Sitka spruce mars the Wicklow Way
Sir, – I walked the Wicklow Way last week, from Tinahely to Dublin. The distance was 100km and it took me five days. I met many friendly, helpful people, and found great places to eat and sleep. However, the overall experience was poor, and I would not recommend this trail to other walkers. The problem is that so much of the Wicklow Way (approximately 70 per cent ) is through or skirting sitka spruce plantations. Walking for hours in these monoculture forests is not attractive, it is boring; they are dark, viewless, with no apparent wildlife, no birdsong. These commercial plantations have spread unchecked across the wild, beautiful mountains and glens of Wicklow. They have pushed out the broadleaved trees, the sheep, and the people. Around Glendalough, pockets of native trees (oak, holly, ash, birch) have been allowed to survive, but this is just a token gesture in the bigger picture. Current Government policy is driving this plantation of Wicklow, to the benefit of Coillte, the State forestry company, and investors, Irish and international, who receive generous grants. Sitka spruce plantations have minimal effect on reversing climate change: carbon is released when the uplands are drained for planting, and again when the trees are thinned and felled.
The Government and Wicklow County Council appear to want to turn these mountains into one giant sitka spruce plantation.
They are killing the goose that has laid the golden egg. They are destroying the open, majestic scenery that tourists and walkers come in search of. State policy could radically change to push the planting of native trees, to cultivate habitat rich woodlands, to return to mixed sustainable farming, to create a world class landscape for future generations to enjoy and make a living from.
I am surprised that the people of Wicklow (and others who love these hills) are not shouting from the mountain tops, Stop! No more sitka spruce! – Yours, etc,