Walking through Hollywood everyday it is hard not to reflect on the diverse communities living here and the myriad of connections between them.

The photo I took today (above) shows a fallen Willow tree in Hollywood. In its slow decay it is now supporting many diverse and interdependent communities. With the amount of rain we get here, particularly as this area is close to a ditch, the rotting branches are bright green and soft with mosses and ferns. And no doubt, as I’ve described in previous posts, there are busy networks of fungi hard at work managing it all. This small area, so lush and green, always reminds me of the great ‘goblin’ forests of NZ that I have also been lucky enough to know (although ferns there grow as tall as trees!).

Idly thinking about all these connections, I had just taken this photo when I heard my name being called and looked up to see Mary White, former Carlow Kilkenny Green Minister, now Blackstairs Ecotrails nature walk organiser, calling through the hedgerow to me. She was leading committee members from Green Sod Ireland for a walk along the lane that Hollywood is next to. Peering up from the hedgerow ditch, Holly and I were delighted to meet some of the key people from Green Sod Ireland – a truly inspiring and award winning organisation that in the last few years is passionately caring for ‘wildacres’ across Ireland. These lands are held by Green Sod Ireland in perpetuity, for the Irish people and the non-human communities that such lands support.

IMG_1571 (1)

Martin, and Victoria (committee members) and Sheila Gallagher (co-founder) of Green Sod Ireland with Mary White of Carlow’s Blackstairs Ecotrails

Amazingly, in one of those strange incidences of serendipity, one of the Green Sod Ireland people who traveled from Galway to meet with Mary today, had on their way to Carlow been talking about Hollywood and ProSilva close-to-nature forestry! They had just recently seen my blog!! However they didn’t know until our ‘meeting in the hedgerow’ that I had previously worked with Mary. Through Mary I had actually been keen to make a connection with Green Sod Ireland as Mary had some years ago told me how she was involved in Green Sod Ireland’s first ‘wildacres’. These acres, in another case of serendipity, were gifted to the nation from a resident of Co. Carlow!

This came about when Mary was a minister in the Dail (Ireland’s parliament) and a local Carlow landowner, David Rowe, approached her asking her to find some way that his carefully tended land would be cared for in perpetuity. David was so keen he passed the deeds of his land over to Mary and for some time they sat in a file in her office. Then in 2010, one of the founders of the newly formed Green Sod Ireland organisation came to Mary in the Dail to say Green Sod Ireland was seeking to look after any land she might know of for future generations. I expect Green Sod Ireland was astonished when Mary instantly said she had a piece of land, right at hand!  So the very first Green Sod Ireland ‘wildacres’ are in Co. Carlow. It’s the very special

Red Bog, Co. Carlow

Green Sod Ireland acquired “Red Bog” in 2010, thanks to the generosity of Mr David Rowe, who decided to gift his land to Green Sod.

The land, in the form of five fields, is species-rich grassland and has a raised boundary bank of furze bushes, with a stream bordering one side. The 5 acres include two houses, a large shed, a lawn, an organic vegetable garden, an orchard planted with a variety of fruit trees, and the five fields.

Volunteers have played a major role in the work at Red Bog. Meitheals (volunteer working days) began in 2012. These meitheals have been very important for many reasons, namely raising the profile of Green Sod among the local community in Co. Carlow and supporting our first land donor, David Rowe, to continue to work the garden he has tended so well in the past and enjoy the fruits of his orchard.

I was interested to hear how volunteers help tend these Green Sod ‘wildacres’ across Ireland through regular Meitheals and that these special places are now valued as important sites for ecological studies for schools and colleges. It brought to mind that when I started the Hollywood Diaries project I got my neighbours to volunteer as ‘forest workers’ for a day while they learned about ‘tree-marking’ from my friend and forest teacher Jan Alexander.

A deep ecology philosophy runs through the aims of Green Sod Ireland. Yet so much is gained when these ideas are put into actions, as ultimately, practical knowledge for maintaining, even improving ecologically viability will be crucial to support all life. Earlier today I was writing about my artful eco action research methodological approach enabling HOllywood’s tranformation as a former monoculture conifer plantation to becoming an ecological rich forest. I began these writings with the following quote from US writer, fellow forest dweller and Deep Green activist Derrick Jensen.* Its a reminder about why action now for the more-than-human world is so vital:

Most of our actions are frighteningly ineffective. If that weren’t the case we would not be witnessing the dismantling of the world… But we make a fatal and frankly pathetic error when we presume that our symbolic victories, our recruiting and our morale boosting, by themselves make tangible differences on the ground, and we should never forget that what happens on the ground is the only thing that matters.

You can learn how to support, and perhaps gift land at the Green Sod Ireland website here. Also, exciting times lie ahead for Blackstairs Ecotrails; just down the lane they are busy converting a barn into a small bespoke eco-edcuation centre.


*   Derrick Jensen interviewed for  No Compromise, 2005

4 thoughts on “Carlow connections – Green Sod Ireland, Blackstairs Ecotrails and Hollywood

  1. Hi Cathy
    Green Sod had a great day in Carlow that day, and our walk with Mary White was wonderful, not to mention the great synchronicity of meeting you!! I found your practice very interesting and the blog is great. I am working on a project for green sod called WildAwake – Walk Where You Are, getting people out in nature and connecting through walks and talks, we will have walks in Carlow but I thought you might like to collaborate in some way? the event is not until April, Maybe you could be our Wild Awake Artist!!
    Let me know what you think,
    All the best


    • I’d be delighted to Victoria, be great if I could be involved locally in Carlow somehow. I will be posting up info on the different plots in Hollywood soon which might be of interest to you, so hope you have subscribed to the blog. If you are organising a Carlow walk for a particular day people are welcome to visit Hollywood and I could explain a little about close-to-nature permanent forestry. But in any case, I’d be happy to help photograph your day.


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