Ireland’s Trees a Hope for the Future

The XIV World Forestry Congress which took place this year in Durban, South Africa, had as its focus Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. Shortly before the congress convened I had returned from a trip to Ireland. As I browsed through my photos and holiday notes of that very interesting country I noticed how many pictures and references there were to trees. Trees tell a story, a story not only of my holiday in the case of this blog post, but one that stretches from the distant past and, hopefully, into the future.

Let’s begin with the Druids. Druids were Celtish people of the Iron Age who were reputed to have lived in pre-Christian Ireland. Among other activities they held trees sacred and performed various religious ceremonies.


Grianan Ailligh (Donegal),what could be a Druid sacred monument dating back to 3000BC. Its interior reminded me of the setting for the recent film The Maze Runner.


The Connemara Wilderness, where neat piles of peat bog can be seen drying out in the occasional sunshine. Shaped like a saucer, Ireland’s landscape forms a natural collecting point for the copious rainfall, ensuring the longevity of the bog.

After the Druids came the Vikings (think of the enormous Scottish-accented men in the animated feature How to Train Your Dragon). In a museum in Dublin I had examined with fascination a Viking wooden boat carved out of a single tree trunk, found in recent times preserved in Ireland’s famous bog. For the uninitiated like me, a bog is a mixture of tree leaves and mud. As already intimated the bog has excellent preserving qualities and is also used, to this day, as fuel for fire.

Known at one time as the place of trees, Ireland’s forests have greatly diminished, largely due to human influence. Several garden areas we visited, however, showed how a concerted effort has been made over the centuries to repopulate the country with trees.


Trees at Kylemore Abbey: The name “Kylemore” originates from the Irish words “Coill Mor” meaning Big Wood (which is found on the north side of the lake at Kylemore). In 1995 the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey decided to undertake a re-afforestation programme using broad leaf trees – Oak and Ash.



From a Victorian Garden at Kylemore to the pristine beauty of Stormont Gardens – the (can you believe it) present-day seat of parliament.


My last photo is not of a tree but that of a bridge in Derry-Londonderry. Derry was the Catholic name for the town, Londonderry the British name and the town is famous for the dreadful events of Bloody Sunday (popularised in the U2 song by same name) in which several young people were killed in Catholic-Protestant tensions. Derry is translated from the Gaelic as the “Place of the Oaks“. 

peace bridge

The bridge pictured here is known as the Peace Bridge and was built in 2011. The arms don’t quite touch, depicting the improved, yet still still-imperfect relations between Catholics and Protestants in modern-day Ireland. Similarly, the Irish landscape has an increased number of trees, but is still not restored to its former forest glory.

To end on a lighter note, while enjoying a jaunting cart ride near the Ring of Kerry (translated as “ring of trees”), our driver stopped in a clearing and said: “See that red tree over there? That’s a Beech. See that smaller tree next to it? That’s a son of a Beech”!


Lead up to the award ceremony: Cinema Nouveau Announces Pre-Release Screenings of Three Multi-Nominated Oscar Contenders

Each of the three pre-release titles, August: Osage County, Nebraska and Philomena, will have one screening each at 8pm on 24, 26 and 27 February respectively, at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres at Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Gateway in Durban and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Bookings are now open for these three special pre-Oscar screenings.

The talented Meryl Streep, who is no stranger to the Best Actress category, is once again nominated in this category for her role in August: Osage County, which will be pre-released at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres on Monday, 24 February at 8pm. Another big Hollywood name, Julia Roberts, shares the screen with her in this film and is up for Best Supporting Actress.

On Wednesday, 26 February at 8pm, Cinema Nouveau audiences are transported to another American state with the pre-release of Nebraska. With an impressive six Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor – Bruce Dern, Best Supporting Actress – June Squibb, Cinematography, Best Director – Alexander Payne, and Original Screenplay, this black-and-white masterpiece explores another complex family relationship.

With four Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Actress – Judi Dench, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay – Philomena plays on the Cinema Nouveau circuit at 8pm on Thursday, 27 February. It releases nationally on 28 March.

When former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what to do. All that changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench), who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about Philomena’s search for her son that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate, as their basic beliefs are challenged.

Cinema Nouveau audiences can watch these films and make their predictions before the winner of “Best Picture is announced during the early hours of 3 March.

The full list of nominees vying for this prestigious award are: Gravity; Captain Phillips; American Hustle; Dallas Buyers Club; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; and The Wolf of Wall Street.

For more information and to make a booking, visit or Call Ticketline on 082 16789.

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)