Devastation in Glendalough (Sunday 22nd July, 2018)
On a beautiful sunny Sunday on 22nd of July, 2018 two of us took to the hills of Glendalough. We always enjoy our outings there (as testament see other links on this blog to outings we’ve had).
We took our usual route up the steps to the top of the Spinc along the plateau and down by the miners village.
The trees that are along the hill up to the Spinc were fully mature. A main part of the enjoyment of the walk is to go up through the forestry on both sides – always keeping vigilant for sight of the deer that roam the mountain side.
On a warm day the challenge is to get to the top without stopping. The forestry on both sides provides a unique micro climate for walking in. The temperature of the climb is always slightly elevated because of the shelter afforded by the trees on either side. The light as one ascends is a soft light and adds to the unique atmosphere of the climb.
The Wicklow National Park especially the part around Glendalough is a very historic and holy place. The climb up through the forest there is both unique and serene and forms part of the ‘soul’ of the place, if there is such a thing.
On our way up to the steps that lead to the Spinc we noted signage foretelling of work being carried out; however, this did not prepare us for the sight which appeared before us as we climbed the steps. The left hand side of the hill had been clear felled!!. It is no exaggeration to say that it had the appearance of a post apocalyptic scene from a movie. We were shocked.
National Park Vs Coillte and other commercial entities
I suppose really what we couldn’t get our heads around was that this destruction(for want of a better word) could happen in a National Park. Our understanding of a National Park was a place that was “off limits” for this type of forestry management. We’ve walked in many Coillte forests and have seen this clear felling before but it is our understanding that Coillte, as an entity, is run on a commercial basis.
This commercialization can be seen clearly by anyone who has viewed the truck loads of harvested tree trunks removed from such sites leaving them baron at that point in time. The loss of the mature trees, even if they are replaced with saplings which are never going to be mature in our life time, can be felt by anyone who loves nature and being out in it.
We are not discounting the need for forestry management at all and Coillte has its place. It is just the idea that a National Park is a safe haven both for nature and wildlife. Commercialisation on this scale has no part to play in the management of same. We always felt that a National Park was a place that was managed and protected from the devastation that large scale commercialisation clearly causes. If the harvesting rights are being sold off then it may not be Coillte alone who purchases them but other commercial entities.
Clear felling where the deer shelter
As we made our way from the Spinc onwards we noted clear felling to the left of the path also. These mature trees provided shelter to the herd of wild deer in the Winter time. We’ve often taken pictures of them between the trees and the natural shelter provided by an embankment just left of the pathway. This clear felling is clearly affecting the habitat of the wildlife.
What then is there to stop the selling off of harvesting rights to the beautiful pine trees along the lake on the way to the miners village, the beautiful pine trees that give the delightful dappled light on the walking route and provide habitat for squirrels, birds and other wildlife?. See pic below.
All this lends itself to the question: Are areas of “Outstanding natural beauty” in a National Park protected at all?
This clear felling has an impact on so many different aspects, tourism, recreation, wildlife, geology. The clear felling of the trees along the boardwalk to the Spinc will, if anything, have a negative effect on tourism. So the money that is received from the selling off of the harvesting rights to commercial interests (because the Troika has demanded it apparently. See Wicklow Uplands Council ) will have to be offset against the financially negative impact incurred by decreased tourism due to the alterations of a unique landscape in an “area of outstanding natural beauty” in a National Park?
Is the “tail wagging the dog” in this case?
16th July, 2018 Irish Times Report of a Masterplan
We had just finished writing above when we found this Irish Times Report for a Masterplan for the National Parks in Ireland. Please read it. It gives good context to the current situation. It seems as if the clear felling of the trees is just another item in the long history of mismanagement of the National Parks. Will this new Masterplan make a difference? We hope so, as if not, then the future of the National Parks in Ireland seems destined to fail.
Prime Time 26th July, 2018
The piece on Prime Time about the forests addressed the issues of the types of trees being planted; however, the issue of clear-felling in the forest was only discussed in relation to the types of trees to be planted after clearance.
One of the most scenic walks in the country has been irreparably destroyed (at least irreparable in our lifetime). We may have been niaive initially in thinking that the National Parks protected nature and wildlife and that commercial felling of trees would not be allowed in places of “outstanding natural beauty” within a National Park. We now understand the true situation and are both appalled and very very saddened. How could the “Department” give permission to have this plot of land clear-felled????
What will be left for future generations to enjoy if this dreadful situation continues?