At the end of last month, the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership (LELP) hosted ‘The Big BIG Fermanagh Litterpick’, which saw community-minded people from all across Fermanagh play their part to help clean up the county’s land and the waters.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and supported by Live Here Love Here and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, LELP was able to provide those who signed up with free litter-picking equipment which they were encouraged to keep as part of the legacy of LELP, in the hopes that members of the community would continue to collaborate with each other and look after the cleanliness of Fermanagh.

Around 500 people, community groups and businesses signed up to dedicate a part of their work week and weekend to tidy up the county, with 50 separate litter picks taking place over the course of the two days.

From the top of Cuilcagh Mountain, to the vast lengths of Lough Erne, members of the community rallied together to help clean up Fermanagh.

Among those taking part were ERGS’ Year 10 rugby teams, who collected litter during their KS3 Games Programme; Cancer Connect NI Devenish Dragons, who collected litter around their new boathouse; members of the Boatyard Distillery team, collecting litter at Ely Lodge; people who collected litter in Cooneen; Blue Green Yonder volunteers who collected litter at the Erne; and community members who collected many bags of litter in Lisbellaw, to name but a few.

This event was documented by the LELP team to create an educational video about conserving the environment, which will be featured on the LELP Education Portal, ‘Education Without Walls’, due to launch in early June.

LELP is very thankful for everyone who turned out in towns and villages, and in remote rural areas, to help clean up, with the hopes that the wider community and Fermanagh’s rich natural landscapes will be cherished by all.

Members of Kesh and District Angling Association also undertook a water-borne spring clean of the Kesh River and surrounding shores of Kesh Bay as part of the initiative.

Members noted an encouraging decline in carrier bags and agricultural items being dumped, yet still highlighted the significant amount of litter that’s often highly-visible, yet often difficult to reach or entangled in bankside undergrowth.

The helpful angling members also highlighted the dangers of micro and nanoplastics in the ecosystem, as they helped the Kesh area with their community-minded litterpicking efforts.

Over in the heart of Enniskillen meanwhile, a team of canoeists from Erne Paddlers collected a huge volume of litter from the water and the banks of the Erne around the town on the Saturday.

Erne Paddlers members collected shopping trolleys, wheelie bins, traffic cones, umbrellas, and hundreds of plastic bottles and drinks cans, among other waste.

“Most of the rubbish was on full view to the public walking around the waters’ edge in Enniskillen town,” said Paul Harrington, General Manager of Erne Paddlers, “a town that rightly prides itself on its unique and beautiful location.

“A large amount of money is spent annually promoting the beauty of Enniskillen and the surrounding lakes to visitors, and yet we allow rubbish to accumulate in the water and on the banks like this.

“Most of this rubbish has been there for months.”

“It’s not just the unsightly nature of the litter,” said Paul Harrington. “It’s the toxins released into the water by all the various plastics. This is harmful to fish and to wildlife.

“While paddling there is no more distressing sight than seeing a duck picking its way through litter in the reeds.”

He continued: “There is no overall management authority for this unique body of water. Each public body has its own limited remit. Many issues, litter being only one, fall down between these bodies and the Erne Catchment suffers.

“Erne Paddlers are not alone in calling for a partnership to be set up between all the stakeholders in the Erne Catchment to coordinate approaches and to develop a joint strategy for the future of our beautiful Erne.”