Three community organisations in Galway city are part of an ambitious scheme to integrate the environmental, heritage, learning and neighbourhood aspects of the Terryland Forest Park in order to provide a Greenprint for its future development and that of other natural heritage areas across Ireland. Click here for an outline of a local community plan for the park's regeneration as unveiled a few months ago.
‘Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park’ want to establish a permanent presence in the park every weekend, with each volunteer that is working onsite wearing a identifiable jacket or badge, thus encouraging the general public to use and to enjoy what is officially known as the Citizen’s Park and the Green Lungs of the City.
When it was first planted in early 2000, it was the largest urban neighbourhood forest project in the history of the Irish state. Initiated as a result of years of campaigning by local community groups, 120 acres were zoned by Galway City Council for a new woodland and riverine park.
|River Corrib wetlands near Terryland Forest Park|
|Abandoned Victorian Waterworks, at entrance to Terryland Forest Park|
|'Off the Beaten Track' Heritage Cycle Tour group, Castlegar Castle|
‘Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park’ want to offer such activities once again to the students and pupils of our local schools as well as to the general public. Already, by working with other groups such as Cumann na bhFear (aka Men’s Shed), Castlegar Connect, GTU, Galway Civic Trust and the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden we held an initial series of events in 2012 that included heritage cycling tours, a multi-cultural picnic, nature detective walks, tree plantings, organic gardening digs and a harvest festival. Most notable was ‘Slí na gCaislain’, which is a pioneering pedestrian and cycling Greenway connecting Terryland Castle to six other castles that has the potential to become a world-renowned amenity to be shared by tourist and local alike.
Trees are mankind’s best friend. They provide us with the oxygen for sustaining life on Earth and by absorbing the man-made carbon emissions that are the main factor in global warming today. They also act as a haven for a myriad of wildlife. A single oak tree for instance can be home to up to 450 different types of species, from fungi to large mammals.
Forests: Reclaiming Our Celtic Heritage
Ireland today has only 10% woodland cover, compared to an average of 40-45% in the rest of Europe. Yet before 16th century British colonisation destroyed our native forests to provide the raw materials for the English ship-building, iron and pipe staves industries, these habitats were an integral part of Irish culture and religion as well as of the physical landscape.
Our mythology shows that the ancient Celts revered nature; the druids used oak groves to hold religious ceremonies; many of the early Christian saints had a close affinity with creatures of the forest such as wolves and deer. The Ogham alphabet, that was our first form of writing, was based on different varieties of native trees. Under Brehon law, trees even had a honour price that had to be met if cut down. The English invaders referred to the Gaelic warriors as ‘wood kerne’ (soldiers of the woods).
|'Leafless Tree Detective' tour with Matthew O'Toole|
So we have the pleasure of involving children and adults in re-creating an ancient landscape that will introduce the joys of walking through woodlands; of experiencing the sights of meadows populated with a vibrant cornucopia of insects, animals and birds; of hearing the natural sounds of the countryside; of cycling along rural laneways; of drawing portraits of wildlife in their natural settings; of picnicking in a park with friends; of downloading an apps to journey along a local nature trail; of planting trees and hedgerows as well as in repairing traditional stonewalls.
But these challenges can be overcome by a unity of purpose from all sectors of the local population. The Park can finally become a Green Jewel and a vital Ecological Corridor for the wildlife of Galway City.
Commencement of weekly Clean-Ups of park
Classic Bikes Repair workshop
The Big Spring Clean-Up Day
Scarecrow exhibition (by schools)
November: Winter Wonderland Photographic and Arts challenge for Galway schools
December: Exhibition 'Poster Art of Terryland Forest 2000-2005' by artist Lol Hardiman, City Hall