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Heritage group backs bid for funding to redevelop Navan Centre with fresh ideas too

"The site is of great importance to us and we hope our recommendations will be seriously considered."

Navan-Centre-fort-Armagh

A local heritage group has written a letter of support to help a funding bid for the redevelopment of the Navan Centre.

The ancient site – on the Killylea Road, on the outskirts of the city – opened in the 1990s.

It has seen much change in that time and had even closed down for a period after its first few years, run under the management of Navan at Armagh.

Now it boasts a bronze age village replica and has proved popular with visitors.

And it is still very much part of a bid by six Royal Sites of Ireland to secure World Heritage Status by UNESCO, something which would put it in the same class as the Pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China.

There are also plans to develop the visitor facilities at Emain Mhacha and make them more appealing and attractive.

To that end, the Navan Centre – which is owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council – approached a local heritage group to ask for its support.

It also asked for views from the Navan Fort Heritage and Protection Group on how it might like to see the site better utilised.

The group – which advocates that it is “dedicated to the protection of the Navan Fort and surrounding ancient landscape” – has compiled a list of ideas on how it feels the site can move forward.

It made no less than 16 suggestions and says members would “offer our full support for a redevelopment and upgrade of the visitor experience at the Navan Centre”.

Among the ideas put forward is for an exhibition experience like that at Newgrange, in County Meath, where living history interpreters are filmed undertaking the daily tasks of the Bronze Age which may have taken place at Navan Fort.

The group says these could then be played on large screens while visitors move through the exhibition, with an appropriate audio accompanying the footage.

The suggestions have been outlined in a letter provided to the Navan Centre to endorse funding applications for potential redevelopment.

Other ideas include a lecture series with guest speakers from the fields of archaeology and history; the inclusion of more detail concerning excavations which have – and will – take place at the site; celebrations marking key dates in the Celtic calendar; and more information on the myths and legends surrounding Navan Fort, and generally a bigger focus on Irish Celtic mythology in the exhibit.

Members would also like to see a new or second pathway around the grounds of the centre which is “flat and smooth to benefit wheelchair users and those with mobility issues”, as they say the “stones pose an accessibility issue for the less physically able”.

There have been calls too for a semi-regular experimental archaeology group or club, which would potentially link with such groups at Queen’s University and at a lower cost than what is currently being offered at the Navan Centre.

Members want to see more for young people too. They have suggested a summer scheme for a few weeks each year which could include bird watching, foraging, conservation, archaeology and trips to other sites related to the Navan Fort.

A Young Archaeologists’ Club could also operate, says the group, similar to a “very popular and similar” group operating out of Queen’s University, Belfast.

Other ideas include craft fairs for local small businesses at the Navan Centre; tours offered by guides in costume; demonstrations of ancestral skills, such as cooking; and the formation of a drama group for all ages to put on occasional plays and recreate tales from Celtic Mythology.

The group also wants to see more public accessibility.

To this end, they ask that the cafe open seven days a week and an evening opening time “to suit working families, many of whom work weekends and cannot visit the centre regularly”.

They also believe that the Navan Centre should be opened to the community for other pursuits such as yoga, mindfulness, holistic therapies, meditation etc.

And finally, more events with live music, following on from the recent Ryan McMullan concert but not necessarily always having to be on such a large scale.

The group would also welcome other suggestions which people may like to make and will happily pass these on to the Navan Centre.

Looking to the future – and having offered support and ideas by way of letter – the Navan Fort Heritage and Protection Group adds: “The site is of great importance to us and we hope our recommendations will be seriously considered.”

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