Its Much Much More Than Poems
Often I receive comments and questions from people saying they are not sure about reading and listening to poems, words and songs n the woods.
Some folks say that what we do is too slow, that they prefer to power walk in the woods as that is their way to fitness.
Some folks say being in the woods sounds like too much hard work as they like "lazy" leisure time, but by the way the picnics sound like great fun.
There is really just one fundamental purpose of Bards In The Woods, and that is
Get into more public access woodlands
more often with family and friends
The pace you do this and what you do is not important, as long as what you do is not intentionally damaging and vandalizing.
One thing I believe is that no gathering of people is complete without some food and drink to share. I think most people within our gatherings thinks that was the most fun part when they get home.
I am writing this on the day that the very hard working enthusiastic Ireland TD Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit party along with 14 other supporting elected TDs have secured a second evening debate and 9 pm voting from their motion to stop the intended government action of selling off the harvesting rights of Public Owned forests, that also allow Public Access.
A public demonstration of protest is now ongoing as I write.
Why am I not there?
Actually, I wanted to be there but my absence is not OT for this blog post.
One thing bothers me about all this though.
A lot of the protest is about the risk of taking away Public Access from the forests, for health and recreation, if private foresters win the harvesting rights.
So far, it seems that public forestry that has been quietly sold off to private companies, including public access closed, for around the last 25 years or more have been forests where the public have not taken advantage of and expressed their Public Access. We are in an age of if you don't use it, you'll lose it.
I also ask, how many of those 15 TDs leading the protesting debate also use their Public Access Forestry rights. How many of them have a passionate story or two to tell of recent walks, games, picnics and any kind of gathering in the woods with their families, friends and, in this situation, their constituents.
Why did Richard Boyd Barrett, his supporting TDs, and his supporting Woodland League friend Andrew St. Ledger not start with promoting a series of Public Access forest gatherings in forests to give stronger passion, foundation and honesty to their cause.
How many of those protesting outside the Government Dáil Éireann building just now have visited and shared the forest with others at least once during the past 12 months?
I bet that figure is embarrassingly very small.
That's why I sadly think this whole motion is currently probably a lot of noise from an empty vessel, which means the forestry corporations and the TDs in support of Private Forestry, partly to boost their own selfish pensions, will see right through this motion and protest and act accordingly with one big pompous snigger.
I hope not, I hope what Boyd Barrett, St. Ledger and others can get the weight of a lot of us behind what they are trying to achieve, here's how ...
I'll use some quotes from the motion being debated ...
"Ireland’s publicly owned forests are one of our most precious natural resources and a priceless part of our culture and heritage – that must be nurtured and protected in the interests of current and future generations"
I see forestry as having three vital purposes
1) An essential place of health and recreation
Woodlands are a Green Prescription medicine that is much more powerful than most people realize.
We offer shared poetry and words as a means of fun and entertainment that also also improves our esteem, confidence, ability to listen, ability to accept, ability to share our voice without bias and an overall fellowship. This is incredible all round medicine for many people.
We offer shared picnics and encourage the food to be as local as possible. Fellowship magic is woven when we do this as well as a return to our local growers and suppliers.
Some people prefer activity, power walking, jogging, skateboarding, cycling,
Some people prefer relaxing, stopping at trees identifying the trees, the bugs, flowers and fungi they host, smelling the leaves, twigs and blossoms, taking pictures, painting pictures, writing poems.
All this is more essential to us than we realize,
what we call "Bathing In The Fae's Breath"
2) To grow as a better provider of food, tools and even clothes
Such a lot to re-learn about forest permaculture to provide local supplies
3) To provide that most replenishing sustainable supply of fuel
Coppicing woodland managed locally must return.
This does take woodlands away from corporate investment and pension systems and place it into smaller local provide what wee need systems, a major David and Goliath situation, unfortunately. This will be a slow road to overturn i feel, but can be done with patience and mutual honest fellowship.
"Over 18 million individual visits are made to the national forest estate each year and according to IFFPA total economic activity generated by domestic users is an estimated €286 million and overseas visitors a further €138 million"
Where do they go?
There are about 155 Public Access Woodlands in the Irish Republic at present. Most of those I visit seem to lack people visiting. Those there are usually with dogs or children or both, which is good, but there is a lacking of just adults sharing together.
Go to any of the 11 major Forest Parks in Ireland, Ards, Avondale, Curragh, Donadea, Dun An Ri, Farran, Gougane Barra, Killykeen, Lough Key, Portumna, and Rossmore, and I suspect that's probably 17.5 million of the forestry visited, and the ofther 144 public access forests sharing maybe 500,000 visits a year, 5 to 6000 average visits a year each, 100 visits a week average? - somehow I do not think so. Many are just not visited.
However, I can understand why many are not visited. It seems that about 80% to 90% of all public access woodland cover in Ireland is of the non native sitka spruce, so Ireland has a pathetic survival of native broadleaved woodland.
We need changes to change that, and it is up to us.
I believe forestry and leisure and tourism could multiply incredibly and could set up 100s of new businesses to support this meaning 1000s of new sustained jobs. I do not believe this could be operated on a national level but through local community initiatives networked together.
"In 2008 517,000 tourist visitors participated in forest walking while holidaying in Ireland, spending an estimated €364 million"
Why would visitors to Ireland want to spend their time in our forests?
We know that most visitors here in Ireland want to see the archaeology ruins, castle ruins, famine sites and museums, ruined cottages once lived in by their great great grandparents, a lot of things of a cruel past in ruins, and then spend time in pubs to talk over these dark times.
How can we attract visitors to enjoy a living Ireland? Enjoy its forests, water springs, flora, birds, wild life. and the food it produces. First, those hectares upon hectares of sitka spruces have got to go!
Bring back the native trees to Ireland and we will bring back the living Ireland that visitors will want to come here for and bathe in. Yes, we may not see this happen to the full in our lifetime, but why even think of this smash and grab way for just our lifetime?
"That according to the IFFPA for every 15,000 hectares planted, 490 jobs will be created - indicating enormous potential for employment creation"
I have no idea how this was calculated, but I believe it,
especially considering the next proposal ...
"That much of the state’s forest land and associated industry and employment is based in rural Ireland and is a vital part of the rural economy"
Hand in hand with better forestry management is better rural economy distribution.
There are constant surges of rural people in Ireland emigrating or heading into the cities and none of this is much good for the countries they go to or the cities they head for.
I think a bad move is to sustain a national agency
attempting to create local economies.
I think the first essential is for the community closest to a Public Forest to have full charge and management of it. Communities not close to a Public Forest should be equipped to create one for themselves. It should be their forest to provide their Leisure and Tourism economy, food, craft materials, food etc.
Networking this together could be the current Coilte Outdoors that currently network all this together very well, but fail somewhat by trying to own and manage it all as well. Their answer to too much management is "sell it" rather than invest in local community management which is the long turn is more sustainable and more profitable for the country.
"Improve the utilisation and development of public forestry with an emphasis on increasing our low forest cover with our Native hardwood species which would help alleviate flooding, maintain soil fertility and reverse the acidification caused by conifers, increase the use of timber as fuelwood for local communities by coppicing, protect water sources, restore rivers and lakes to bring back freshwater fish stocks"
This is the conclusion of their motion of proposals and explains itself.
I have only shared a little of the proposals currently being debated enthusiastically by Boyd Barrett et all that I hope is enough to provide some insight to how important it is for us all in Ireland to have More People in More Woodlands
It is our taking advantage of Public Access that gradually helps us take command of our own public funded woodlands, funded by collected tax contributions by ourselves, many of our parents, grandparents, those now emigrated and so forth.
I heard a bad comment on this issue of starting up water charges, a different campaign to our woodland one. A TD said, "People must realize that water service costs must now be a shared with the State paying part and the People paying the rest" ... errr isn't the State a fund the people put together and constantly contribute too?
This disconnection is with Forestry in Ireland. The State believe the public money is their's and not the people's. Money that just magically appeared.
I feel the Mission Of Bards In The Woods is
to get people Back Into Their Woods
that they and their past families have paid for and fought for.
Sharing poetry is one way and it has a lot of personal healing potential, but
allow any means of bringing you, family, friends, co-workers, hobby sharers into the woods on a Sunday afternoon and let us know about it - so we can share your event through Bards In The Woods and invite others in your area to join you.
More People in More Woods More Often
throughout Ireland is the way to beat this sell off thing.
Please do it. Check the links in the right margin menu ...
Let us know when you are in the woods and forests with others
Richard Boyd Barrett's very impressive closing speech
on the on Sale of State Forestry Dail motion ...
and one of our Woodland Bards was there today too :-)