An Tobar social farm and wellness centre named National Lottery NI Project of Year

A community wellness center and social farm in South Armagh has been named National Lottery Northern Ireland’s Project of the Year 2022

n Tobar, a Silverbridge facility that aims to connect people with nature to improve their health, the award was presented by comedian and actor Ardal O’Hanlon.

It was founded in April 2018 by sisters Margaret Finnegan and Kathleen Finnegan-Agnew and is based on their farm, a 40-acre site that has been in their mother’s family for at least 300 years.

Funding from the National Lottery helps them enable visitors to enjoy their forest, learn new skills, and gain health benefits through outdoor activities and connecting with nature.

It also developed interactive trails to explore the area’s natural and cultural heritage and funded outdoor classrooms where over 450 elementary school children experienced Brian’s Wood.

A group of young people completed the John Muir Environmental Award while young adults with disabilities installed the signage and helped maintain the trails.

The Brian’s Wood Heritage Project improved access to the forest, where more than 13,500 native trees have been planted, and features include four poetry trails, displays of native wildlife and etching panels.

Ardal O’Hanlon said: “I was blown away by An Tobar. It is a fantastic facility in a special setting that uses nature to enhance mental health and well-being.

“I found the poetry trails in the forest particularly inspiring as they use history and heritage to promote hope and healing.

“It is clear that this visionary project has had a positive impact on the community and beyond, and it was an honor to present them with their National Lottery Award.”

Margaret Finnegan said: “We are delighted to receive this award and are honored to have received this recognition.

“Our National Lottery funded project hosted 60 nature-based and cultural heritage workshops, improved access to our forests and created a new website and interactive learning materials to bring forest heritage to an even wider audience.

“We would like to thank everyone who voted for us and the National Lottery players for making our work possible.”

dr Paul Mullan, Director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Northern Ireland, added: “At An Tobar they have ensured that their beautiful setting is not only preserved, but celebrated and accessible to all.”

This year’s campaign received over 1,300 nominations and An Tobar was the winner of Northern Ireland following a public vote in September. An Tobar social farm and wellness centre named National Lottery NI Project of Year

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