Northern Ireland news

South Armagh's An Tobar wellness facility named NI Project of the Year by National Lottery

Father Ted star Ardal O'Hanlon with young visitors Isabella and Lucia Smyth, and violinist Bernie Muckian, at An Tobar social farm and community wellness centre in south Armagh. Picture by Bill Smyth
Staff Reporter

A SOUTH Armagh farming facility aimed at improving mental health by reconnecting visitors to nature has been named Northern Ireland Project of the Year by the National Lottery.

An Tobar in Silverbridge, opened in 2018 and received a lottery grant last year of £61,900 for the 40-acre site woodland area, owned by sisters Margaret Finnegan and Kathleen Finnegan-Agnew.

The site has been in their mother's family for at least 300 years, and the funding has helped create an interactive information trail and facilitate tree planting at the land's forest area, known as Brian's Wood, for visitors including primary school children.

The award followed a public vote in September, and was presented by comedian and actor Ardal O'Hanlon, who said: "It's a fantastic facility in a special setting which uses nature to help improve mental health and well-being. I found the woodland poetry trails particularly inspiring, tapping into history and heritage to promote hope and healing."

Margaret Finnegan said: "Our National Lottery funded project hosted 60 nature-based and cultural heritage workshops, increased access to our woods and created a new website and interactive learning materials to promote the wood's heritage to an even wider audience."

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