Cycles of Nature Program at the Burren Nature Sanctuary

Transition Year Students get hands on with nature at the Burren Nature Sanctuary, Kinvara

Siobhán Sloane

TY students crafting as part of the Cycles of Nature Programme at the Burren Nature Sanctuary
Seamount students try their hand at pig steering

Transition Year students from Seamount College in Kinvara have been abandoning their mobile phones and social media in favour of experiencing what life was like for our ancestors who lived in harmony with the landscape and seasonal changes.

The students recently completed a Cycles of Nature course at the Burren Nature Sanctuary in Kinvara, where they were involved in activities including pig steering, feeding goats, observing the seasonal changes in water levels and biodiversity and gathering wild plants to make tasty salads.

Cycles of Nature is a pilot course funded by Galway County Council under the Agenda 21 Environment Partnership Fund.  The course was carried out over four days from November to May allowing participants the opportunity to study the seasonal changes of nature in the Burren karst landscape.  The aim of Cycles of Nature is to foster a greater understanding and connection to nature how the seasonal changes influenced people living in this area in the past.

Over the four months students covered the same one-mile route walking through calcareous grassland, ancient hazel and ash woodland, limestone pavement and seasonally flooded turlough noting seasonal changes and learning about karst landscape and hydrology.  Students observed the different habitats and monitored how the environment and associated biodiversity changed with the seasons.  Photographs were taken at the same points each visit with compass readings and a grid square of plant growth in the meadow.

By all accounts the Cycles of Nature was a success with students:

“The cycles of nature trips were definitely one of my favourite parts of TY.  It really made me think about and appreciate the landscapes and habitats around me.  Instead of just seeing a bumpy field, now I think about the glaciers that shaped that earth and how the slope on the limestone affects it.  It was a really great experience and the information we learnt, crafts we tried and animals we met will always be some of the best memories from TY.”

Anna Sheehan, Transition Year Student Seamount College.


The students participated in activities including pig steering, putting traditional willow baskets on a working donkey and leading a goat.  They gathered fallen leaves to use as decoration for pottery.  In February they made traditional Brigid’s crosses out of willow and wool.  In April they collected edible plants to make wild garlic pesto, dandelion salad and natural hand cream.

Mary Bermingham of the Burren Nature Sanctuary said “It was an honor to meet these friendly, gifted, skilled and creative people.  The students were a lovely group and we really enjoyed hosting this course.  It was heart warming to see how everyone happily engaged in the activities, with a little help from the animals to break the ice.  It was also important to encourage the students to spend time outside together without any WIFI”.

This page was added on 13/03/2017.

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