Pro Silva Ireland members Anna and Brian Browne hosted the first two Continuous Cover Forestry training days in Co. Kildare.
We’ve had great feedback on our first courses. Anna and Brian Browne attended both courses and we asked them for their comments about how they got into forestry and what they learnt from Pro Silva Ireland’s first Continuous Cover Forestry training days. South Carlow Forest contractor and forestry student Sean Hoskins also relates his take from the training too!
Becoming a forest owner: Anna Browne
Anna has been a member of Pro Silva Ireland for many years, and when asked about the possibility of running a CCF course in the forest, she and her husband Brian were delighted to accommodate. Anna went along to the first course in March 2019 and was amazed how forest educator and researcher Ted Wilson and his ‘Merry Men’ (Paddy Purser, Sean Hoskins and Manus Crowley and apologies to anyone not mentioned) created a perfect outdoor forestry classroom in their tree-farm that is fast becoming a permanent forest.
Turning agricultural land towards forestry began in 1995
Anna told us that when she
inherited this site, she was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it. As fate would have
it, though, she grew up with a certain West Meath forester, Noel Kiernan (reasonably well known to some in my ‘parish!’) as a neighbour. So advice was not long in arriving, and Noel had planted the trees in 1995. In her father’s time it had been a traditional farm, and at the time she took ownership, it was rented to a neighbouring sheep farmer.
She forgets the exact reasoning now, but maybe as a way of making the land ‘hers’, she decided that 50% of the planted trees would be Oak, even though she knew she wouldn’t be around to see them to maturity. The other 50% was a mixture, including (of course) Sitka spruce. There are also Larch, Maple, Birch, and a few Yew trees. A few pear trees ended up being planted by happy accident, and to her great delight, when her and her family visited the farm on her (late) Father’s birthday in October 2018, they picked great bushels of pears, and made chutney.
Anna relates how permanent forest planting brings her joy in so many ways:
I always look forward to camping there in the summer and being woken by the dawn chorus. In this age of diminishing biodiversity and insect decline, I glory that this space that has been chemical free for more than 20 years – it is my small contribution to respecting Mother Nature. For me:
“Continuous Cover Forestry seemed like a ‘no-brainer’, and it was always our plan for our forest site, even before we knew there was a term for it. Having grown up on a farm it’s clear to me that working in harmony with nature is always the correct choice. Ecosystems evolve as they do for a reason and it’s so important to respect them!
As an educator, I can appreciate that Pro Silva Ireland have created a perfect space to learn. The exercises that Ted designed provided powerful and lasting learning for the participants. His overnight work in analysing and providing feedback was superb reinforcement. It makes me so happy that we can provide the space for this learning to take place, and I’m so glad that Noel nudged me in the direction of forestry in all those years ago.”
Anna someday hopes to live in their permanent forest:
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my visits with my family, and I hope that with Pro Silva Ireland we can continue to share this special place with many others.
Anna’s husband Brian also gave us some great feedback. Because of their work schedules Anna and Brian could not attend the first CCF course together, so Anna went to the inaugural session and Brian visited for the second. Brian shared how the training started with a indoor education presentation on Continuous Cover forestry with forester, Ted Wilson.
Brian told us that he found the second course ‘audience was unusually keen and well-informed, and as a sometime educator himself, he knew that sort of group can really keep you on your toes.’ But Brian said ‘it didn’t present a problem for course leader Ted Wilson, who seems to enjoy not knowing the answer to a question, as it gave him the chance to find out something new himself. NOT that there are many questions Ted didn’t have an answer for!’
As a land-owner, Brian felt he was a passenger in a group of experienced foresters. But he felt Ted was easily able to hold the attention of all present to expand their world-view of what continuous cover forestry could achieve.
“One of the things that I personally got from the Pro Silva Ireland Continuous Cover Forestry training day was a strong sense of the necessity of engagement with the forest on an on-going basis, over its, and our, lifetimes. This is proper resource management, ‘future-proofing’ both an income stream and a vigorous ecosystem. I also suspect that people living in proximity to a plantation where CCF is practised will result in happier neighbours, in the longer term, than those living near sites destined for clear-felling.”
Brian, as an IT professional, believes his connection with the land is a tenuous thing when compared to Anna’s (Anna is also an IT management consultant and a fantastic vegetable and flower grower), but Brian could see, in among the graphs and spreadsheets, that their kids (and theirs!) will be working with this forest to bring it to its full potential long into the future.
Brian also gave his insights to the training outdoors in their forest led by award-winning forestry educator and researcher Ted Wilson:
Once we got out among the trees it quickly became apparent that CCF is still, for many, a whole new way of looking at managing a forest; even a new way of looking at an individual tree. Ted really put the guys through their paces, and made them think; even when their findings agreed with his, he made sure to get them to go through the reasoning process to re-enforce the concept, and benefit the whole group. When results differed, detailed, sensible discussion and explanation was the order of the day.
The obvious passion that Ted has for his subject carries through into an energy that makes the time fly; exercises that were allocated an hour felt like they were over in a few minutes. I could definitely see a few ‘light-bulb’ moments among the group as they went through the practices!
Brian realises that for other Pro-Silva Ireland members he knows that he is preaching to the choir. But he would highly recommend this course to anyone.
Brian concludes that there is great value in the 2-day training course:
CCF has always been our vision for the way we wanted to manage our forest, (before we knew there was a name for it!) but attending this course has really opened my eyes to what that actually looks like in practical terms. Well done to all involved!
Note: There is at least one more Pro Silva Ireland training course planned on the Browne’s site before the site goes into its second thinning at the end of the Summer. (Pro Silva Ireland has a waiting list for this course already but please do email Pro Silva Ireland’s treasurer Manus Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pro Silva Ireland CCF Training Course reflections from Sean Hoskins
As a Pro Silva Ireland committee member Sean was pleased to see the first Pro Silva Ireland CCF training
course launched last month.
As a forestry contractor I was keen to learn practical skills for the application of Continuous Cover Forestry in the Irish context.
Ted Wilson led the two-day event and was an excellent and enthusiastic educator.
The format of short classroom sessions bookending practical in-forest exercises worked well, and I feel I’ve acquired a solid building block in my knowledge of CCF management.
The course focused on marking for thinning interventions in Sitka spruce, with a view to transformation to CCF management over time.
“This is a good place to start a practical CCF education when the majority of commercial Irish forestry is Sitka spruce.
On the right site, established spruce plantations can present an opportunity to convert to CCF systems, transforming over time to become the diverse and resilient woodlands we need for the ongoing provision of timber and other ecosystem services.”
The Pro Silva Ireland committee wishes to sincerely thank Anna and Brian for their generosity in hosting our first training days. The growing conversation for an alternative, sustainable forestry is strengthened by our enthusiastic membership – thank you Anna and Brian (and Freddy).