Belfast Hills

Amount Given:

£150,000 over three years (grant made in 2016)


Connecting people with nature and environment issues


Laura Bowman,

Grants Manager, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


On the urban fringe sites of Belfast Hills there are brownfields, abandoned quarries and river corridors, these all offer tremendous opportunities both for community involvement and nature conservation. Belfast Hills Partnership’s approach enables more local people to get involved and develop the green spaces and wildlife corridors on their doorstep will offer environmental skills and expertise to take forward community’s ideas in partnership with local community groups.  The environmental improvements will be visual and therefore can be seen and enjoyed by all in the surrounding areas.  The project stood out due to its urban location, and as a way of encouraging those that may be disconnected from nature to become more engaged. 

Jim Bradley,

Partnership Manager, Belfast Hills



Belfast Hills

Belfast has many green spaces and small areas of great wildlife value and potential dotted around local communities and housing estates. This is particularly true for urban fringe areas where residential districts are hemmed in by the steep slopes of the Belfast Hills along the west and north of the city. The rivers and streams coming off these slopes often flow into the city along narrow wooded valleys between housing estates. Sometimes these have become interfaces or ‘no go’ areas between different Belfast communities, creating extra challenges in getting people to work together to improve their local environment. Often these important sites have been forgotten about, only used for fly-tipping, antisocial behaviour or lost to development. Local communities want to address these issues but need support to do so.

We are hoping to offer support, advice and a channel to build partnerships across communities and sites. Our officer will work with our local communities to plan what improvements they want on site, build up capacity amongst communities and add a broader perspective of wildlife and community projects that span across several sites on different areas, whether that’s putting in wildlife ponds, community orchards or restoring hedgerows. The potential to encourage local communities to share knowledge, resources and inspiration is huge if the right skills and resources are put to good use. We have already seen how much community volunteers get out of simply visiting similar sites and finding out how people solve the same problems they face – or at least support each other to seeking solutions.

Local community worker,



One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to is simply having someone on my side who understands what I want for our site and knows how to get there. As a community worker facing problems with local green spaces it’s very easy to feel that you’re on your own, a lone voice in the wilderness. The problems are in your face every day while the solutions are seemingly impossible to come up with.

Just being brought to a site you haven’t been to before and talking to people in the same boat as you really opens up your eyes to what’s possible. Whether it’s how they manage fishing ponds or how they went about putting in a community orchard – and more importantly who’s out there who can help – it all adds not just to capacity but inspiration and motivation to turning around a site from a community problem to a community asset to be proud of.

When you’re trying to explain what you want to do with a site to your fellow staff, managers or potential funders, you can’t beat bringing them to sites where local people have managed to do just what you want to do. It’s when they can see it with their own eyes and hear the local community’s journey to where they’ve managed to get to, that’s when the penny drops and they begin to see the potential you can see. Equally, there’s no better way to bring home to local people just what they’ve managed to achieve with a site when you’re showing people from outside around your new site and the visitors are knocked out at what you’ve managed to do, particularly if they know the site and its problems from before.