations by local, national and international speakers with live Q & A sessions for all in virtual attendance
  • workshops showcasing the various ways people can interact with the landscape
  • live panel discussions
  • an exhibition space for our many stakeholders, including our local communities and businesses, to highlight their features, products and activities.

All of the videos are available to watch below and also by visiting our YouTube channel.

We hope you enjoy watching them and seeing what UNESCO Global Geopark status could mean for our region.

Day 1 – 15 June 2021

Introduction by Koen Verbruggen (Director, Geological Survey Ireland) and Siobhán Power (Project Manager, Geological Survey Ireland)

Session 1 – Geoparks and Sustainable Development

Chair: Carol Gleeson, Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark

  1. UNESCO Global Geopark: What will it mean for you?
    Patrick McKeever, Global Geoparks Network Special Advisor
  2. Developing Sustainable Destinations – The Burren Ecotourism Network
    Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO, Burren EcoTourism Network
  3. New geoparks in Canada: Geology and local community development
    John Calder, Chair of Canadian Geopark Network
  4. Q&A
    Chair and all speakers
Session 2 – Local Products and the Link with Geology

Chair: Elaine Donohue, BIA Food Innovator

  1. The GEOfood Network
    Sara Gentilini, Project Manager Magma Global Geopark
  2. Joyce Country Wool: Local Resources in Local Enterprise
    Carina Coyne, Joyce Country Wool
  3. Where Soils and Landscapes Meet: Defining Irish Soilscapes for Agriculture
    Karen Daly, Soils scientist, Terrasoil (Teagasc)
  4. Farming Our Region – Killary Fjord Shellfish: Farming the fjord & Connemara Hill Lamb: Farming the landscape
    Kate & Simon Kennedy, Killary Fjord Shellfish and Martin Kerrigan, Connemara Hill Lamb
  5. Q&A
    Chair and all speakers
Traditional Craft and Modern Art

Clodagh Doyle, Keeper of the Irish Folklife Division based at the National Museum of Ireland Country Life at Turlough House, Co. Mayo, will introduce this video exploring modern production of traditional crafts in the region. The video will feature Joe Hogan of Hogan Baskets and Carina Coyne of Joyce Country Wool from the Lough Nafooey area, Clémence Guiraut of Coolin Soaps in the Clonbur area and Ester Kiely and Ger Hassett of the Headford Lace Project.

Promoting Biodiversity on our Farms

Biodiversity is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for our well-being and farm income. See and hear examples from farmer Colm Gavin of Leenane (Farming for Nature nominee 2021), Raymond Langan of Ballycastle (National Rural Network Biodiversity Farmer of the Year 2018) and others. Hear a lively discussion about biodiversity and the challenges of farming uplands with Joseph Mannion (project manager North Connemara EIP Agri project), ecologist Cathy Connelly, and farmers Tom Halloran, Colm Gavin and Raymond Langan.

Local Songs and Tunes

The singer and accordion player Mary Staunton will introduce this video showcasing local musicians, singers and composers. The video will feature Sheona Ní Mháille singing and talking to Barbara Philbin in her Maire Luke’s pub about the local music culture. It will also showcase a new song from Barney McCabe on both Loughs Mask and Corrib and another from Philip Doddy on Lough Carra.

Foraging; Tasting the Landscape

Our geopark geologist, Benjamin Thébaudeau, is meeting Jonathan Keane, Head Chef at the Lodge at Ashford, to explore the Ashford demesne and find what local wild plants can be consumed and how he uses them in his menu.

Day 2 – 16 June 2021

Session 3 – Heritage in JCWL region

Chair: Trish Walsh, JCWL GeoEnterprise

  1. Geological Evolution of the JCWL Region: Assembling the Foundation
    Brian McConnell, Geological Survey Ireland
  2. Conserving and Promoting our Local Heritage – An Overview
    Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer Galway County Council & Deirdre Cunningham, Heritage Officer Mayo County Council
  3. The Cultural and Natural Heritage of Livestock Grazing in Ireland’s Uplands
    Eugene Costello, Heritage Lecturer, University College Cork
  4. Irish language: The Irish of Dúiche Sheoigheach (Joyce Country) and Tuar Mhic Éadaigh (Tourmakeady)
    Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh, Lecturer in Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth University
  5. Q&A
    Chair and all speakers
Session 4 – Tourism and Networking

Chair: Cáit Noone, Galway International Hotel School, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

  1. The International Appalachian Trail: Celebrating people, places and shared geoheritage
    Don Hudson, Maine IAT* President and IAT* International Council, Co-chair
    *International Appalachian Trail
  2. Euro-Atlantic Geotourism route
    Robbie Galvin, Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark
  3. Fforest Fawr: Bilingualism in a Welsh geopark
    Alan Bowring, Geopark Development Officer Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark
  4. Slow Tourism and the Role of Geoparks
    Miriam Kennedy, Head of Wild Atlantic Way, Fáilte Ireland
  5. Q&A
    Chair and all speakers

Closing remarks by Michael Hegarty (Geopark Manager)

Tourism Business Networks in Action

For the last 15 to 20 years community tourism networks have been springing up all over the island of Ireland. These community tourism networks are always a group of dynamic people whose common aim is to improve the economic, social and cultural development of their region for its residents and visitors alike. The advent of digital and social media platforms has led to incredible branding and awareness campaigns by such groups all over the Island of Ireland. Our tourism development officer, Dominic Ó Móráin, will be discussing with two energetic and powerful examples of these networks represented by Brigitte Curtin of the Burren EcoTourism Network and Carmel Walsh from the Connemara Loop.

We’ll first show two short videos, one about the Burren Smokehouse, the second one is the Connemara Loop. We’ll then discuss how the local businesses work together in their respective networks. After that we’ll show some short videos about four attractions around Leenane who function as an informal network providing referrals to each other’s business. We’ll end with a prerecorded chat and Michael Hegarty and Dominic Ó Móráin, both from the geopark project team, will welcome anyone with comments or questions on the day.

Learning in the Landscape

For this workshop, both of our geologists, Amrine Dubois Gafar and Benjamin Thébaudeau, will discuss ideas about outdoor education with two local primary school teachers Michelle Granahan and Charlotte Duignan. A large part of this project is to promote the landscape as an outdoor classroom. During the video, 3 sites are suggested as examples where such school trips could take place.

Launch of Animated Videos

Thanks to funding from Geological Survey Ireland, Noho Dublin has produced two animated videos written by both geologists of the geopark project that aim to illustrate the geological processes that were behind the formation of our region’s landscape. The first one concerns the Lough Nafooey valley over the last 500 million years whilst the second one describes how the Ice Age shaped our mountains and lowlands. Both videos are in either English or Gaeilge with the recorded voices of Fiona Ní Chathasaigh and Máirtin Ó Conamha and music from Sheona Ní Mháille.

Irish, a modern and resurgent language

This workshop will be a live discussion between Stiofán Seoighe, language planning officer for Dhúiche Sheoigheach and Tuar Mhic Éadaigh, Benjamin Thébaudeau, geopark geologist, Dominic Ó Móráin, geopark tourism officer, Gearóidín Ní Ghrúinéil, one of the directors of the JCWL GeoEnterprise and Sheena Duddy of the Ballinrobe Gaeltacht Service Town initiative. The event will start with a beginner’s type cúpla focal conversation followed by an introduction to a few terms relating to the landscape, geology and place names. Stiofán will then outline key aspects of the language plan and ideas for engaging and strengthening the use of the languages and Sheena will mention the ongoing plan to make Ballinrobe a Gaeltacht Service town. The workshop will end with a live Q&A.

Beidh an cheardlann seo ina plé beo le comhrá fócasach cineál tosaithe agus ansin réamhrá ar chúpla téarma a bhaineann leis an tírdhreach, an gheolaíocht agus na logainmneacha. Ansin tabharfaidh Stiofán breac-chuntas ar phríomhghnéithe den phlean teanga agus luafaidh Sheena an plean leanúnach chun Baile an Róba a dhéanamh ina bhaile de chuid na Seirbhíse Gaeltachta. Críochnóidh an cheardlann le C&F beo.