TGHF 2023 Review

Hello everyone, well, 2023 was quite a year. The big news for us is that Tenth Glen Heritage Farms, this lump of clay that started the year as little more than an idea with some loosely defined features, is now a constituted association with a committee, deep rooted mission and values, well defined action plan for the next few years and a lot of big plans for 2024. 

So let me introduce you to our committee: Lorna Shannon (Secretary) is our craft and traditional skills champion. Lorna is co-founder of  CAOS, County Antrim Open Studios – well worth checking out. Chris Hughes (Treasurer) is an engineer, vehicle restorer, farmer and local historian. Catherine Slack, an art teacher, active environmentalist, and very talented environmental garden designer. Aileen Hildebrand who many of you will know from the ‘Once Upon A Time In Glenravel’ and ‘Glenravel DNA’ Facebook groups, also manages to be a technology teacher alongside fast become Glenravel’s resident genealogy expert (easier, I guess when you are actually related to most people in Glenravel!). And of course, Sabrina, our social care and youth work advocate and myself (chairperson), sustainable design engineer, carpenter, and farmer. 


Our new committee has picked up that lump of clay and with a lot of skill, experience and most importantly, passion are now molding it into a very exciting endeavor. Don’t be worried about having missed out, the door is always open, we are very aware we still need a lot of skills, expertise and person power so get in touch if you want to get more involved in any capacity. Our shared vision for TGHF is to restore heritage properties and inspire others to celebrate the old ways and reimagine a sustainable future. 

Tenth Glen Heritage Farms came into being through a Cultivating Community Farms program run by the Cooperative Foundation in association with Jubilee farm. That two-year program will be coming to an end on the 22nd March with the launch, at the Imagine Belfast Festival, of a pioneering report on the program and the opportunities in community farming in Northern Ireland so keep an eye out for that. 

2023 saw us run our first major event, the Traditional Skills Festival. Over a weekend in June, we opened up our pilot farm with workshops running in basket weaving, spinning, quilting and natural dyeing, demonstrations in homesteading, foraging, butter churning, flint knapping and bushcraft and a variety of craft and traditional skills displays and stalls spread along a relaxing trail around the farm. With glowing feedback from attendees and participants alike, we were very pleased with the weekend, even the weather held out with the sun shining right through until we finished clearing up – before the heavens opened with thunder lightening and hail stones! 

Our aim with the event was to provide a taste of a variety of traditional skills for beginners and provide a relaxed environment for novices to put themselves out there and start showing their work. We also wanted to put on an event that the pros would enjoy and want to come back to. With the likes of Clive Welig of Welig Heriatge Crafts, one of the country’s leading basket weavers and heritage crafts experts, Malu Colorin of Talu Natural Dyer & co-founder of Fibreshed Ireland, Paul Moore of Wild Walk Bushcraft a leading expert in ancient survival skills and Lorna Shannon CAOS co-founder and secretary of the Ulster Guild of Spinners and Weavers supporting our first event and keen to come back next year (or in Lorna’s case joining our team!) We are really pleased to be making this an annual summer event. We have the date set for this summer – TradSkillsFest24 on the 20th & 21st July 2024. 

Willow and Lore, our home farm has been Tenth Glen Heritage Farms’s pilot farm over the last year and we have been working together to get various operations and enterprises up and running on it including planting a willow coppice which we aim to build a social enterprise around, trialing out a number of regenerative farming methods including cutting out artificial fertiliser use, using willow leaves as a fodder supplement for lambs, managing soil health etc.

 Unfortunately, due to nationwide availability issues, we were not able to get flax planted this year, we did however get over to Mallon Linen in Tyrone to help with their flax harvest and learn more about the process of producing linen. We also attended an inspirational Fibre Networks event at the Ulster Museum as part of the Linen Biennale.

Through our Willow and Lore events we were also able to make some fantastic connections with the likes of Aisling Faser from Danu Wellness therapist and traditional healer, Eva Hourihan from Craft Event Catering, an absolute genius with local produce and many other event and service providers operating within the tourism industry. We have been establishing a strong foothold in the tourism industry which we expect to be a core funding stream for the project in the future.

Through the CCF program we received some mentoring support from the wonderful Portia Woods of Jubilee farm. Portia also works for the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, and she decided that CCGHT’s August team meeting should take place in a tin shed in a field in the middle of the country somewhere, luckily, we had just the place. We were very fortunate to get the opportunity to present the project to the Trust team and answer their questions. We were also very surprised when one of their team was able to show us a photo, he had taken almost from the exact spot we were standing, but 22 years ago which showed both Catherine and me taking part in an arts and heritage project he had ran and which was hosted in part on our farm. We are looking forward to some promising opportunities to work with CCGHT in the future. 

We have also had meetings with several people from various departments in Mid and East Antrim Council including the heritage, parks and open spaces, leisure and recreation, tree and woodland, tourism and economic teams. The project has been so well received by all; it has been genuinely motivating for our long-term vision.

We have a couple of events in the planning to link in with the Council’s Industrial Heritage week next June. One of which is something really special, it will be a historic occasion for Glenravel and is one we are very excited about. During the 6th to the 9th of June 2024, Ore will be taken from Glenravel mines, Iron age mud furnaces will be built and for the first time in over 100 years, iron will be produced in Glenravel, from Glenravel ore. What’s more this will all take place on the 200th anniversary of the founding of Newtowncrommelin village, by Nicholas Crommelin, the first to mine and smelt iron ore in the area.

Catherconnell Furnace Festival iron ore mining crew

Anyone following us over the summer may have seen that there was a team from Catherconnell Co. Clare who came up a visit and returned home with a few bags of Glenravel Iron ore. Well at their furnace festival at the end of August they were able to extract iron from our ore. Their team of experts (The Irish Iron Heritage Foundation) will be here in Glenravel helping us to run this first Glenravel Furnace Festival. 

The four days will be filled with workshops, demonstrations, tours, talks and events for all ages and interests. We are really excited about the opportunity this will be to truly recognise Glenravel’s Mining Heritage and the potential tourism opportunities this may bring to the area. That all said, this event will be a major undertaking for our new team, it will take a lot of resources to get it up and running in a sustainable way. We will need a lot of help, so we really do encourage anyone interested in getting involved at any level to get in touch. 

All that is left to say is a massive thank-you to all the connections and partnerships we have made throughout the year, each and every one has helped us step onwards and upwards. To everyone who has travelled out to us for a cup of coffee and to hear about the project, everyone who has come along to our events and anyone who has supported us online, that positive feedback is a life-line for us and the project. Last but not least thank-you to our friends and families who never know what random request is going to meet them each day but who always come through. Here’s to 2024!

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