Burren Winterage Weekend will offer a welcome Brexit respite

Burren Winterage Weekend will offer a welcome Brexit respite

Let’s have a bit of craic, for the season that’s in it, and forget again for a restful while about all the pressures being imposed on all of us by this chaotic Brexit business, and the likely consequences.

I’m well aware that the farmers amongst you are especially concerned just now about the impact on your industry of whatever develops, during a week when prices for even the best meats are falling as fast as the English sterling is falling on the world’s currency markets.

And Boris Johnson is greeted by a chorus of boos and catcalls, on his first official visit since his appointment to Number Ten, Downing Street, to our Celtic cousins in an angry and rebellious Scotland, with more of the same to follow in Wales.

We are surely in the lazy hazy crazy days of summer.

Anyway, by way of diversion, can I inform the farmers amongst you busy but loyal readers, that there will once again be an amazing sight, to be observed with awe, in the beautiful Burren region of North Clare, later this year, at about the same time as you are bringing your stock indoors to protect them from the storms of late autumn and winter.

This amazing sight has always happened on the limestone mountains of The Burren for thousands of years, and it is unique.

Depending on the weather conditions, but some day long after Brexit is dealt with, somehow, around the beginning of October, and before November arrives along the Wild Atlantic Way, you will be able to see hundreds of hardy Burren farmers and their friends opening the gates of their lowland pastures and driving their cows up into the mountains, rather than into the sheds at home.

I can guarantee that this will happen, no matter what occurs elsewhere.

The farmers amongst the visitors observing the unique drive will notice immediately that the cattle involved, mainly suckler cows, are so keen to get up into the mountains that, according to one of my reliable sources up there, “they would nearly open the gates themselves!”

They kick up their hooves with delight and excitement and head off to the mountains above, at once.

They are, you see, following in the mythical tracks of all their generations through the centuries towards a unique winterage paradise where the grasses, like the rare flowers, herbs and other plants, never stop growing, the whole winter through, no matter how harsh the weather becomes.

The amazing truth again, here.

There’s more to follow.

Because of their genetics, those sprightly Burren cows, will not alone thrive in the uplands where rich winterage grasses sprout up between the cracks in the limestone landscape, but in their foraging, they will become maybe the fittest and hardiest cows in Ireland.

They are as nimble as goats, and will not develop foot problems, as they graze, and they will have infinitely less calving problems, when they are at last allowed to come home to the lowlands, usually in time to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day!

Ad interim, their wise owners will occasionally provide them with supplements to keep them in the prime of good health, and will ensure that there are water supplies available in the high, airy Burren landscape which is fabled for not having enough water to drown a man.

And there is more.

The fact that the winterage grazing is continuing today, as it always has, up on the caps of The Burren, also ensures the survival of the beautifully blazing rare wild flowers, and other rare species which annually draw hundreds of thousands of international and national visitors to the region.

I’m delighted that the Burren and its unique winterage practices have now been certified as being a special bio-diversity sanctuary, by the international powers that decide these matters.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provides €1m annually to Burren Life farmers, and I’m sure other benefits for the hardy local farming communities will develop, no matter what kind of Brexit eventually emerges from the chaos.

I will keep ye posted on the details of when that amazing cattle drive up into the Burren’s mountains is due to take place in the autumn.

They have a festival of celebration around the event, and nobody knows how to enjoy themselves better than the North Clare farmers.

Except perhaps their suckler cows, that are quite likely to open their own gates, come October, and spurt off up to the limestone peaks!

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