Rams Island Heritage Project
The River Bann and Lough Neagh Association (RBLNA) can trace its roots back to 1962 in the River Bann Boat Club (RBBC); it came into existence officially in 1967 because of the threat of closure of the River Bann navigation between Toomebridge and Coleraine. A chance encounter between Desmond Downing and Lord O'Neill and the discussion about the closure prompted a public meeting in Coleraine Town Hall. After the public meeting and a call to action RBLNA was formed incorporating RBBC and all interested parties. A campaign committee was elected and under Lord O'Neill's guidance, it started to negotiate with the Government departments involved. The navigation stayed open, I think influenced by us. The fact that navigation is still possible is due to the efforts of many people, but without the work of the RBLNA it is quite likely that navigation would have ceased years ago. Now the Association has become a branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.
RBLNA's aims are to preserve and promote the amenities of the Bann and Lough Neagh, their tributaries and associated waterways. The Association held many boat rallies over the years, mainly on Lough Neagh but also on the Lower Bann. We have campaigned tirelessly for the good of the waterways have produced a pilot book for the entire navigable system. We have transformed Rams Island into a paradise for wildlife and visitors alike and are still working strenuously for the betterment of our waterways for all to enjoy.
The RBLNA could really be described best as being a pressure group. Being independent, we can exert influence where we feel it will do most good. We do this by talking, writing to Government Departments, MLA's, MPs or whichever Secretary of State is in office, and we usually achieve our objectives, even if it takes time. Our stated aims and objects are ''To preserve and promote the amenities of Lough Neagh and their tributaries.'' The word ‘amenities’ is important. Mervyn Henry suggested it and the planners use it a lot, as it can mean exactly what you want it to mean. Anything we think is good for the River Bann and Lough Neagh, whether development or conservation, we support.
There has been a substantial increase in the Government's interest in the whole of the Lough Neagh Basin. . As Waterways Ireland becomes more established and interest grows in the possibility of reopening the Ulster Canal, the RBLNA is keen to play its part in the exciting changes that are under way.
Thanks to the late Eric Seaton and Victor Hamill for their words of wisdom. Michael Savage.
Aims and Objectives
Aims To restore and care for the natural and built heritage of Rams Island.
To restore safe controlled access for all including disabled to Rams Island.
To educate all about the diverse natural and built heritage of Rams Island and the Lough Neagh Wetlands.
Objectives Renew south-eastern jetty to all weather spec.
Upgrade the Island paths to a clearly defined network to minimise wildlife disturbance.
Eradicate the predators which are decimating the wildlife.
Eradicate and replace the Sycamores with native species on the Island (long term).
Provide tree surgery to the mature trees that are in danger of falling over particularly along the top of the steep banks and cut back the trees which are damaging the round tower.
Remove the trees which are growing through the cottage.
Close access to the cottage.
Provide a central picnic/barbecue area near the jetty.
Provide managed access to the Island for general public via a scheduled ferry service.
Provide a warden service particularly during the current busy weekend periods.
Formulate and implement Biodiversity Action Plan for the Island.
To date 2021 we have achieved a lot of these aims and objectives but have still a long road to travel with our volunteers.