Adjacent to the Little Acorn Wood at the back of Riverside, lay a derelict pond and a large area of swampland. It was inaccessible, covered in specimen size nettles and primarily used as a dumping ground. The main ‘wildlife’ it supported were RATS.
In 2008, Broughshane Improvement Committee and a team of Volunteers decided it was time to ‘clean it up’ With the aid of a grant from BBC Breathing places and BIG lottery, the groups engaged local contractors, The Adams Brothers Ltd to excavate the ponds, put up fencing and install feeding stations. To compliment this work, a team of Volunteers cleaned the area up and introduced ornamental waterfowl. The Volunteers formed Broughshane Waterfowl & Wildlife Association so that they could continue to maintain the area and the birds. This was all done with the full support of the Woodland Trust.
During 2008 to 2010, BEWWA, Broughshane Improvement Committee and Broughshane & District Community Association collaborated to produce a Business Case as to how we could take this project further for the benefit of the village, our residents, visitors and the ethos of the overall work in Broughshane.
We decided to make the area unique and. between the Volunteers and Breeders of Ornamental Waterfowl throughout the UK, We looked at introducing all seven species of Swan in the world into Broughshane. There are around 9 species but only 7 are officially recognised as distinct.
The Volunteers researched the birds, raised the monies, and brought the birds into Broughshane under licence from Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. BEWWA also obtained a number of other rare species of Geese and Ducks to add to the variety.
The species of Swans included Polish Mute, Australian Black, Black Necked, Coscoroba, Trumpeters, Whistlers and Whoopers.
Without advertising or any promotional work, visitors started to arrive at the rate of over 400 per week and included local people, schools, elderly residents of the local FOLD and many others.
Collectively, the Groups consulted with all the wider groups throughout the Village and all agreed to the potential to develop the area to create a wider tourist attraction to help sustain our Village and rural way of life. It was also felt to be very important that we educated our children and young people on the importance of protecting our environment and the wildlife, arts and people it sustains.
By 2012, Broughshane Environment Waterfowl & Wildlife Trust was formed. An application was made to NER RDP for funding to improve the infrastructure of the pond area and create a better visitor experience. This was supported by the full Council of Ballymena Borough Council.
BEWWT’s mission is to provide for a place of tranquillity and interest for all our residents and visitors to Broughshane. We wish to introduce old and young to the range and variety of waterfowl and to show people the link between the environment, birds and wildlife it supports as well as encouraging an appreciation of art, culture and local history.
In December 2012 BEWWT officially obtained the land from Ballymena Borough Council and the Woodland Trust.
The pond and Centre is more than just about environmental issues. BEWWT believes that everything is interconnected and interwoven; the 7 species of swan, their link to the Children of Lir who spent many of their 900 years as swans in the Kinddom of Moyle and it was St Kemoc, a convert of St Patrick who released them from their spell. St Patrick lived as a slave on Slemish Mountain beside Broughshane. The Kingdom of Moyle-incorporating the Giant’s Causeway and the Glens of Antrim. The first famous for it’s Giant; the second, it’s Fairies. Also, the son of Finn MacCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill, ) the Giant was Oisin the famous Poet. We also feel that our culture, myths and legends should be kept alive with our youth and children. As such we have built on a Storytelling Area to be used by groups, schoolchildren etc called the Giant’s Yarn and the Fairy Village.
BEWWT continues to work to develop the area in full partnership with Ballymena Borough Council, DARD, and Rivers Agency and of course, ALL the local Broughshane Groups and Associations.