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Eco Regen Tourism

Eco Regenerative Tourism Policy

Greenan Maze: our family wish is to conserve and protect our little part of Wicklow!  We would like to create a space where visitors can appreciate the beauty of our natural environment and leave inspired to create solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis on an individual and local level.

Greenan Maze is a small family farm in the Wicklow hills which is open to the public from April to September each year.  There are two fun mazes, three traditional museums, nature walks, wildlife areas, woodlands, ponds and wetlands, farm animals, treasure hunts and fairy tree trail and coffee shop.  The farm is a fun place to visit for families and a great way to experience nature and the outdoors in a beautiful tranquil setting only an hour south of Dublin. 

The Museums are a cultural and heritage delight and encourage visitors to imagine how farming life depended on horse drawn machinery and hand-made materials before mechanisation and industrialisation became the norm.  

Nature education is gently encouraged through fun and play, not just for children but all ages.  The farm has a 25 acre wildlife area which was rewilded over 25 years ago.  Environmental conservation is a continuous concern on the land and many projects have been implemented to encourage biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

The farm is lucky to be situated in an area of unspoilt beauty which has never been farmed intensively and so is rich in nature and wild-life.  Jonathan Wheeler (RIP) and Will his son shared a love of trees and planted many varieties all over the farm.  They have created wild nature walks, ponds, reclaimed land, raised walkways and from a windswept tree-less hill side they have cultivated the farm carefully and tenderly, as sympathetic to the land as possible, developing the wonderful spaces which we all enjoy today.

As a consequence the farm is now densely wooded with varied habitats including a noticeable increase in wildlife such as numerous dragon flies, bird life, otters, deer, badgers, long eared owls, bats, butterflies, and an abundant insect life.

We do not use artificial fertilisers, maintain small field sizes, added new hedgerows for wind protection, planting of native wildflowers

Hand painted slate signs on the nature walk highlight some of the wildlife found on the farm educating younger generations and encouraging a connection to nature.  The fairy tree trail (map and fairy doors) hopefully teaches younger children to learn the top ten most common trees found in Ireland.  Nature information signs on site also help with childrens education.  Signs relating to the All Ireland Pollinator Plan also contribute to this.

 

  1. Environmental & sustainability practices

Energy

Our electricity is provided by Community Power (April 2021) which is the only community owned energy provider in Ireland.

We are achieving savings in electricity by the following:

  • Low energy bulbs in the museums and buildings
  • No heating is used in the farm museums
  • Electric heating in the coffee shop and toilet block….only needed during the winter to keep buildings dry….used minimally and efficiently (updated March 2021).
  • Hot water management – wash at minimum effective temperatures using Eco programs
  • Providing soft water to appliances
  • If possible only use appliances with AAA energy ratings
  • We only dry tea towels and clothes on clothes line, we have no dryer on site.
  • We create hot water with an electric heater in the coffee shop but only as needed on demand.
  • Keep artificial light to a minimum
  • We use as little energy as possible – we are mainly an outdoor venue and not open at night (hence little lighting requirements).

 

Maintenance and Buildings

  • We use large amounts of recycled and salvaged building materials and equipment thus saving all energy involved in manufacturing new materials
  • We also use natural and local building materials and products wherever possible for maintenance and building including timber from trees on the farm
  • We do most of the labour ourselves but use local staff when required, our staff come back to us year on year as we treat them with respect and friendship.

 

Waste disposal

We endeavour to minimize waste creation by:

  • Buying in bulk where possible and practical – so reducing packaging
  • Recycling paper/cardboard, plastic, glass, cans, tins, printer cartridges, batteries and anything else we can recycle at Avoca Recycling Centre and we have a recycling collection from Bord na Mona waste disposal every two weeks
  • We compost food waste and organic waste matter (compost bins on site).
  • We feed some of our animals with food waste once the meat products have been separated (pig food, hen food)
  • Sending correspondence and booking confirmation forms by email
  • Disposing of batteries and electric equipment at the Avoca recycling centre.
  • Disposing of low energy bulbs at Avoca Recycling Centre
  • In order to reduce plastic waste from water bottles we sell reusable water bottles at a discounted price….we are considering stopping selling plastic bottles of water on site…remains to be seen if this is satisfactory for our customers and visitors
  • We have a dedicated free water refill station at the Coffee shop
  • Anita Wheeler has attended ZERO WASTE educator courses and tries to implement the 7 R’s of Zero Waste Living. We freely admit this is not an easy mission when dealing with the public and our attempts can seem impossible at times particularly with the coffee shop.  We are also hoping to educate the public while we attempt to do it ourselves.

 

Water usage

Our water is sourced from a well on the farm and is treated for final delivery through ion exchange, particle filtration and UV sterilization. There are no disinfection by-products with the use of UV, which is safe, reliable and chemical free.

  • We are trying to implement new watering system for the animals in the paddocks from the water run-off from the UV filtration system which “washes out” each night….fed by gravity these water troughs will fill up as needed and therefore reuse the
  • We have installed water saving appliances such as push buttons in the sinks and dual flush buttons in the toilets to minimize water consumption
  • Due to the quality of the water less hygiene and disinfection products are needed and less water used

Use of Detergents and disinfectants

To reduce and minimize the use of detergents and disinfectants the following steps are taken:

  • Use environmentally friendly washing and cleaning products throughout the coffee shop and farm (we try to make our own with soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils when possible)
  • Provide environmentally friendly hand soap in all washrooms or home made natural soap made at the farm (home made by Anita Wheeler)
  • All our hygiene products are bought in bulk and containers are refilled where possible
  • All staff are encouraged to use environmentally friendly and biodegradable disinfectants, cleaning products and toiletries on site

Sewage/grey water effective treatment

All sewage and grey water is treated on site using Biocycle treatment…..

 Pollution from greenhouse gases, noise, light, runoff, erosion, ozone- depleting compounds, air and soil contaminants

Greenan Maze continues to strive towards a minimal environmental impact approach at this sensitive natural habitat site, on which it is located. We are lucky to be situated in a secluded rural environment away from noise and light pollution and air/soil contaminants. We endeavour to keep any contamination caused by our business to a minimum and ensure that our activities do not jeopardize provision of any basic services to neighbouring communities.
We strive to:

  • Engage in ecological countryside management techniques on the land
  • Monitor and eliminate contaminants on land including invasive plant species
  • Have our ‘Eco Tourism Policy’ displayed on our website (this policy will always be a work in progress as we constantly make changes and evolve the family and business).
  • Have a ‘Visitor Code of Practice’ in place…(this has yet to be finalised…)
  • Have a “Leave no Trace” policy on our website and displayed on the farm…

 Transport

Travelling to rural Co. Wicklow is never an easy issue to address especially travelling to our farm with a family as most of our visitors usually are one car load of 2 adults and 2 children.  Public transport in rural Wicklow is rare, slow and expensive for families.  Hence we realise that our visitors usually come by car.  However we try to….

  • Encourage our visitors to use public transport and we provide information to that effect on our website…but as we are a very rural location this can be tricky….public transport is minimal in Co. Wicklow and really needs to be improved.
  • We must update the website with the new bus routes which have opened up with Local Link in December 2022
  • Provide discounts for walkers, cyclists and those arriving by donkey (yes we have donkey walking tourists)
  • Encourage car sharing amongst visitors by offering discounts to large groups and bus tours

 2.Natural Area Focus

Visitor Impact

We have implemented a number of practices to minimize the impact of our visitors on the farm such as

  • Leave no Trace

To preserve the important flora and fauna of the site, we have adopted a policy to advise visitors to only use designated walkways.

We have also tried to keep all development on the site to an absolute minimum.

  • We have a 25 acre wildlife area, completely naturally rewilded for the last 25 years including boglands and woodland and in the majority is NOT accessible to the public or by us.
  • We are an ARK http://wearetheark.org/ We have signage in relation to the project of ACTS of RESTORATIVE KINDNESS which is all about rewilding

We are members of Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust, National Biodiversity Data Centre, All Ireland Pollinator Plan and Talamh Beo.

Farming

In the past best practices with regard to the land would have been either not been regulated or not known by farmers. There would have been no restrictions on stock density, feeding practices or proximity to lakes and rivers. Today, we are fully compliant with recommended practices such as

  • Keeping stock levels low, which the land can bear on a sustainable basis
  • No ploughing, harrowing or any other form of cultivation (unless deemed absolutely necessary).
  • No fertilisers, pesticides on the farm and minimal use of fungicides for paths and gravel areas only
  1. Interpretation and Education

We offer self-guiding maps for our visitors the opportunity to explore the farm. 

We offer free Wicklow Tourism Maps

We have a variety of field study guides available to visitors.

We also have information specific to the farm.

We are in the process of producing a reading list for visitors who want to know more about the ecology, history and culture of Wicklow.  We have some material on site to that effect.  We have old Permaculture Magazines for reading material at the coffee shop.

We always encourage visitors to visit the Wicklow Mountains National Park and the interpretation centre which offers great sources of information.

In our coffee shop we also offer visitors the option for our self guided nature packs to explore the area through personal interpretation and we are always open to questions that arise for visitors.

4.Contributing to Conservation

We are a member of ‘Irish Wildlife Trust’ and we actively encourage visitors to support them through schemes …….?

We are members of Birdwatch Ireland

We are members of Talamh Beo

We have been involved in local activities such as the Glenmalure Rural Energy Group.

We are continuously looking for opportunities in this area, we are aware the preservation of Wicklow’s nature is paramount.

We are committed to protecting the unique wildlife that already exists on site. We have installed bird and bat boxes on the site and a bug hotel (made using natural, wood and found material on the farm by a TY group from local schools).  Many of these are for educational purposes for visiting school groups.

5. Benefiting local communities

We support local employment and local businesses, such as recommending local restaurants, pubs and shops. The local community benefits from our farm in many ways as visitors are attracted to the uniqueness that we offer.

We especially encourage visitors to visit the shop & pub in our nearby areas of Greenan and Glenmalure and we also recommend Rathdrum as the nearest village.

Visitors are also provided with information on local Arts & Crafts such as pottery, glass work & painting, and where to purchase same. 

Works from crafts people are also available to purchase in our coffee shop

We also actively promote other local attractions by encouraging visitors to use them. We a map of features within the immediate locality including historical sites, wells, walks, etc. which are available to visitors. Wicklow Tourism Map. Wicklow archealogy guide, Wicklow Walking map from Wicklow Uplands.

 6. Visitor satisfaction

We have Visitor Evaluation (Comments Book) available for visitors to comment on their experience. We are registered on tripadvisor, Facebook and Google and visitors can report their experiences to other travellers.

We intend to create a review of eco practices included within our visitor feedback sheets.

7. Responsible marketing

We are committed to communicate in an honest and clear manner our ecotourism product. We are aware of green washing practices and bearing this in mind our marketing and communications plan entails the following:

Nearly all our marketing and promotions are internet based through

  • Our website
  • Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
  • Online sites such as familyfun.ie, fundays.ie, schooldays.ie
  • Numerous links, message boards and forum
  • If flyers/posters are used, we use recycled paper and recycle, reuse and reduce materials to a minimum
  • Our marketing is highly targeted to our client group
  • Our website displays our Environmental policy (in the future we may plant trees and start a carbon offsetting scheme for our visitors but as of yet this is still a long term plan).
  • Our website is continuously monitored and adjusted to keep up to date with target clients and new designations
  • We have a policy of linking up with as many relevant websites/blogs of environmental/Conservation and responsible travel organizations as possible
  • All pictures published on our website are taken by us or visitors who get the opportunity to publish them directly on to our website
  • Nearly all the photographs published on our website are from the farm (maybe one or two stock photos used).
  • We aim to give our visitors as much information as possible about the site or surrounding areas by providing them with maps, guide books or reports from universities that have visited our site
  • We intend to publish relevant links on our website with information on ecotourism and other information that is relevant to the ecology of our site and the surrounding area.

8. Cultural Respect and Awareness

We encourage all our visitors to interact with our friends and locals in the nearby pubs and on the walks around our area and try to promote actively any local activities to tourists. We also allow local neighbors to buy season tickets at a discounted rate thus giving everyone a unique opportunity to directly engage on site as often as possible.