With a small LEADER grant – and some of their own hard-raised funds – a voluntary group brought hedgerow and biodiversity experts from near and far to meet and address locals about nature’s true value.


• Follow Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society online.

You can get a LEADER grant for hedge funds now. We’ve all heard of hedge funds, though most of us don’t know what they are. However, they’re ahead of us in Ballyboughal, Fingal, Co. Dublin, certainly in terms of treasuring nature and wildlife.

With a small LEADER grant – and some of their own hard-raised funds – a voluntary group brought hedgerow and biodiversity experts from near and far to meet and address locals about nature’s true value.

This is true hedge fund investment. The series of nine workshops in Ballyboughal were held prior to the pandemic which many, including the W.H.O.’s Mike Ryan, blame on mankind’s dismissal of and encroachment on nature. It shows this group of volunteers were genuinely ahead of most of us. Recognising the need for more education, they applied for a small grant and were successful.


Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society began the application process for LEADER funding in March 2016 and

were successful in August 2017 – just short of 18 months. The funds sought were to help run environmental workshops. While LEADER takes time, it can be transformative. Until then, such events were organised on a voluntary basis. The new approach brought biodiversity consultants and lecturers into the area for the first time. “There is a biodiversity wave happening. We were there at the beginning and now it is gathering momentum,” says Ann Lynch, founder member and secretary of Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society.


The workshops enhanced the active learning experience for participants. These were workshops on the move, involving learning by doing. How many of us for example have ever been on a mycology walk, or know how to forage for herbs? Ann believes the workshops, held over a 14-month period, also enhanced the area’s reputation. More people have now heard of Ballyboughal and hold it in high regard when it comes to biodiversity.


It’s over 20 years since residents including Ann first grew alarmed. When hedgerows in the area began to disappear as farming intensified, it was seen as a call to action and led, in 1999, to the setting up of Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society. Its aim: “to promote hedgerows and their biodiversity and cultural value”.

Since then, they have been busy bees – and yes they have also helped bees. Each year, through nature walks, training and workshops, the group has educated many hundreds of people on the history and botanical make-up of hedgerows. “If we don’t value the local environment ourselves, how can we expect planners to value it?” says Ann. They conduct intergenerational nature walks for children aged 8 to 14, families and older active retired people. The group also teaches ‘hedgelaying’ to farmers and anyone interested in learning this skill.

• We have this! Painting bee boxes in Ballyboughal, Fingal, Co. Dublin. Workshops don’t need to be held indoors. This photo come from one in a series of nine workshops held in Ballyboughal supported by LEADER.


To prepare for applying for LEADER funding, the Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society checked in with local networks and contacts, including a biodiversity expert, the GAA club, Foróige, mothers’ groups, men’s sheds, community councils, lecturers, and contacts within organisations such as the Heritage Council and Wildlife Trust. This helped the Society to generate ideas for workshops. It helped them to identify people best suited to facilitating workshops and to get an idea of costs.


This was the Society’s first time applying for LEADER funding and they gladly availed of support from Fingal LEADER Partnership, whose staff helped in particular with the necessary paperwork to support the application. The workshops led to locals painting bee boxes, sampling local fruit and vegetables, and learning about various types of animals, falconry, birds and trees. The workshops attracted higher levels of interest and excitement than before and stronger attendances at events.


They have continued into 2021 with a second round of LEADER funding provided, again with support from Fingal LEADER Partnership.

As well as locally held workshops, this summer beginner beekeepers of all ages from around Ballyboughal travelled to Galtee Honey Farm in Tipperary.

“We dressed up in our suits and held frames with hundreds of worker bees and some developing Queens in our hands, a bit nerve wracking but amazing. We used a smoker to calm the bees which was fun. We saw bees coming back from collecting nectar and secreting honey. Later we cut honey off the frames and tasted ivy honey, clover honey, lime tree honey and sycamore honey,” the group reported.

Overall, the many events have raised the village’s profile and, being a local group, Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society makes a conscious effort to support local pubs or cafés after each workshop, giving participants an opportunity to discuss the events of the day. It has all helped to create a greater sense of camaraderie in the community, says Ann.

TOTAL BUDGET of €3,898

The LEADER funding granted to Ballyboughal totalled €2,923, broken down as follows:
€1,836 EAFRD (EU) contribution;
Plus €1,087 (the national contribution).
Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society contributed a further €975 to the project, bringing the total project budget to €3,898.
The LEADER grant was approved under: Theme 3 – Rural Environment; Sub-Theme – Local Biodiversity.


From their experience, Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society recommends involving as many stakeholders in the community as possible in the decision-making process, discussing what the project should entail, what the funding is most needed for, and what should be included in the LEADER application.


The LEADER application process can be arduous. It required a lot of time and effort by volunteers in Ballyboughal Hedgerow Society.
The important thing, they say, is to work through it and try to stay positive. This is a motto that the society applies to the protection and improvement of biodiversity in general. The focus is always on what has been achieved and what more can be done in the future.


This is part of a series on LEADER. Thanks to staff in the LEADER Policy and Operations Unit at the Dept. of Rural and Community Development, to Daniel Bennett and staff in the National Rural Network and to Dr. Maura Farrell, NUIG, for their co-operation.

To find out how the funding process works in practice and to get an overview of the main stages and requirements when making an application, contact the National Rural Network:


Rural-based local development companies (LDCs)  provide support and advice countrywide and every LDC in the country is listed here:


For more examples of LEADER’s diversity in what it will fund and news generally on the programme, keep scrolling:

North Kerry village forges ahead with unique attraction

Music to everyone’s ears – LEADER funds 60 violins in Louth

Meath River Rescue is speedier and safer with new LEADER-funded equipment

€70m in LEADER funds for 2021-’22 – announced today

LEADER milestone: 1,000th project proposal approved for funding