Sean Moylan, a suckler farmer in Castletaylor, Ardrahan, Co. Galway, discusses an old farm building he restored.
The DAFM encourages farmers participating in GLAS (Green Low Carbon Agri Environment Scheme) to repair or restore any traditional farm buildings on their farm. Farmers must use the buildings for farming purposes.
The Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine funds the Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme, and the Heritage Council administers it. All applicants must participate in GLAS.
Farm building restored
In my farmyard, there is an old stone barn with a natural slate roof and a lean-to cow byre attached.
The building appears, in the maps from 1840, so it has been around a while. It would have been a pity not to carry out some essential repairs, so I applied for the scheme.
I had to replace some rafters that had rotted away, along with some barges and slates.
Other work included refixing lime parging to the underside of the slates.
The traditional way of waterproofing slate roofs was to apply a lime mortar to the underside of the slate. This allows the slate to breathe and prevents moisture access.
Also, some of the outer parts of the building required repointing with lime plaster.
The roof structure of the lean-to also needed work; water was seeping through to the internal walls.
The scheme aims to repair the old buildings with similar materials used in the original construction and carry out the work with minimal intervention.
It was also necessary to carry out a bird and bat survey before any work could commence.
Lesser horseshoe bats
We employed environmental consultants to do this and were delighted to find out that our barn was the home to a breeding group of lesser horseshoe bats.
The lesser horseshoe bat is struggling to find suitable breeding locations, and it appears our barn was an ideal location.
The survey estimated up to 40 breeding females were in residence.
The lesser horseshoe bat is limited to just six counties in Ireland: Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway & Mayo.
The lesser horseshoe bat is unique in that it is the only bat in Ireland that hangs upside down with its wings wrapped around itself.
The typical roost for the lesser horseshoe is an old barn-like ours or old houses. They like to be in an area with broadleaved trees and mixed woodland, which we also have in the Castletaylor area of Ardrahan.
According to Bat Conservation Ireland, the Irish population of this species is estimated at 14,000 individuals.
It is of international importance because it has declined dramatically and become extinct in many other parts of Europe.
By showing this work on old farm buildings, I hope this will encourage other farmers with similar buildings to carry out repairs and maintain these as part of Ireland’s rural landscape.