Cabragh Wetlands

Saving our hedgerows is of vital importance

Our landscape has made a cultural imprint on visitors

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Hedgerows

Hedgerows such as this are regrettably disappearing from the irish landscape.

The traveller from Munich to Salzburg, from Pisa to Florence, even from Paris to Caen through the once famous but now vanished bocage of the Second World War will be lost - no hedge, no reference point, a green desert between hilltop villages. Are we moving in the same direction in Ireland?

Many thousands of short stay European vacationers have flown back to Ireland over the weekend after their short sojourn in Europe.
For every passenger, the heart lifts as Carnsore point appears below them and that special tint of green along with the unmistakable patchwork unfolds and that feeling of home and all we associate with it returns to the mind. Home i.e. Ireland, as a concept in our minds would be inconceivable without hurling, music sessions, cupán tae, soft days, an easy acceptance of strangers etc. etc.
Unbeknown to us, the very landscape too has made a huge cultural imprint on our minds. This was brought home to me recently when I returned to a site that was an intimate part of my youth, a time of swimming, friends and laughter, a part of teenage years, evening walks and rushing waters, a part of discovery of my own and my community’s past and a meeting place with my elders. For the very first time in my life in the Irish countryside beside what should have been a very familiar stream, I was totally disorientated. A stretch of river bank, a green curtain, standing unchanged for almost a century, was gone. Not a shrub, not a bush, a clear view to Thurles town. What seems a small project now given the mechanical power available can be so destructive to people’s lives. Grubbing out an ancient hedgerow has a similar impact.
The traveller from Munich to Salzburg, from Pisa to Florence, even from Paris to Caen through the once famous but now vanished bocage of the Second World War will be equally lost, no hedge, no reference point, a green desert between hilltop villages.
This is today’s Europe, only Ireland stands alone. Will we end up with an equally brutally farmed landscape as the rest with as much biodiversity in the kitchen as in the bleak fields? Do we need that? Hedgerows can be a part of intensive farming, we can still farm in a way that is fuzzy round the edges. There can still be tangled legislation, they can all be funded.
The average Glas payment in this country is a little short of €3,000. One thing is sure, you cannot divorce farming from wildlife. Either we make room for wildlife on the farmed landscape or we lose it.
The conservation of wildlife is about connectivity, joined up places and joined up thinking. Great farmers can deliver crops, herds and birds. The future of wildlife is bound by hoops of steel to the future of farming.
That is why I am so concerned about the recent very long dry spell - it seemed that the main advantage that was taken was the opportunity to work the JCB through all the hours demolishing hedgerows. You don’t need me to tell you that hedgerows are so important for birds and small mammals. For instance the survival of the yellowhammer may come down to waiting until September to cut the hedge. The traditional hawthorn and ash multi species hedgerow of much of Leinster and north Munster has become gapped but a reading of the scheme gives the management option of coppicing and the hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, ivy and honeysuckle will continue to flourish, surely better than a strand of electric wire.
Europe has been a great boon to Irish farming but it brings with it the hopes and concerns of a European population that has lost so many of its own varied landscapes. Hedgerows may not be cut from March 1st to August 31st. There are some derogations and you may contact the wildlife ranger, Aine Lynch, at 087 9369372 who will happily discuss any or all of the provisions that are in place for the conservation of the Irish landscape down to individual hedgerow banks, the homes of solitary bees among a host of other wildlife.
The landlords of the 18th century with their great estates managed the terrain and its vistas often in the context of the view from the drawing room. I doubt if any modern Irish farmer wants to look out his or her window at a prairie divided by strands of wire no matter how lucrative it may be.
Think long and hard about the removal of hedgerows. With genuine goodwill and a respect for nature, the circle of hedgerows and doubling the national herd or any other economic aspiration can be squared thereby maintaining the distinctiveness and richness of the Irish landscape.
Some dates for your diary-Wood carving classes continue each Wednesday,”a pre-loved dress party in aid of Suir Haven in Cabragh on March 3rd from 6-9 and Cabragh Wetlands Trust has a cookery evening in Holycross on April 6th. All information available at 0504 43879 or email cabraghwetlands@eircom.net
Cabragh Wetlands extends its sympathies to the family of the young Brian Maher who passed away at a very young age recently. His grandfather,Seán,was instrumental in bringing Cabragh Wetlands to where it is today. Brian spent many happy hours in Cabragh and was always willing to help out particularly with the Cabragh Wetlands summer camp, Detective in the Wild.
Suaimhneas na bhFlaithis dó.
Slán go fóill.