Graham Thompson, National Trust (Chairman)
Clare Dore, DARD Countryside Management
I have always been interested in wildlife and in spending time outdoors in wild landscapes. After graduating in botany at Leeds University (a long time ago!) I worked on nature conservation projects all over the UK, in places as far flung as Shetland, Bardsey Island, Killiecrankie and Suffolk. Currently I work as a Countryside Management Adviser with DARD and I am an Observer on both the Causeway Coast AONB and the Antrim Coast & Glens and Rathlin AONB Management Groups.
Family holidays to the Highlands of Scotland and bird watching trips in Epping Forest and the Essex countryside helped me to become familiar with the birdlife of the UK. I am a member of the RSPB and the Ulster Wildlife Trust and I am a volunteer for the British Trust for Ornithology, carrying out annual breeding bird surveys in my local area.
One of my favourite hobbies is gardening both for flowers and vegetables in a garden which is just a little too large to remain constantly under control. Vegetable production has soared recently with the acquisition of a polytunnel!
The spectacular scenery of the Causeway Coast and the Glens of Antrim never fails to thrill me, be it in sunshine, showers or a northerly gale. White Park Bay and Ballintoy are local favourites and of course Rathlin Island – a very special place with an atmosphere all of its own. Perhaps one day the charismatic chough will be a common sight once more in Rathlin and along the North coast.
Brian Connolly, Northern Ireland Tourist Board
I work in the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and act as an adviser within the AONB steering groups. I recognise the importance of protecting our landscapes whilst encouraging our visitor experience to be sustainable. I am passionate about the Glens of Antrim, having grown up there and hence have an affinity to the Causeway Coast and Glen’s unique landscapes, coastlines and cultural heritage.
My keen interests are history, cultural heritage, hill walking, running and hurling in between spending as much time as I can outdoors with my family. My number one hidden gem is Glenariffe forest park providing an expansive playground(for the kids) equipped with walking trails amidst the stunning waterfalls. A place apart where one can engage with the natural environment. Binevenagh Mountain is another landscape jewel of which I had the unique pleasure of exploring and soaring from a glider plane.
Going forward , the future management and protection of our AONBs is fundamental to allow our visitors to continue to engage sustainably with the environs and for the rural and coastal communities to thrive.
Philip Watson, Independent
Born and raised in Belfast, Philip Watson is an ecologist and writer who has carried out contract studies and volunteer work in numerous countries across three continents and on islands and at sea around Ireland and in the North and South Atlantic. Twelve years on the field staff of the National Trust, based at the Giant’s Causeway, was followed by early retirement in 1999 to spend more time writing. The author of four books, seven guidebooks and numerous scientific papers and articles, he had broadcasted regularly on natural and local history topics. Over the past six years he has created a book of fifty illustrated sea fables for his two grandchildren, bringing unwanted local fame to a motley crew of crabs and other denizens of a Donegal rock pool.