The Ecos Centre

An award winning environmental interpretive centre in Ballymena

An award winning interpretive centre in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Ecos is designed to increase awareness of the environmental issues affecting today’s world. A unique experience combining fun, exploration and learning, the exhibits have been designed to stimulate people of all ages, and to confront visitors with issues of global significance and personal responsibility. Ecos’s overall aim is to promote a sustainable future.

The Ecos centre demonstrates how global warming can be slowed down by a reduction in the production of carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas—through the use of alternative renewable resources such as wind, solar power, and willow coppice. The design of the building and the materials used in its construction follow the same sustainable principles. The centre is shaped to create a thermal flywheel effect, naturally distributing the heat available inside. Landscaping and building work took just over two and a half years, although from conception to opening in August 2000 took five years.

Ecos strives to apply sustainable principles throughout, with an organic local food policy in the on-site cafe and the reuse of wastewater to fertilise the willow coppice through a reed bed treatment system. An organic market is also operated by Ballymena Organic Enterprise. There are a number of picturesque walks around the 60 hectare site, and guided nature trails are provided. The park management policy strives to balance the needs of the wildlife with that of the visitor.     

Working in conjunction with the Ulster Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust, Ecos created a range of habitats to support a wide range of native flora and fauna. The centre has started documenting all known species and varieties present in an attempt to both understand and display the rich diversity of the local environment. The little grebe, mute swan and greylag goose are all residents, while the wigeon, hen harrier and wood sandpiper are rare seasonal visitors.

Alongside the usual hares, rabbits and hedgehogs, foxes and otters have occasionally been spotted within the grounds. The Ecos park is also home to many varieties of butterflies and dragonflies.

The lake was excavated in 1998 from agricultural land along the banks of the Devenagh Burn. Pond dipping is a popular activity that explores the depths of the Ecos lake. Regular finds include dragonfly larvae and woodlice.

In the spring of 2000, 40,000 trees were planted, mostly by the Woodland Trust, to create an urban woodland. All the trees are native, grown from seeds gathered from within 32km of the centre.

Owned and operated by Ballymena Borough Council and funded by the Millennium Commission, the Ecos complex also features a visitor centre, shop, play park, conference theatre, seminar room and caravan park.