Mike Jones, Castlerock Community Association (Chairman)
Resident for 36 years in the same house in Castlerock, looking out onto the Atlantic, I am proud to be Chair of Binevenagh AONB, which provides the immensely rich hinterland to match the majestic shoreline. I also chair Castlerock Community Association, currently making great strides in terms of village renewal and refurbishment, with its spanking new Information and Tourist Centre, in a prime location at the hub of our AONB gateway village. Archaeology and local history are abiding passions, Bishop Hervey and his wonderful Downhill Castle my favourites. The Mussenden Temple bathed in a fiery sunset is every bit as evocative for me as the Temple of Sounion on its stunning Greek headland. A secret ambition is to sit up on the box of the Bishop’s coach one day, rattling down the Bishop’s Road, in sight of Downhill Demesne and blowing the horn, so that the cooks would know to put the ‘taties on for dinner.
A partly-restored Castle should have its tasteful tearoom and shop, to tempt visitors to loiter and linger, remembering that Europe’s finest once flocked here to admire an amazing collection of some of the finest paintings and statues to be seen anywhere in Europe, and majestic, verdant Binevenagh looked on then just as it does now.
Cllr Sam Cole, Coleraine Borough Council
Sam is a member of the RSPB and has had a lifelong passion for conservation and wildlife especially in the Causeway Coast and Glens Area. Elected to Coleraine Borough Council in 2005 and re-elected in 2011 Sam has previously served for many years on the Lower Bann Advisory Committee and Sperrin Tourism Ltd. He is also a member of the Binevenagh AONB Committee and several Community Associations. He sits on the Boards of LibrariesNI and NEELB and currently chairs the CBC Leisure and Environment Committee. Sam is a keen angler and flytier and fishes for salmon and trout on the Agivey River within casting distance of his country home at Ballyagan, Garvagh. When the summer rains start falling and the salmon are running Sam develops what is widely known as salmon fever. This may explain apologies being forwarded to some committee meetings on wet summer days! He is married to Ann and has two daughters Sandra who lives in Edinburgh and Cheryl currently at Newcastle University. Sam has therefore a base in England and Scotland where he visits regularly during holiday periods including spending some weekends in the lovely Isle of Skye. He is a keen wildlife gardener and has turned his small holding into a bird, bee and butterfly sanctuary. Sam would love to see the CC and Glens Area becoming a Mecca for tourism and given a National Park status to manage preserve and market the landscape and seascape to its full potential. “Tourists will flock to the area in greater numbers to take part in sporting activities and to experience the welcoming warmth of the local people, the breath-taking scenery and the wealth of flora and fauna that flourish in the area”.
Mark Strong, Coleraine Borough Council
Mark has worked within Coleraine Borough Council’s Leisure Services Department in a full-time capacity for the past 7 years, as a Countryside Development Officer. Prior to that, for the previous 6 years, he held a joint post between Ballymoney and Coleraine Borough Councils as Countryside Access Officer. His main job remit has involved developing and promoting opportunities for access to the countryside and countryside recreation activities. Additionally he has had responsibility for implementing access legislation, namely the Access to the Countryside (NI) Order 1983. Latterly he has had responsibility for beach management issues on the 6 north coast beaches managed by Coleraine Borough Council namely, Downhill, Castlerock, West and East Strands, Portrush, Whiterocks and Portballintrae. He currently represents Council on the Binevenagh AONB Management Forum. Away from work, whenever possible, he likes to spend time with his wife Julie, and two sons Adam and Daniel, out exploring the north coast. Two of their favourite locations are Dunseverick Harbour and Murlough Bay. In his spare time Mark also enjoys helping out with church youth work and keeping active through cycling, football and occasional hill walks.
Kathleen McBride, NITB
Since joining the NITB in 2004, I have been Causeway Coast & Glens Manager. My role is to co-ordinate the Causeway Coast & Glens Tourism Masterplan and encourage product development throughout the region. Enhancing the Causeway Coastal Route as a tourism destination is still a priority. As NITB funds the CCGHT, I attend the board meetings.
Although I live in Toomebridge now, I come from Nappan, a small townland north of Carnlough, which overlooks the sea and coastline but is sheltered by a steep wooded mountain behind. My summer holidays were spent helping on the farm and playing on the beach. My favourite place is Ringfad which is a small, quiet beach with silky grey sand. I still enjoy days there with my family.
My vision for the region is to be a vibrant, rural area where visitors can enjoy the landscape and traditions.
Brian Connolly, NITB
I work in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and act as an adviser within the AONB steering groups. I recognise the importance of protecting our landscapes whilst encouraging our visitor experience to be sustainable. I am passionate about the Glens of Antrim, having grown up there and hence have an affinity to the Causeway Coast and Glen’s unique landscapes, coastlines and cultural heritage.
My keen interests are history, cultural heritage, hill walking, running and hurling in between spending as much time as I can outdoors with my family. My number one hidden gem is Glenariffe forest park providing an expansive playground(for the kids) equipped with walking trails amidst the stunning waterfalls. A place apart where one can engage with the natural environment. Binevenagh Mountain is another landscape jewel of which I had the unique pleasure of exploring and soaring from a glider plane.
Going forward , the future management and protection of our AONBs is fundamental to allow our visitors to continue to engage sustainably with the environs and for the rural and coastal communities to thrive.