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The Big Lunch community spirit shines on County Antrim Countryside Custodians

An environmental group based in County Antrim who have been operating for 2 years enjoyed their Big Lunch together at Antrim Castle Gardens on a beautiful sunny Sunday 27 June.

This group aims to raise environmental awareness, to welcome like-minded people to come together to create positive change and to show how easy it is for anyone to make small changes in an affordable manner. By organising local litter picks with support from Live Here Love Here, they encourage both good physical and mental health and the opportunity to form new and lasting friendships.

Many of the participants had joined the group during lockdown when Countryside Custodians saw a surge of members grow from 500 to a staggering 1,200 and since January this year, the inspirational group have gathered an amazing 2,300 bags of rubbish.

Christine Dorrat ,Michael Stewart, Sarah-Jane Dorrat, Katherine McAdam (Founder), members of Countryside Custodians

Katherine McAdam, founder of Co Antrim Countryside Custodians said:

“During the early days of lockdown people took the opportunity to walk around their local area, where before they would have only driven through. This gave them the opportunity to slow down, take notice, appreciate their surroundings and really pay attention to how their own locations could be improved and I believe this inspired more people to join us.”

Katherine continued:

“Our Big Lunch was the first time since lockdown that our members, who come from right across the County, were able to socialise and sit down for a picnic together. Sharing food at the end of each activity and building relationships is such an important part of our regular routine as it’s a great way to welcome new members and to get to know each other. Many in the group have really been missing this particular aspect so today has been very special”

Eva McDermott, Poppy Mcauley pictured with dog Jack and Grainne McCloskey

She added: “ Not only did we enjoy some wonderful food, we had the opportunity to chat about a lovely letter which had been sent to the group from our hero, Sir David Attenborough. We were so lucky to get his letter last month, just before Earth Day and it has been extremely motivational and inspirational for us”

The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden project, made possible by the National Lottery, supported by Iceland and Food Warehouse. The aim is that, for a few hours, shyness will take a

back seat and people will come together to meet, greet, share food and fun. It is all about connecting with our communities, creating a sense of belonging, a celebration of positivity and pride in our areas.

Paul, Katie, Reuben (6) and Eila (4) Burnside.

Grainne McCloskey, Northern Ireland Manager of The Big Lunch, said:

”This wonderful event is a perfect example of everything The Big Lunch is about and this year there is an appetite not just to reconnect where we live but also the desire to do something to hold onto the community spirit that many of us experienced during lockdown.”

The Big Lunch is an official partner of The Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022 so find out how you can make plans to celebrate community spirit locally at

Fiona McIlroy ,Niamh McIlroy, Colleen McIlroy, Fionn McIlroy (2), Eabha McIlroy (1), Newtownabbey.

The Big Lunch is the UK’s annual big date to celebrate and give thanks to our neighbours and communities. Started in 2009, it’s an idea from the Eden Project that each year brings 6 million people together, made possible by The National Lottery and supported by new headline sponsors Iceland and The Food Warehouse.

People meet, chat and have fun in their neighbourhoods, annually fundraising £8m for local causes they care about. This year, there are even more reasons than ever to get together and enjoy The Big Lunch from 5 June as it kicks off a Month of Community offering a feast of opportunities to share friendship and fun, and make positive local connections where you live. Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall has been Patron of The Big Lunch since 2012.

To find out more go to or follow us @edencommunities on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.


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