For the love of trees

March is an arch that opens into spring and echoes like a male snipe awaiting his partner.

From Walking the Calendar Roadway by Sinéad McClure

In the run-up to Christmas 2019 and some months prior to the first pandemic related lockdown in Ireland, trees began to disappear.  Some we saw leave.  These were the ones that grew on one side of the railway track (pictured) near land at the back of our home.  Other absences were noticed on the landscape, new views emerged.  At the time I contacted relevant parties, Irish Rail, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Local Council and The Tree Council of Ireland to ask a simple question—why? I got no definitive answers.

The problem is the absence of any effective legislation to protect such trees.

The Tree Council of Ireland – email corespondance, January 2020.

It seemed that many of the trees along the railway line have no rights, even the mature established ones. Trees aren’t just being felled along the railway though, they are being eradicated in spots all over our landscape.  February 2020 was election time.  A local representative, former MEP,  when asked on national radio if they are environmentally conscious, answered that they were offsetting carbon by having trees planted in South America, ironic and a little sickening when just a few miles south of the broadcast native oak were being ripped out of the ground.

Just before Christmas 2020, it became clear why trees were going missing where I live.  A local landowner has allowed a company to construct a Telecommunications Mast on his land.  This mast will stand 120 feet tall. It will be taller than any tree that has been left standing.  It is a monolith of steel, a monster, an ugly protrusion on an otherwise undulating rural landscape. It won’t be the only one, so where once stood mature, native trees soon there will stand a row of towers—beacons of modernity—beaming telecommunication frequencies, out over dry stone walls, and hedgerows for anyone who should need to access their data on the move.   

Fighting against planning permission for these masts, particularly in rural areas, is a frustrating experience.  It seems a foregone conclusion that despite submissions, and subsequent appeals, this type of infrastructure always seems to get the green light.  It’s almost as if, at an official level, there are people who want to destroy landscape, local environment, habitat for wildlife, heritage and the natural flora.  They may even get a sense of—for the-greater-good—and are happy to be the local representative who brought 5G to the county, ticking a box on their manifesto. 

It came to me yesterday as I began to dig a hole to plant an oak to replace the great oak that was smashed to pieces on the other side of the railway line. We also have a manifesto.  I thought, what if we just planted trees?  I reckon we could fit a few hundred more on our own land, to join the others growing here.  Also, we could plant slips, and cuttings—maybe ninja plant them at hidden locations.  We could encourage others to do the same. We should be talking more about our native trees.  We should be asking for more native forest, lobbying against deforestation.  Instead of future-proofing telecommunication towers for 5G, we should be future-proofing the health of our countries environment, for our children, and children’s children. 

I’m no Luddite.  I know that primarily this conversation may get delivered by a frequency emitting from a mast somewhere but I also know something needs to start greening these structures.  The real giants, our trees, need to communicate with each other too.  

Technology is having a huge impact on our environment, on many levels, planting more trees may go some way towards balancing that out.  This is why I have reinstated the Calendar Road site, with the aim of planting a native Irish Tree every week not just for National Tree Week which starts tomorrow, but for every week this year. 

It is here where you can read, see, and sometimes hear about that process as my husband and I try to strike a balance with nature. Who knows maybe you will share your ideas of tree planting in your locality.