I am co-founder of Centre for Environmental Living and Training (CELT) which has successfully provided training in traditional and ecological skills to more than 3,500 people since 2001.
County Clare in the West of Ireland is my adopted home where I have lived since 1993 (I am originally from England). In 1995 I moved to Feakle in East Clare. This is a special place in a beautiful landscape of hills, lakes, woodlands and boglands. It is renowned for traditional music and singing and there are a number of festivals in and around Feakle at different times of the year. The area also has a number of forward-thinking people working on projects such as CELT, Irish Seedsavers Association, Tuamgraney Wildlife Park, Scariff Community Garden, Clare Accessible Transport, organic gardens and farms. Also there are excellent walking, cycling and pony-trekking facilities and other outdoor activities, sports, etc.
Enhancement of the landscape through more planting of native trees on farms and in gardens (agroforestry systems) and as natural or semi-natural woodlands. Native trees are good for biodiversity. Ireland has only 12% tree cover of which less than 2% is native trees. Native Irish trees include Oak, Ash, Cherry, Birch, Alder, Holly - all valuable hardwoods. They can help alleviate flooding, stabilise soil, improve soil fertility, provide shelter and shade and they can store carbon, thus mitigating the effects of climate change.
I have worked in nature conservation for more than 20 years, including voluntary work in Scotland with Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Scottish Conservation Projects. Since coming to Ireland in 1993, I have studied the flora and fauna of County Clare and for 2 years I supervised the development work of the East Clare Way walking route. I co-founded CELT in 2000 to bring together local crafts workers and create a training organisation. I have a Diploma in Community Development and Environment from Galway university. I do voluntary work as Information Officer for CELT and I occasionally teach dry-stone walling and lead guided woodland walks.
I see huge potential for more native woodlands and agroforestry in Ireland to bring a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. Jobs and training opportunities in tree-associated and other traditional and ecological skills can be created nationwide. Such project fit in naturally as eco-tourism attractions that can add to package eco-holidays along with walking, cycling, local food, traditional music, etc.