Six ways to appreciate trees

In case yew haven’t twigged, National Tree Week starts tomorrow. Wooden you like to know more? Here are some ideas for you and your family to do

Sat, Mar 1, 2014, 01:00

n Grow your own
Ireland is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe, with only 11 per cent of our land planted with trees compared to the European average of 40 per cent.

Planting trees is a key element of National Tree Week, and Coillte will donate 15,000 trees to individuals and community groups this week.

The central message of National Tree Week is to understand the complex role of trees in ecological stability , as well as their aesthetic and recreational value and as a source of produce: fruit, nuts, timber, medicines and paper. The Tree Council of Ireland’s online guides to trees for your garden are at treecouncil.ie. The ABC of planting trees is available at crann.ie .

n Discover remarkable trees

From the late 18th century, so-called plant hunters travelled to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia in search of exotic species, and transform ed gardens across Europe on their return. Some of these are now among the most remarkable trees in Ireland. Seamus O’Brien, head gardener at Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens, travelled to the Sikkam Himalaya to re-trace the 19th-century expedition of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. O’Brien will give a talk on his findings in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin on Thursday at 3pm.

A Douglas Fir, standing 61.5 metres near the Dargle River on Powerscourt Estate, is the tallest tree in Ireland. Powerscourt head gardener Michael Byrne will lead a guided walk to see it on Wednesday at 11am.

The Louth Woodlands Gatherings will host a guided walk to the largest pine tree in Ireland, the Ravensdale Monterey Pine in Ravensdale Forest Park, Ravensdale, Co Louth on Saturday, March 8 at 1pm.

Author and tree expert Thomas Pakenham will lead a guided walk through Castletown Parklands in Co Kildare on Sunday, March 9 at 2pm.

Donal Magner, author of Stopping by Woods – A guide to the Forests and Woodlands of Ireland (Lilliput Press) will give a talk on “The Sound of Trees” in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin on Monday at 3pm.

n Go on a forest walk

National Tree Week will be officially launched in Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, tomorrow at 2pm. Visitors there can join guided walks with Michael Byrne, head gardener, and John McLoughlin from the Tree Council at 2.30pm and 3.30pm. Other venues for guided walks and talks this week include St Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin (01-4934208); Merlin Park Woods, Co Galway (01- 4931313); Loughcrew Gardens and Estate, Oldcastle, Co Meath (049-8541356); Belvedere Gardens and Park, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (044-9349069).

See treecouncil.ie for a comprehensive list of countrywide events during National Tree Week.

n Appreciate efforts to restore our native woodlands

After decades of planting fast-growing coniferous trees for commercial forestry, the Irish semi-state forestry company, Coillte, made a commitment to managing 15 per cent of its woodlands primarily for biodiversity. Nine sites were chosen for restoration to rare woodland types: alluvial woods, bog woodland, yew woodland and woods associated with limestone pavement. Visitors to places such as Brackloon woods in Co Mayo, Clonbur in Co Galway and Hazelwood in Co Sligo can now see young willow, birch and ash trees mingle with oak and sometimes yew, and the wildlife that thrives in their undergrowth.

n Stay in a log cabin or tree house

Eurocamp holiday providers have tree houses in several locations in France ( eurocamp.ie). Some are without water or electricity ; others are luxurious. There is also a selection of quirky tree houses to stay in across England, Scotland and Wales ( greentraveller.co.uk) . Closer to home, wooden accommodation options include camping pods at Castle Ward caravan park, Strangford, Co Down and the Battlebridge caravan, camping and glamping park on the Shannon in Co Leitrim.

n Take up wood-turning

We tend to take for granted much of the wooden furniture we have in our homes. However, anyone who owns a hand-turned wooden bowl will be aware of the unique tones and textures in each individually crafted piece. With the recent storms, there is ample supply of fallen trees to dry out for turning. It takes a professional wood turner about 10 minutes to turn a salad bowl, while it might take a beginner up to an hour to turn the same object. Woodturner Glenn Lucas gives regular classes in his workshop near Borris, Co Carlow (glennlucaswoodturning.com ). See ccoi.ie for details of other wood-turning classes.

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