A Happy Holly-day for one of our native species as Lisa, Rena and friends plant 500 hollies on their land in Ballybunion on the Solstice

A desire to “leave a woodland for the generations to come” was the motivation behind a project on the Winter Solstice that witnessed the planting of 500 saplings of a cherished native species – the holly – on The Barna Way farm in Ballybunion.

It is there that Rena Blake’s family has farmed for generations, where a belt of trees planted by her forebears 100 years ago provided the shelter for an extraordinary new greening along the Wild Atlantic Way. For the 500 hollies planted by photographer Rena and her artist spouse Lisa Fingleton are but the latest shoots of a plantation of nearly 10,000 native species of tree the pair set on their eco, social farm last June. It’s an initiative managed by Greenbelt through the Native Woodland Scheme, that has also seen local Cahill’s SuperValu coming on board through the Woodland Environmental Fund.

It sure made for a heartening sight at the height of the festive season as Cormac Cahill of SuperValu joined Lisa, Rena and friends to set the young hollies in the ivy-clad earth.

“The holly tree is a particularly significant native tree. Druids believed the holly tree to possess protective qualities,” Rena explained. “For centuries, this magical tree has been represented by a holly wreath, which was worn as a crown by Celtic chieftains for good luck,” Rena added.

“Generations of my family have lived on this land. I feel we are caretakers or stewards of the fields, taking care of it while we are here. One hundred years ago, my family planted some trees here which provide great protection for us. We want to leave a woodland for the generations to come,” Rena said.

The woodland includes oak, holly, birch, rowan, hawthorn and Scots pine, native species that are set to result in an even more biodiverse habitat for countless creatures in the little biosphere of the Barna Way – as would likely once have been the scene before the arrival of agriculture.

“We are concerned about climate change and want to play our part in protecting habitats and biodiversity now and into the future,” Lisa explained. “We are so lucky to have land, and we feel that planting native trees is the best gift we can give to the planet”.

Cormac Cahill of Cahill’s SuperValu meanwhile said the supermarket was ‘delighted’ to get involved in the interest of forging a greener future along the North Kerry coast.”We are delighted to have the opportunity to get involved in this great project in Ballybunion. Over the last year, we have been greening our business as much as possible with solar panels on our roof and our fully electric delivery van. We see this as the cherry on the cake, and we are excited to be part of it,” Cormac said.

“I see it as a collaboration between a local business, Cahill’s Supervalu in this case and local landowners [Rena and Lisa] to pay forward environmentally by planting a Native Woodland. Greenbelt was involved from the beginning and managed all the forestry aspects of the project,” said Ger Moroney, the Regional Manager at Greenbelt. “I am extremely proud of this particular initiative that started as an ideal with potential – The Woodland Environmental Fund. I think that it’s a win-win for business, landowners and our environment. Big companies and small have gotten on board with land owners like Rena and Lisa, who recognise that we need to give back, that trees are required to help reverse climate change. The world, needs fixing and this scheme helps to encourage landowners to do this. I am most proud that my eldest son, Eddie, along with Martin and Alex, long-term colleagues are involved in the planting and maintenance of Rena and Lisa’s trees”.

For more about the Native Woodland scheme, contact Gerard Moroney, Green Belt Ltd, at (086) 838 0915 or gmoroney@greenbelt.ie.

Photo Front, from left: Lisa Fingleton, Cormac Cahill (SuperValu) and Rena Blake with (back from left) Eddie Moroney, Ger Moroney, Martin Doherty and Alex Sechka of Greenbelt, planting 500 native hollies at the Barna Way in Ballybunion to mark a Happy Holly Winter Solstice last week. Photo by Paul Shanahan

Article by Dónal Nolan (Article in The Kerryman / Independent 6th January 2021)

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