LEAF Ireland was delighted to team up with Limerick City and County Council, and the GoGreenRoutes project, to plant a Choill Bheag, a small, native woodland, along the Greenway in Castletroy. This An Choill Bheag project is kindly being funded by GS Memorial Foundation.

An Choill Bheag (AnCB) is a long-term educational, tree planting programme, an initiative of LEAF Ireland and the Environmental Education Unit (EEEU) of An Taisce.  The aim is to create small, dense native woodland habitats for biodiversity and an educational and recreational resource for the local schools and communities to enjoy.

Pictured at the community event was volunteer, Terry McMahon. Picture: Alan Place

Officially opening in 2021, the Castletroy Greenway is a cycling and walking pathway that extends for approximately 820m, linking Castletroy College Road with the Dublin Road (R445). Through the GoGreenRoutes project, the overall vision for the Castletroy Greenway is to provide opportunities for social engagement, contact with the natural environment and active recreation, as well as enhancing local biodiversity and creating ecological connectivity (corridors for wildlife).

Prior to planting the little woodland, A City of Limerick’s Tree Planning online workshop took place on 21st November 2022. The workshop preparation was two-fold. First, An Choill Bheag, Limerick City and County Council, teachers from the Castletroy Gaelscoil, and teacher and students from the Castletroy College chose the woodland site. Secondly, registration was made available online, and on the Limerick City and County Council GoGreenRoutes website, social media and GoGreenRoutes social media. Flyers were displayed along the greenway, in the local shops, and playgrounds. The workshop identified the skills and knowledge of local stakeholders. A number of planting ideas, challenges and solutions on signage, educational links with both schools and creating ‘guardians of the space’ were discussed.

An important aspect of the An Choill Bheag initiative is that schools, communities and local stakeholders are engaged and involved in the whole process. Communities are encouraged to connect with woodland culture and biodiversity to understand their benefits to society, climate change, biodiversity and their local economy.

On 1st February 2023, students from both Gaelscoil Chaladh An Treoigh and Castletroy College carried out soil tests, identified species that were already present and marked out the area for planting. On 4th February, supported by 50+ local volunteers approximately 250 native trees of mixed variety were planted along the Castletroy greenway. Many arriving with shovels/spades and wheelbarrows, the local residents, politicians, and community interest groups planted throughout the day. The primary and secondary schools planted a further 200 trees on 23rd February. The area was mulched in March in order to supress the grass growing up around the base of the young trees. Finally, a follow up visit will take place during the summer months to educate the students and community members on how best to care for this new habitat, educational signage will also be erected. Over time, it is hoped that this new habitat will become a treasure trove of biodiversity and place for the whole community to enjoy and benefit from.

Pictured at the community event was volunteer, Iarla O’Dea (3). Picture: Alan Place

Rachel Geary from LEAF Ireland (EEU) said:

Climate change and biodiversity loss are the biggest issues facing us.  This collaborative initiative provides an opportunity to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss at a community level. This project aims to protect, restore and educate about the importance of trees and the multifunctional benefits of forests.”

Dr. Sarah O’Malley, EU Project Officer, Limerick City and County Council said:

“Thank you to the Castletroy community and schools for taking part in this fantastic tree planting journey. LEAF Ireland have been instrumental in bringing this about, their knowledge and support is greatly appreciated by all. On behalf of Limerick City and County Council, and the GoGreenRoutes project, we hope you, the community, enjoy your woodland and the biodiversity it brings”!

Picture: Alan Place