The Belfast Hills are a set of summits running in an escarpment to the west and north of the Belfast metropolitan area. These low hills of limestone and basalt in effect restrict the urban area to the lowlands of the Lagan valley, therefore a series of housing and industrial estates line the urban fringe, along with schools, sports grounds and waste management sites.
In the recent past the Belfast Hills has suffered an unfortunate mix of urban fringe, community conflict & deprivation plus upland issues. All urban fringes suffer from conflicts such as unmanaged access from urban areas into farmland, fly-tipping and other antisocial behaviour, but it has also had to face illegal waste sites, upland wildfires and personal safety issues – real and perceived.
Through a series of heritage projects supported by funders such as Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Environment Agency the Belfast Hills Partnership, an independent charity which seeks to improve how the hills are managed, has worked in partnership to address the above via new paths, site interpretation, archaeological surveys and biodiversity improvements. This concentrated in re-connecting local people to the heritage of the hills through events and volunteering.
Through years of this work, local people are now much more aware, proud and involved in “our Belfast Hills” and their heritage. This has led to increased numbers using the hills for recreation and an appetite for more involvement through volunteering and other people and community groups coming on board with further ideas and on occasion funding for heritage projects. The work is summarised on a dedicated website: www.belfasthills.org