The Trees of Athenry

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The People of Athenry and it’s surrounding areas show great pride in the historic monuments which can be seen throughout the town. They include a 13th Century Castle, The Dominican Abbey and an almost complete Wall of Athenry.

Thankfully, these monuments are now being accepted as important ingredients to an active and progressive local economy.

These are practically safe and should exist for many years to come. However, other items of importance surround our town which also need immediate attention.

On approaching Athenry from any of it’s routes, we are presented with a graceful and pleasant horizon of green foliage. They are the trees of Athenry, which owe their existence to the People of Athenry. Somebody either planted these trees or else they grew from natural seed dispersal. Whatever the case, we have allowed them to grow and prosper, whether it was intentional or not. Many would regard some of the trees as large weeds and that they should be removed. In some cases this is correct. In constructing or extending a house it can be necessary to remove these trees. There are other examples, but we will concentrate on preserving what’s left.

Some years ago, someone decided to plant some Beech Trees (Fagus Sulvatica) on a stretch of land. This line of trees begins at Árd Aoibhinn and continues down Church Street, it then turns right and follows the line of the fine town wall which runs to the rear of the old Church, where it breaks and extends a mile or so out the Ballygurane Road. Stop and Look- Observe- the bright green foliage of the early summer which darkens later on, then in the autumn it mellows into a collage of brown and green colours. So, why were they planted? Probably to enhance the local landlord’s property.

In any case someone went to the trouble to plant something, which they would never live to see in its full matured glory.

This brings me to my argument which I believe is an important one. Nowadays, we all live in a very fast world. We want results and we want them now. We plant a tree or shrub in our garden and expect it flower and improve the surroundings immediately. Some plants can perform this demand, but the truly valuable species take time and patience.

So, who is going to plant these stately trees such as Beech, Oak and Ash ? Also, the Hawthorn and Blackthorn which grow wild but deserve some attention. At the moment, very little is being planted with the future in mind. Sometimes a politician may plant a tree to show his or her awareness of nature, as long as a camera is in close proximity. Also a community group such as the Tidy Towns Committee will make earnest and commendable advances in the aesthetic qualities of the town. Is this enough ?

Every year at least thirty qualified Horticulturists are released from the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. They are all trained and skilled in the design, planting and maintenance of areas designated to the purpose of amenity and leisure.

The three years there I spent in this college, were a huge benefit to my appreciation and understanding of the local environment. With this in mind I propose that the Local Council employ a fully trained gardener to co-ordinate a proper tree planting programme for Athenry and all the Towns and Villages of Ireland. One horticulturist could oversee a wide area, not just one town. I don’t believe a self – employed landscaper can give the time and thought to such a long term plan. A person employed by the Government, would take greater pride in their job. Time and money would not be the main factor.

This is not an idea of utopian proportions, but a practical and progressive solution to a problem that will surface in the near future. The line of Beech trees that I discussed earlier will probably disappear over the next 40 years.

Who will replace them?

Editor’s note: The trees were planted, by the Lopdell family of Raheen House, in a row all around their property. They were planted before the railway was built in the 1850s. Raheen front lawn stretched all the way to the town wall at Swangate where they had access to Prospect House and to Athenry Town house through “Bóthrín Raheen” and the Back Lawn.

Feature Photo: Beech Trees sown by the Lopdell family pre 1850 on the ramparts of  the Athenry Town Wall at Swangate.

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About this record

Written by Robert Reilly

Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995

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