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In Ireland many semi natural woodlands are associated with large estates, Semi State institutions and Agricultural Colleges. There is considerable current interest in preserving and even expanding these forests as aesthetic amenities, wildlife habitats and areas of commercial timber production. The forests often date back to the mid 1800s and have received little or no management. Old age, disease, livestock damage and weather effects have combined to produce dead and dying trees and the resultant gaps are often filled with scrub instead of natural regrowth of young saplings from the seed of the original trees.
The woodlands on Mellows College land, like those in other estates, have been neglected for decades and many of the trees should have been felled as commercial timber 30/40 years ago. The trees are a mixture of broad leaves, such as Ash, Beech and the occasional Oak and Elm and Conifers, mainly Sitka Spruce and some Larch.
During 1994 it was decided to produce a “management plan” for all the woodlands on Mellowes College land. Each woodland plot was numbered, mapped, surveyed and examined and recommendations were out-lined for the future management of each plot.
The recommendations were based on:
(a) The potential for commercial timber production.
(b) Landscape and amenity enhancement.
(c) Wildlife habitat protection.
(d) The need for demonstration and educational areas for students and local people.
The proposed plan was discussed with all interested parties including the best silvicultural experts in the country. The whole package was finalised and after agreement with the Forest Service on EU funding the work commenced in June 1994. Noel Lane and John Flanagan of Coillte, who are the contractors, have overall day to day responsibility for the implementation of the woodland improvement plan. The first step in implementation of the plan was to take out and sell off all the mature and old trees. The process was undertaken as environmentally friendly as possible with the minimum use of large machines. The timber was graded into three types — saw log, pallet wood and pulp-wood – the saw log being the most valuable. Many of the older trees, which looked well standing, were of little value when felled and were only classed as pulp-wood because of decaying (dozed) centres. Most of the felling and clearing of dying trees has now been completed. The next step is to prepare for planting new trees and for regeneration of existing saplings.
The woodlands at Mellowes will be under Noel Lane’s capable hands for the next four years. By the year 2,000 there is no doubt that Mellows College will be renowned for its woodlands and will be a showcase of good woodland management.
By then Mellows College will have on show, for demonstration purposes and as an amenity for local people, woodland plots of great diversity in age, species and wildlife habitats.
From time to time we will be reporting on the progress of the plan in future issues of this Journal. We would also like to invite local students to consider the Woodland improvement project at Mellows as a research base for projects which they may be required to prepare from time to time during their studies.
The project is funded by the Forest Service, Dept. of Agriculture Food& Forestry, the EU and by Mellows College own resources.
Written by Jim Reidy
Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995
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