4th January 2023

Local Volunteers Help to Conserve Native Coastal Plants

On Friday 28th Feb 2020, local students studying for an NVQ in Horticulture with the charity Action Mental Health New Horizons Downpatrick joined Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) and True Harvest Seeds (THS) for a morning of seed planting with a difference! For these were no ordinary seeds, these were the seeds of endangered coastal plants found in only a few special places around our coast. Plants that are at risk of disappearing from our shores if we do not act to protect them!

Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership and True Harvest Seeds have developed a project to raise awareness of, and conserve coastal plant species, such as Sea Kale Crambe maritima and Oyster Plant Mertensia maritima. The “Coast Care – Protect Our Seashore” project, funded by a small grant from Live Here Love Here and through the NIEA Environment Fund, seeks to protect the important habitats and associated plant species of the coastline of the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Debbie Gillies, Chief Executive of True Harvest Seeds said, “At True Harvest Seeds we specialise in collecting seeds from native origin plants growing in the wild. We preserve the collections in the Seed Bank at our premises in Kilclief, County Down. The seed is then available for the restoration of plants back into the wild. We are delighted to be working with Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership and local communities on this important project to conserve some of our threatended coastal plant species.”

Last Autumn, with all the relevant permissions from NIEA and landowners, seeds were collected from the target plant species, at locations around the coast of the AONB. These seeds have been in storage over winter and it is now time to plant the seeds and let them grow. The project then hopes to be able to plant the young seedlings out into natural habitats to boost at risk local populations of Sea Kale and Oyster plant.

Councillor Charlie Casey, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said “Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership is working to conserve and protect our magnificent natural heritage. Many of the projects the staff are working on rely on the support of landowners, communities and volunteers. I am delighted that, in this case, we have been able to link this project with the NVQ course the volunteers from New Horizons Downpatrick are working towards. Opportunities such as this allow local people to benefit in so many ways, not least by developing a deeper understanding and connection to the special species and habitats that make up the Strangford and Lecale AONB.”

Horticulture Skills Coach, Keith Gadd from New Horizons Downpatrick said, “Our clients really enjoyed the visit to True Harvest Seeds, they particularly enjoyed experiencing how seed sowing was carried out in a specialised environment. There was a real sense of satisfaction for them, knowing that they were contributing to the revival of endangered native species of coastal plants, and they are now looking forward to putting their new seed sowing skills into practice this spring at the New Horizons garden centre in Downpatrick.”


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