How it Began for Me
Late last year when I was ending the first course I had created for UN leaders on Stewarding Gaia for Effective Outcomes I began to feel a real urgency to ground my principles in action.
As the course drew near its close, each of the participants were considering choose their own course of action in our rapidly dwindling biodiverse world. I felt it was high time that the teacher set an example!A few weeks on I was helping a friend in Ardrahan plant some native trees funded by the local council on a common plot of land on her estate. We had great fun harvesting some seaweed at Tracht beach. At one spot where we borrowed below the surface the fermenting seaweed was steaming hot, providing us with an instant foot sauna on a cold day!
We even got some casual help with lifting the heavy sacks of seaweed into the car — a strapping male from South Africa had moored his private yacht off the Irish coast and was out with his crew for a local beach walk — this soon led to my selling him one of my books on the Burren – a worthwhile reward for my volunteering I guess ….
While mulching the trees with the harvested seaweed (always take from above the tide line to ensure the seaweed is not still growing) my fellow harvester told me about the KB Tree gang. This stands for the Kinvara Ballinderreen Tree Gang who formed a few years ago with the aim to rewild the bare fields that once were forested in full glory.
One short message to them and I was in! Last December saw a massive effort from the community to plant 2000 trees in a field containing various experimental plots, running variations on the international Miyawaki method of intense planting on well-prepared soil. This is a method of reforestation that lends itself to rewilding in reality. It helps birds and mammals and insects such as butterflies proliferate. From inception to actual planting it had taken them about two years. The actual tree planting occurred when I was away visiting family-by all accounts it was a resounding success and a most happy experience for all those who volunteered to plant, mulch, prepare the ground, and fence the areas off.
In the new year 2022 I was freer of obligations and was able to respond to many specific date requests for volunteers on a new site in the locality. A couple of brothers had offered us a field to plant trees in at Funshin Mor, a tranquil site behind Turlough Hill on the west side of Kinvara. Those winter days were quite sunny though a little cold — and we sat huddled round in a circle making wire shields to protect the trees from foraging hares that lived in the field. Warm tea and gorgeous home baking donated by kind individuals helped us sit on our camping chairs and work the wires with our tough gardening gloves. We shared stories and craic — one local Italian even exclaimed how therapeutic it felt to be out in the open with others, all working for one cause in comfortable silences and laughter.
A Sense of Wellbeing
On about the fifth time I attended these volunteer events I went home one Sunday afternoon to attend a regular meeting. I felt full of vigour and wellbeing, rosy cheeks and a warm feeling inside. Suddenly I found myself explaining to my friends how I sensed that the tree project touched upon an almost primeval need for us to bond in a simple activity that bound us to nature.
Personally I feel like this is in my blood but there simply is not enough opportunity in this modern digital age to express that part of me.
I know many feel a sense of wellbeing akin to healing when they come along, whether alone or in small family groups. There is an incredible sense of spaciousness and peace that accompanies the rhythm of planting and subsequent protecting the trees. It was not something I was seeking but it a natural byproduct of the activity. Maybe it is a post-Covid lockdown reaction-or maybe it always has been so, as I know of other groups who have been enjoying mountain treks in other parts of the world who experience a similar quiet yet powerful joy from simple, shared activities outdoors.
The wind, the light soft rain, the calls of birds, the silent rocks in the hills above, all speak of the simple gifts of life. After a few hours of volunteering my mind is clear as I return to my computer, feeling more grounded and whole, knowing I will return as soon as posible for more time spent with my loose knit community of tree-loving friends.
Another day while giving a talk on the tree project to a class in the local Educate Together school, I sensed the keenness in the students to help. There was an uplifting sense of hope they shared as they learnt there was at least one successful project in their locality to help Mother Nature return us to her fold.
My Vision for the Land
My vision is that we can follow up on the many offers from landowners to plant trees. For a community project, the trees do not cost, and these small scale projects gives those who have no land of their own a chance to be out on the land, creating a better future by planting native trees to improved the wildlife environ. We envisage wildflower meadows alongside the trees, while wild or domestic animals could also pasture in among the trees if sensitively managed. This process of gradual rewilding breaks down the barriers between landowners and the landless. And the oasis for birds and wildlife that a series of local woods creates can mark the turning point in the sad degradation of our once beautiful countryside.
A Green Opportunity Awaits
Every single area of the country could have their own team of volunteers-with tree charities willing to donate to those who altruistically plant for the common good of all. I would call this vision a tree domino effect. We can work together to break down the notion that we either own land to do so themselves or we don’t — we all are stewards of the land. There is opportunity here for land owners to ask for help in planting the trees if they have little time or cash resources to plant trees themselves — and if the trees and planters are provided free this would help rewild our land where farming no longer is viable.
Anyone who wishes to get in touch for advice or actual volunteering please contact Kinvara Ballinderreen Tree Gang on Facebook, who describe themselves as
“a group of people from Kinvara and Ballinderreen who have come together to take positive action towards preventing climate chaos and biodiversity loss, by planting trees. Our first project is an experiment in the Miyawaki Method.”
There are now two projects more or less completed with the prospect of more later in the year. Ongoing help with maintaining the sites is always welcome. Contact https://www.facebook.com/KBtreegang with message.