Welcome to the Burren Winterage Weekend, a celebration of the Burren's farming tradition of Winterage, now officially recognised as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ireland
2020 21st - 25th October
Winterage Weekend Programme coming soon
What is the Winterage ?
For thousands of years, Burren farmers have marked the end of summer by herding their cattle onto ‘winterage’ pastures in the limestone uplands where they spend the winter grazing. This ancient ‘transhumance’ tradition is synonymous with the Burren and is key to the survival of the region’s famous flora and fauna.
The term ‘transhumance’ is used to describe the seasonal movement of livestock and people between summer and winter pastures. In most cases where it is practiced – such as in the Alps - it refers to the herding of livestock to summer pastures, but in the Burren the reverse is the case. It is thought that Burren farmers initially adopted this practice in response to the shortage of water in summertime, only to find that the warmth of the limestone and the ample grazing on the rocky winter pastures made the Burren an ideal, low-cost ‘outwintering’ environment for their stock.
Winter grazing by cattle, at a time when most flowers are dormant, enables the Burren’s renowned complement of flowers and insects to flourish unhindered in summer. Winter grazing is also critically important to the conservation of the extraordinary array of monuments built by farmers in the past, as it slows down the encroachment of damaging scrub. As Dr. Brendan Dunford, Programme Manager with the Burren Programme explains “The practice of Winterage is not only unique and intriguing, it's a big part of the reason why we have so many monuments, flowers and stories here in the Burren today. Witnessing the cattle browsing on the herb-rich Winterage pastures, drinking from the calcium-rich springs or enjoying the 'dry-lie' of the limestone captures the very essence of this 'fertile rock'."
What is the Winterage Weekend?
The Winterage Weekend takes place on the October Bank Holiday weekend each year, offering a chance for us all to come together and celebrate the unique farming traditions of the Burren and other ‘high nature value’ farming landscapes across Ireland and Europe. This festival also becomes a platform for sharing ideas on how these special places and their custodians might best be supported at a time of great challenge.
What is Burren Winterage School?
Burren Winterage School on Sustainable Farming brings together farmers, researchers, farm advisors and government representatives to share perspectives and ideas on sustainable pastoral land management. This year, the Burren Winterage School goes virtual, with speakers from far and wide contributing to a series of on-line presentations and discussions on themes relating to farming for nature and how farming can make a more positive contribution to addressing our global biodiversity crisis.