A new video, ‘Belcoo Voices’ has been released to discuss the biodiversity of the Belcoo area and its rich angling potential.

Released as part of the CatchmentCARE project, members of the Belcoo Men’s Shed and other locals who reflect on the impact changes in farming practices have had on local wildlife in the video.

Those interviewed speak of their memories of the area while growing up, from hunting rabbits to fishing and the changes in farming.

Martin Higgins, a local farmer, talks of how his ancestors lived on an island on Lough MacNean as far back as the 1800s.

He explains how today the island is used for grazing cattle, which are ferried across on a cot, but before this, they had to swim the cattle back and forth to the island.

Michael McLoughlan grew up in Blacklion and he recalled how they would hunt rabbits as youngsters before selling them.

“They would be a shilling and two and six, that’s old money,” he explained. “We had dogs, you know, and with the dogs we’d be out through land, bushy land ... and the dog would scent a rabbit and would take off and it went down a ditch.”

Kieran McCann spoke about how they used to cover burrows with nets before flushing out the rabbits.

Michael spoke of how myxomatosis, a severe disease that affects rabbits, came along and killed many of the rabbits.

“It’s a big change to see them all missing off the ground,” said Michael.

“See, long ago, the people with four or five cows, they could manage with a pony or a small tractor but now if you are going to make money off the farm you need the big machinery, and you need a lot of land, and you need the grass growing,” said Pat McGowan, who used to work for the forestry service.

“It’s all machine work now, but at that time it was all manual labour, and that was it.”

Aidan Ferguson believes agriculture has changed in the last 30 years with the use of machinery.

Pat felt the biggest problem with farming is slurry, which he says is causing a lot of pollution with slurry.

David Fawcett is no lover of slurry, which he feels leaves a field “tender”, while Aidan says slurry regulations are “mad”.

Paddy Corrigan spoke of his memories of fishing locally and how it used to be all worm fishing.

As a man who fishes for trout a lot, Paddy said they are not caught as easily as they used to be.

“The Arney River – when I fished it, when I was young, it was full of fish. You couldn’t go wrong.

“There would be a lot of coarse fish in it yet, but the trout have definitely deteriorated.”

He feels one reason for this is the lack of insects in the area, which were in abundance in the past.

The men spoke of the wildlife on Lough MacNean such as the kingfisher, curlew, snipe and swans, but the loss of habitat has seen a decline in some.

“I’m just worried for the loss of habitat in the area; nesting cover for birds especially, said Aidan Ferguson.

“The corncrake’s gone from around this area,” said Paddy. “The cuckoo is getting scarce, and I don’t think there’s as many swallows as there was.”

CatchmentCARE (Community Actions for Resilient Eco-systems) is an EU-funded project which aims to improve freshwater quality in cross-Border river basins across three cross-Border catchments through the development of three water quality improvement projects in the Finn, Blackwater and Arney catchments.

It also supports the installation of 50 groundwater monitoring stations across the region to better understand groundwater in the cross-Border catchments, and the interaction between groundwater and surface water bodies.