Working off the effects of the food and drink excesses of the Christmas festivities will be a daunting challenge for thousands of people countrywide next week.
But the task will be made a little easier in areas where a NeighbourWood scheme has been developed as a year-round amenity.
The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine administrates the scheme, which was launched last year.
It provides funding for local authorities and community groups to develop woodland amenities in and around villages, towns and cities, specifically for public access and enjoyment.
Part of the Forestry Programme 2014-2020, the scheme is delivering a wide range of benefits to local communities and the wider society.
The overall aim is to create and develop woodlands as a vibrant legacy to be used and enjoyed by this and future generations.
Typical facilities include entrances, car parking, a variety of looped footpaths, information signage and waymarkers, nature trails, seats and picnic tables. The scheme facilitates exercise, recreation and relaxation, which can enhance health and well-being.
It also helps to create important wildlife habitats, mitigated noise pollution, promote air quality and improve the visual landscape.
A common theme is to provide an important opportunity for young and old to experience nature and the environment, to see and enjoy forests and to appreciate the rich variety of plants and wildlife that exist.
A NeighbourWood can be a stand-alone amenity, or can be linked with other attractions in the area, such as parkland, historical buildings, visitor attractions and wider walking or cycle routes.
The latest project under the scheme was officially opened recently in the fishing port of Dunmore East, Co Waterford.
Dunmore Woods were first planted at the end of the 18th century as part of the Curraghmore Estate.
They were handed over to the people of the area in trust by the 7th Marquis of Waterford in 1924 for recreational use.
Following severe storm damage to the woods in 2014, it was decided that the new NeighbourWood Scheme was what was needed to rejuvenate the woodland.
Lord Waterford, Tyrone Beresford, grandson of the man who donated the woods in trust to the community 92 years ago, was present for the ceremony. He said it was nice to see so much work being done on the woods which are part of his grandfather’s legacy to the people of Dunmore and Waterford.
Minister of state Andrew Doyle, who has responsibility for forestry, said the NeighbourWood Scheme is focussed on delivering social benefits of forestry to local communities.
“The scheme is designed to provide accessible opportunities for recreation and regular exercise while creating and developing woodlands for the benefit of current and future generations,” he said.
Mr Doyle said the scheme aims to provide outdoor classrooms for teachers to show children the important contribution forests make to society in terms of social, economic and environmental benefits.
The aim of the Dunmore East project was to bring the existing woodland to a better standard for recreational use.
This was done through resurfacing the paths, putting in place informative signage and carrying out maintenance programmes once dead trees and undergrowth had been cleared.
He said the project will also raise awareness of the woods as an important natural heritage and landscape amenity area for residents and visitors to Dunmore East particularly with a view to the centenary, in 2024, of the establishment of the Woods Trust.
“I believe the traditions and legacy of this woodland are secure into the future. I am pleased that my Department facilitated the development of this woodland,” said Mr Doyle.
“And I sincerely hope that the people of Dunmore East will make full use of this woodland for social, economic and environmental purposes and will enjoy this invaluable resource in the centre of their village for many years to come.”
Waterford City and County Mayor Adam Wyse said the NeighbourWood Scheme is an invaluable community resource and part of the local fabric of life and sense of place.
“They provide individuals, families and friends time-out and contact with the natural world, promote public health, well-being and a better quality of life, and create a resource for people young and old to learn about nature and the environment,” said Mr Wyse.
“I hope that the people of Dunmore East and further afield throughout the entire City and County of Waterford will enjoy this amenity which has been provided for by a wonderful group of individuals.”.
Dunmore Woodland Trust’s treasurer, Mary Torrie, said that work on the project began in February this year. They now have a NeighbourWood Scheme that would be a source of pride to the 7th Marquis of Waterford.
Tommy Enright, Forestry Services, a private company, whose advice and guidance was obtained for the work, said it involved every aspect of forestry from planting to harvesting.
Safe and accessible walkways were developed through the woodland with access points using timber fencing and informative signage.
“The scheme has given a new lease of life to the Dunmore East Woods for generations to come and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” he said.
Kevin Collins, Forestry Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, said it was fantastic to see the energy and vibrancy that the local community has put into the project.
“It is an important part of our overall forestry programme. We are very much focused on increasing the national forest estate.
“Bringing the benefits of forestry right to where people live is very important. That is exactly what this project has done for us,” he said.
Parish priest Fr Brian Power and Dean Maria Jansson blessed the amenity, which features a mix of tree species and some spectacular views across the Dunmore East seascape.
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