Living Woodlands was created by brothers Colm and John Galvin who want to transform forestry plantations into community woodlands
Help support Living Woodlands transform forestry plantations into community woodlands
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Ann Mc Donald
Living Woodlands is a social enterprise founded by brothers Colm and John Galvin.
“We want to transform existing forestry plantations into complex natural woodlands for the benefit of all,” John explained.
Their vision is to see forestry plantations all over Ireland being transformed into community woodlands. They believe that people are part of the natural ecosystem and need to be involved in its restoration and protection.
Each woodland will have a space where people can come together to reconnect with nature through permaculture projects, organic gardening, nature-based learning, forest playgrounds, and more.
To make this vision a reality, Living Woodlands are asking people to help them buy a degraded 20-acre forestry plantation in Co. Clare so that it can be turned into a vibrant community woodland, which can then be replicated around the country.
They will thin a section of the existing coniferous trees and plant 3,000 native trees to help restore the overall health of the ecosystem. They want the local and wider community to get involved in turning this dark and inaccessible site into a flourishing community woodland.
“We use a ‘close to nature’ forestry system guided by an ecological plan. We never clear-fell the trees, and the carbon that’s stored beneath the forest is never released. Instead, we carefully thin the densely planted rows of trees, allowing more sunlight onto the forest floor which will allow for natural regeneration to occur. In turn, this increases biodiversity, allowing more native trees, plants, and animals to flourish. We actively involve people in the process, creating thriving community spaces,” John explained.
Ireland has less than 1% of its native forests left, yet has endless coniferous plantations which are not going away, and Living Woodlands wants to change this.
“Ireland is currently suffering from a biodiversity crisis, and the current system is making this worse. We have so few natural woodlands in Ireland, we’ve forgotten how important the health and wellbeing benefits are for us. And we believe that this is a resource that should be available for everyone,” Colm said.
According to the government’s National Forestry Accounting Plan, the coniferous trees may be releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than they store. As well as this, Ireland is facing a biodiversity emergency, and the current forestry system is making this worse according to a recent National Parks and Wildlife Service report.
People in Ireland also have very little access to natural woodlands in Ireland and have almost forgotten how important they are for the health and wellbeing of our communities.
Living Woodlands hope to solve these problems by transforming existing plantations over time into natural and complex woodlands. While this approach will be a new one for Ireland, it has been successfully practiced in Europe for decades.
They have already developed a project in partnership with Tait House Community Enterprise to plant a Tiny Forest in the heart of Southill in Limerick. This urban greening initiative will bring the benefits of a native forest into the inner-city community.
“We want to offer people a practical way of making a difference by helping to transform and create natural woodlands where we can all reconnect with nature,” Colm said.
Providing access to nature is a key part of the Living Woodlands ethos as they believe it is essential that people and communities can avail of the physical, mental and social benefits of these pockets of wild nature.
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