Sunday 22 September 2019

First woodland festival in home of champion of trees

Heritage: Lady Sue at Killegar House, Co Leitrim. Photo: Brian Farrell
Heritage: Lady Sue at Killegar House, Co Leitrim. Photo: Brian Farrell
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Ireland's first Woodland Festival will take place today at the estate of the late Lord John Kilbracken, who championed the cause of planting trees and re-introducing native species to his Co Leitrim estates, long before the protection of native woodlands became a pressing national issue.

The family seat, Killegar, near Carrigallen, Co Leitrim, which was completed in 1813 by the first Lord Kilbracken, is one of the few Irish country houses still occupied by descendants of the original family.

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Sean and his late father, Lord John Kilbracken
Sean and his late father, Lord John Kilbracken

Today its courtyards and grounds will be filled with woodland demonstrations, walks, talks, family events and local wood-based trade stands. Visitors will be instructed on how to identify different trees, how to plant and keep them healthy, as well as learning survival skills in the forest.

Lord John Kilbracken, who was a member of the House of Lords, has been described as the grandfather of the Irish green movement because of his work promoting the cause of tree planting and his fierce determination to revive woodlands, something that has now become a touchstone for saving the planet.

He was also the author of three widely acclaimed Easy Way guides for people to identify trees, birds and flowers.

"I have continued with managing the woodlands and forestry on the estate since he died in August 2006, and I am sure he would have been very pleased that Killegar is hosting the first Woodland Festival in Ireland," said Lady Susan Kilbracken, who lives there with their son, Sean.

Today's festival, from noon to 6pm, will also involve children's activities and a woodland improvement area, with demonstrations on how trees should be looked after and "small-scale extraction" for low-impact log removal.

In the woodland crafts area, the highly skilled members of Muintir Na Coille will show off their coppicing skills along with wattle fencing, oak stakes, charcoal making and thatching scallops. A second-generation hurley maker will also demonstrate what he looks for when buying native ash.

In the main courtyard of Killegar, there will be a market trader area with a selection of local wood- and craft-based businesses, food stalls and information stands from woodland and tree organisations.

Local wood-based businesses, which give employment in the area, and a mobile sawmill will demonstrate the art of making planks.

There is a beautiful old oak grove in which to walk and admire these tall and venerable trees.

Killegar estate is a beautiful mix of old woodland, and walking past the lake, you will come across the "old man of the woods" tree sculpture to honour John Godley, the third Lord Kilbracken, who had the foresight, vision and passion behind the woodlands in the Killegar estate.

The Woodland Festival is a day for everyone to see all that is good about woodlands and trees.

It is organised by Western Forestry Co-op and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Sunday Independent

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