What seems like a premature withering of leaves on certain trees is causing concern to some readers. After all, we’re only just moving into autumn and it’s early to be happening.
Tadhg Nash, from Ovens, Co Cork, has a keen interest in oak and beech. In a number of locations, including around Crookstown and Templemartin, in mid-Cork; in the Muckross area of Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, and in Adare, Co Limerick, he found a significant number of mature beech trees had severe symptoms of leaf-browning and withering, in August.
“I find this peculiar as surely it cannot be due to lack of moisture in view of the amount of rain which we have had this summer,” he says.
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht says the rusting, drying and discolouration on many species of trees is due to our unusual weather patterns this spring, summer and autumn seasons: “During April, we had a spate of dry weather, followed by a very cold wind that burned the leaves on the beech and affected flowers of other species also.
We also recorded a significant drop in butterfly/ bumble bee numbers at the same time. From May until now we have had very wet, humid weather which has seen some rusting and even some trees showing early autumn signs.
I revisited Doneraile Wildlife Park, in north Cork, on a day of sunshine and showers in mid-August. The place was verdant and busy with people walking among superb oak, sycamore, yew, beech, lime and many other species. The rolling landscape in the 500-acre park and well-placed avenues of trees might give the impression it is all natural.
However, much of what you see has been shaped by human hand in the style of the celebrated 18th century landscape architect, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, whose work can also be seen in many old estates in England.
They even changed the course of the Awbeg river, bringing it through the centre of park. With its cascade, ponds and stone-arched bridges, the river really does enhance the view from the front door of Doneraile Court.
Wildlife includes fallow and sika deer, as well as native red deer brought there from Killarney National Park. The park was sold by Mary Isobel Morice to the Land Commission, 50 years ago. Doneraile Court, one of our great houses, was saved by the Irish Georgian Society and is now also in state hands. Ground-floor rooms have been restored and are open daily for guided tours.
An added attraction is a children’s playground. Many families are among the visitors which number just under 500,000 annually, according to official figures.