The summit brought together local authority and community representatives from Ireland and Wales and included a visit to Afon Mel Honey Farm & Meadery where the owner of the farm Sam Cooper,  gave a tour of the farm and the Meadery and also a good insight into the wonderful bees social structure and organization  

Portalis hosted its first cross-border network development summit last week in Ceredigion, Wales where local stakeholder representatives from key coastal communities came together for what was an important project milestone. The representatives included a local stakeholder group from Ireland and a local stakeholder group from Wales, both created through the Portalis project. 

Portalis explores connections between Ceredigion Bay, Wales and South-East Ireland during the Mesolithic period, or what used to be known as the Middle Stone Age.  It does this by using existing evidence and providing new data to create an exciting cross-border narrative.  

The project also looks to support sustainably increasing visitor numbers via a new cross-border tourism network that engages and collaborates on common projects together. 

Gwenfair Owen, Tourism and Marketing Officer for Ceredigion County Council and member of the Welsh Local Stakeholder Group, who attended the inaugural summit, said “the stories we share are deep in the landscape and Portalis has provided an engaging new way of exploring, understanding and connecting with nature and people, bridging thousands of years with moments of discovery.”

Billy Duggan, Senior Executive Officer for Waterford Council and member of the Irish Local Stakeholder Group, who attended the inaugural summit, said  “the summit provided an opportunity to build on learnings between West Wales and Ireland’s Ancient East in sharing our histories and cultures of coastal communities. The emphases on sustainable practices showed that it is possible to have unique visitor attractions which attract footfall but at the same time complement local history and environment.”

The summit, which involved Irish local stakeholders travelling over to Wales by ferry, was hosted at Aberaeron, where the group shared ideas and explored opportunities to develop a cross-border tourism  development network. 

Speaking about the potential of the group going forward, Donal Nolan, Network Development Lead for Portalis, said “our face-to-face meeting was very productive and allowed us to deepen our connection between the communities and stakeholders working on the Portalis project. The meeting allowed the participants to discuss future cooperation projects and create the bases for a good working relationship.” 

Representatives from the cross-border tourism group are shown around Afon Mêl Honey Farm and Meadery by Sam Cooper. The business is a local stakeholder on the Portalis project. 

Following the meeting, the group visited Amgueddfa Ceridigion Museum where they were greeted by the museum Curator, Carrie Canham, who guided them through the project’s temporary visitor experience on display at the museum. 

Joy Rooney, Portalis Senior Responsible Officer and Lecturer and Researcher in Design at South East Technological University (SETU) said, “As we explore the earliest connections between Welsh and Irish coastal civilizations, this is mirrored by the citizen led multi-agency cross-border partnership now being forged by our contemporary coastal communities into a distinct cross-border network development group. We draw on this resilience now in terms of our coastal climate change adaptation and our opportunities for blue and green economic growth.” 

The cross-border network development group will have its next in-person meeting on the 13th July in conjunction with the Portalis pilot project’s closure event which will take place on the same day.  

The cross-border group will look to crystalize potential development projects to pursue as a group and also further strengthen its foundations so it will operate as an entity long after the Portalis project concludes. 

The Portalis project, €1.95m, is supported with €1.5m funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme, The project is led by South East Technological University, (SETU) and is supported by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Ceredigion County Council and Waterford Chamber of Commerce.