We’re all set to add to Northern Ireland’s woodland on Sunday 13th November with our Wild Harvest pack of 420 trees. We’d love to see you at Whitehead’s Harbour car-park at 2pm, if you’d like to plant a tree or two. Bring a spade.
There’s a lot of reasons to plant more trees here. At only 6% of our land in forestry, we already have the lowest tree cover of any part of these islands or, indeed, of any country in Europe.
Indeed, over the past year, our forest estate has actually grown smaller. The Forest Service was forced to cut down thousands of larch trees because of the arrival of a virulent fungal tree disease; the gorse fires at Easter destroyed many thousands more.
So we’ll make a tiny step towards redressing that balance. The event can serve as a dress rehearsal for the town’s involvement in the planting of the Jubilee Wood on 25th February next year. As you may have seen in the council’s latest magazine, Whitehead has been selected as the site for a 60 acre Diamond Wood - the only one in Northern Ireland.
Our own little woodland will be a fraction of that size but, like the Diamond Wood, our trees have come to us from the Woodland Trust, part of their Jubilee Woods campaign to pant six million trees around the UK to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
In keeping with Transition Town Whitehead’s theme of resilience, we’ve chosen a Wild Harvest pack. Our trees will be a mixture of species, all of which can be used in some way as a wild food source.
Blackthorn may be well known as the tree which yields the fine strong branches from which are made walking sticks and shillelaghs; its fruits, however, are better known as sloes, much loved for flavouring sloe gin. Sloes can also be used to make jams and jellies, as can crab apples, another fruit-bearing tree in our species mix.
We’ll also have a batch of hazel trees, much valued for their nuts or ‘cobs‘ as they’re often known. Hazel rods are also used for a whole raft of purposes, including the making of water-divining wands. The selection will be rounded off with dog-rose and elderflower, much valued for making cordial and, indeed, for wine-making.
In a few years‘ time, you’ll be able to take advantage of the wild harvest that these trees will provide. But only if we plant them first - join us.