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Dun Laoghaire Biodiversity in Action: apple trees and local bees
Article by Dean Eaton, Acting Environmental Awareness Officer, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
Securing the National Apple Collection with Shankill Tidy Towns and UCD
On a clear, cold February morning, several members of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council staff and the Shankill Tidy Towns Committee visited University College Dublin (UCD) with a very important mission, to learn about and take action to help safeguard the ‘National Apple Collection’.
Such an opportunity would not have been possible if not for the determination of the original curator Dr Keith Lamb, who in the 1940’s identified the need to protect our natural heritage and set about scouring the four provinces for native Irish apple trees to add to an embryonic ‘National Collection’. Nor would it have been possible if it had not been for the tenacity of Professor Michael Hennerty to continue that work and who oversaw the phoenix-like rise of the ‘National Collection’ after an incident with a bulldozer in 1970 (more on that later). Thankfully the collection is now thriving due to the on-going management by Kevin Kenny, a Senior Technical Officer with UCD, his staff and the good will of the College.
Kevin Kenny provided a most informative tour of the collection, regaling several interesting stories concerning the history of the collection and the good fortune discovering and propagating some of the varieties. One such variety the Ballyvaughan Seedling, discovered on a small farm in Co. Clare, was in particularly poor health. A grand total of five spindly cuttings were secured from the last remaining tree. Of the five cuttings taken and grafted onto rootstocks, only one took, which proved particularly fortunate as the parent tree perished the following year. Thankfully the Ballyvaughan Seedling is growing well amongst many other rare native species from every county in Ireland.
Kevin also pointed out the benefits of growing Irish varieties, which have greater resistance to diseases due to their acclimatisation to the warm and damp Irish weather conditions and therefore require less chemical use than foreign imports. Particularly pertinent considering the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which was launched recently and seeks (amongst other things) to encourage less chemical use in an effort to safeguard Ireland’s pollinators.
So what about the 1970 bulldozer incident? I guess it’s fair to say that we’re lucky to have a ‘National Collection’ at all, after the collection, originally housed in the Albert College, now DCU (Dublin City University), Glasnevin, became the victim of an overzealous worker with a bulldozer! The whole collection was utterly destroyed in a single weekend.
Fortunately the majority of the Irish varieties were held by the Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Kent, which houses over 4000 fruit trees from around the world and who were only too happy re-supply the Irish varieties. It still took many years of badgering from Professor Michael Hennerty to convince the Department of Agriculture to allow the varieties to be imported and only then under strict condition that the trees would be grown in isolation under the care of Kevin Kenny for two years to ensure they were disease free. The ‘bulldozer incident’ highlighted the importance of safeguarding the ‘National Collection’ and provided the determination for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council working in partnership with Shankill Tidy Towns to create its own mini collection. With the assistance of Kevin Kenny, cuttings were taken from 30 of the 70 cultivars making up the National Collection and grafted onto (M26) semi dwarfing rootstocks.
These trees are now being grown under glass in the Shanganagh Parks Depot to give the grafts the best possible chance of taking. The total cost of this Biodiversity in Action project was €600, thanks largely to the time given freely by volunteers from Shankill Tidy Towns, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council staff and Kevin Kenny of UCD. Volunteers will be sought to assist with the planting of the new orchard in Shanganagh Park to coincide with National Tree Week 2017, after which the future of our National Apple Collection will be a little more secure.
Bee Friendly Kilcross – planting pollinator friendly plants
In response to the decline in bee and hoverfly populations, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan was produced by a collaboration of interested parties and headed by Úna FitzPatrick of the Biodiversity Data Centre and Jane Stout
of Trinity College, Dublin (see article on P. 26/27 of Winter 2016 Catchments Newsletter).
Launched in September 2015, the Plan was a call to action, encouraging a wide range of sectors to do their bit to make Ireland a more pollinator friendly place.
Heeding the call to action were the residents of Kilcross, a small estate in Sandyford, Dublin, thanks largely to the passion and dedication of local resident Marese Hegarty and an army of willing helpers from the local Estate Management Forum. With a small amount of funding (€1000) from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council via their Biodiversity in Action Programme, Marese and friends developed a plan that would see them become one of the first pollinator friendly estates in Ireland, and unexpectedly achieve so much more…
Their approach aimed to make taking action as simple and easy as possible, whilst also getting the best value for money. To this end the group linked up with The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden School based in Marlay Park, who run a social enterprise project offering free horticulture courses to the unemployed and adults with learning difficulties. The Garden Club provided Kilcross Estate with 100’s of bee friendly plants, grown by members of the Gardening School in exchange for a small donation which would be used to secure more places on future courses.
A series of child friendly and adult orientated workshops were held at the local community centre. Participants then joined the organisers to plant 100’s of bee friendly plants along the borders of the estate. Some plants were also given
to local residents to ‘brighten up their gardens’, thereby offering more nectar sources for the pollinators. Due to popular demand a garden club was established through which pollinator friendly gardening advice was given.
Other Estate Management and Resident Groups learnt about the efforts of Kilcross and wanted to know more. Kilcross were happy to offer places at their workshops as they saw this as an ideal opportunity to spread the message further. Now there are several pollinator friendly estates springing up throughout the Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown area, a new embryonic gardening club meet regularly at the community centre, there are many more pollinator aware children and adults championing the pollinators cause and of course
many more happy hoverflies and bees.
It’s amazing what can be achieved by a small amount of funding and the passion to turn a vision into reality.
Chambers Ireland Sustainable Environment Award for Biodiversity in Action
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council scooped the Sustainable Environment Award at the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Awards on November 24th 2016.
“The dedication and enthusiasm shown by all the different members of our community that I have worked with on this project, shows that there is a keen interest for protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of our local environment.” – Dean Eaton, Co-ordinator of the Biodiversity in Action programme & County Council Environmental Awareness Officer
The winning entry, Biodiversity in Action was a programme to support four biodiversity projects in partnership with diverse community groups to showcase how communities can take simple actions to protect our natural heritage. The programme aimed to engage a diverse range of community groups to seek ways to improve their natural heritage.
Through these programmes:
- over 1500 trees were planted by pupils from 13 schools in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area,
- habitats to support a rare butterfly were created with Marley Grange Residents Association,
- a pollinator friendly estate was developed with Kilcross Estate Management Forum,
- an orchard of 150 native apple trees was planted with Shankill Tidy Towns and UCD, and,
- a wildlife friendly campus with special consideration given to the Brent Geese was developed with Blackrock College.
“Winning this national award is yet another example of the good work that is achieved where the Council and the community work together.” – An Cathaoirleach Cllr Cormac Devlin