The children of Portmarnock, Malahide and surrounds have received their summer report from teacher, Orla Farrell who has been leading the UNIPEDE-backed tree-planting challenge from “Plant-for-the-Planet” all over the country this year. “Tree cheers for the children from every school in the area who joined us this year in our efforts to Re-Leaf Ireland” says Orla, director of Crann – Trees for Ireland and founder of this challenge to plant one million trees with Ireland’s one million children by “twenty twenty-tree. These children deserve a lovely rest now it’s high summer, it’s time to enjoy the great work they carried out with us in the colder months and enjoy watching our new woodlands grow! The trees have been growing even faster than the children this year thanks to lots of Spring rain and warm temperatures. Stories of extreme heat on the continent make us glad to have our temperate climate. Our new trees will help us cope with the flooding we have seen in recent weeks and of course these trees, mostly broadleaves are brilliant at being natural air-purifiers, taking fumes from traffic and industry out of the air and locking the pollution – as well as Carbon – into the soil and away from young lungs.”
A million; can it be done? Isn’t that a little much to ask of our school children and don’t they have enough to do on their curriculum? “The RDS lead an initiative over a hundred years ago where they planted 55 million trees at five times our rate so this type of project has happened here before” says Orla who left her classroom teaching job last summer to volunteer to lead this tree-volution. “The children and teachers are delighted to come out. So much time is spent these days on phones and screens, it is a great break to leave the classroom for an hour and they get such a sense of achievement to see a tree planted in their local park by themselves and their classmates”, Orla continues. “Our project ties in with our hugely popular national Green Schools Programme as well as lots of our curriculum areas. Plus, we always like to include a tree-t on our Tree Parties. Local businesses have been more than generous in their support, with the Gourmet Food Parlour, Avoca, That’s Amore and Fingal County Council providing snacks for the children. Malahide Garden Centre provided compost, promotion was given by the local libraries and food outlets and Malahide Coaches provided a shuttle service from local schools to Paddy’s Hill over the winter months.
Fingal is in fact the county where this project all began in Ireland in 2017, with Ireland’s first “Tree Academy”. Since the second one was held at Malahide Community Centre last January, we now have 100 children trained as “Plant-for-the-Planet Climate Ambassadors”.
The trees we picked to finalise the extended hedgerow at Robswall’s Park were chosen for their suitability to this site in consultation with council expert, Colin Gilhooley who leaves the Malahide Operations Department for Newbridge House this season. “Colin and his team were such a support to us, coming out in all weathers to prepare the land, help with the tools and encourage the children. They even had our new trees staked and fenced in jig time, wind is always a factor on the hill and even in summer it can be problematic as trees establish. He knows we are not letting him go, however”, continues Orla “as we have already planted 440 trees at Newbridge House Demesne as part of our project with Lusk National School. We will just give him a chance to settle in and then we will be on our quest to have more public land designated for children’s planting”.
“Fridays for Future” is a movement that has caught the imagination of youth all over the world, with a big School Strike planned on for September 20th next. The recent planting on Paddy’s Hill took place on a Friday and the children’s protest for climate action consisted of their own symbolic and practical act, beautifying their own area with trees. Greta Thunberg made a statement this week saying that all those doing just one thing for Climate Action were pioneers because so few were taking action. Silver Birch are known as “Pioneer Trees” as they were among the first to thrive in the Irish landscape after the last Ice Age. It is appropriate that they should be the ones planted to complete this project. This addition to the hedgerow also ties in with national policy to increase the nature corridors that are our traditional Irish land boundaries by adding appropriate planting.
More pictures of the event can be found on the school website, https://www.portmarnockcommunityschool.ie/. The project team is grateful for the support of the Irish Environmental Network, who sponsored this event through their National Biodiversity Week programme. The trees in this instance were supplied by the local Tully’s nurseries, Lusk.
The children took part in a special mindfulness exercise on the day of their last visit before the holidays. A practice in newly-established woodlands in years gone by before sprays were used commonly was to walk through the new growth, trampling the weeds. The Mindful element came when the children were shown the 6 different species newly planted at this site by hundreds of primary-age children and warned not to trample on the new trees which are hard to spot in the long meadow grass, in particular the holly which is a slow-growing species. The children were in fact asked not even to talk to one another as they did this useful exercise, for fear of trampling on a new tree inadvertently, all of which are still less than a metre high. The “Managed for Biodiversity” week was put up at this spot just as the best area was being chosen for the new grove of trees. Orla appealed to walkers to help out when out on a walk by trampling the long grass around the new planting. Should we have spells of dry weather, the new trees also can use a dose of “grey water” so if you for example find a half-filled water bottle that has been sitting around for a while, why not donate that old water to a local tree!
A special thanks to all of our volunteers and a big shout out to the Swords Woodland Association for all their support!
You can find out more about this exciting project at www.easytreesie.com
Contact Orla Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org