I love trees. From the old oak trees I climbed as a child, to the willow trees I sit under as an adult with a picnic on a sunny day. Trees are essential for our lives; they give us so much, and all they require is space to grow.
They give us clean air, clean water, shelter, food, biodiversity and employment. Many different species of trees provide us with food (apple, hazel, plum, cherry, walnut and many more); construction timber (spruce, fir, larch, pine); firewood (ash, pine, spruce, alder); loo roll (eucalyptus/poplar); paper (usually evergreens); and furniture (ash, spruce, oak, pine) to name just a few things.
The Forest Connections Project is run by Kerry Earth Education Project - based at Gortbrack Organic Farm, Tralee - with the aim of getting people of all ages out into the forests to observe, enjoy and participate in forest life, enabling them to feel connected to local forests in Kerry and forests throughout Ireland.
The project started in June 2019 and is due to run until November 2020, with support from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. We are offering events aimed at children (summer camps, mini camps, after-school forest club); teenagers (mindspace); adults (hedgelaying, establishing a woodland, plant identification, foraging) and families (family days and nature play).
Events have been run throughout Kerry in Ballyseedy Woods, Killarney National Park, Glentenassig, Nuns Wood (Tralee), Killaclohane, Gortbrack Organic Farm, Glanageenty and Lyrecrumpane River Walk. There are more events planned for 2020 in Tarbert Woods and Rossacroo, Kilgarvan, as well as the woodlands already mentioned.
The feedback from the events has been really positive, with many people feeling they are more connected to trees and their local forests as a direct result of attending. A number of attendees have discovered forests close to them they had never been to or didn't know were accessible. The Forest Club in Nun's Wood, run in collaboration with Tralee Educate Together National School has been one successful part of the project. With sessions once a week after school, participants have been able to really get to know the woodland throughout the seasons: they've made dens, mud kitchens, rope bridges, fire and charcoal.
The forest summer camps at Gortbrack Organic Farm from July 13-16 (for 4-8 year olds) and July 20-23 (for 8-12 year olds) will be going ahead following the latest guidelines from the HSE. Children can come and experience life in the woodlands of Gortbrack: play; study the birds, bugs and animals that live there; try the variety of organic food grown on the farm; and make natural art in a safe outdoor environment.
Throughout the pandemic, many people have found time to connect with nature around their homes and get to know their own local trees. It would be wonderful if people keep up these connections. I think one of the most precious things trees can give us is perspective.
For booking or more information, please contact Cathy Eastman at email@example.com or see upcoming events at www.gortbrackorganicfarm.com or on Facebook at Forest Connections Kerry.