A native oak woodland in process of restoration -- Ballygannon People's Millennium Forest, Avonmore Valley, Co Wicklow. Photo: Paddy Woodworth
“Forest” may be a rather overblown word for most of our woodlands. Ireland has the sad distinction of being the least forested state in the EU, with only 10 per cent woodland cover. Only one tenth of that lies under diverse native broadleaf trees; the rest is monocultural conifer plantation.
Caoine Cill Cháis, with its haunting lines evoking lost “hazel, holly and berry”, is still sometimes quoted to blame our colonisers as the sole culprits for deforestation. But we have been clearing trees since the Stone Age; and we were still destroying priceless remnants of ancient forests decades after independence.
Happily, public opinion today has a much greater appreciation of the ecological, health and social benefits of native woodlands, and the rich pleasures of walking under varied and seasonally changing woodland canopies.
This article appeared in The Irish Times on 11 November, 2017. Read it here.
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