16 December 2020 Coillte Nature

2020 Progress: Dublin Mountains Makeover

Karen Woods, Operations Manager with Coillte Nature, offers a personal reflection on progress made this year on the Dublin Mountains Makeover

For me, the Dublin Mountains Makeover is part of a really exciting journey that started 12 years ago when I became the first Recreation Manager with the Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP). Our early work focussed on upgrading existing trails, creating new ones, improving signage and enhancing facilities. Now, I feel we’ve come full circle: while the amazing recreation work continues through the DMP, I’ve had the opportunity to turn my attention back to the trees and forests themselves.

The Dublin Mountains Makeover
Coillte Nature is transforming 910 hectares across nine Coillte sites for people and nature through two novel forest management approaches: CCF (Continuous Cover Forestry, learn more) and R&R (Remove & Replant, learn more).

Karen Woods inspecting a tree marked for CCF
CCF thinning in operation in Ballyedmonduff

We started work in June 2020 with a CCF thinning
Operations started in June with a CCF thinning in a beautiful stand of mature Sitka spruce at Ballyedmonduff. We removed individual trees to create space and light for seedlings to grow naturally and to increase the structural diversity of the forest stand. In this way, the large cathedral like spruce trees can be maintained on the landscape, enhancing the forests’ recreational appeal while also maintaining the vital forest habitat above and below the soil for wildlife, protecting the soil and encouraging the forest to regenerate.

We also completed another CCF thinning in Cruagh wood in the 70 year old larch stand at the entrance and adjacent spruce. Again, we are trying to open the canopy to allow light to reach the forest floor to encourage natural regeneration. We will also underplant the larch with native trees to gradually convert the forest to a more mixed woodland over time. Due to the high deer populations in Dublin and Wicklow, any native trees we plant in these areas will need protection through either fencing, small exclosures or tree shelters.

Another CCF thinning was planned in the beautiful mixed woodland at Barnaslingan, however the felling licence from the Forest Service is still awaiting approval. However, we have marked the trees for removal with a pink line (/) so are ready to go in the coming months when the licence is granted.

Our next task was to make space for new native woodlands
In some parts of the Dublin Mountains, it’s not possible to do CCF and in others we want to change the species. That’s why - in some places - we’ve opted for R&R instead: a technique whereby we clearfell the mature spruce and pine forest and replant it with new native woodland. First though, we survey the site and look at the soil type, ground flora and moisture regime to determine the most appropriate native woodland type and mix of species to plant.

In August, we started two small clearfells in Ticknock: one near the car park, one near the Red Barn. The trees were cut down and brought to the side of the road, where they were picked up by timber lorries and brought to the sawmills. Then in winter, we started preparing the site for the first native woodland planting. This involved removing some of the heavy branches left over from the felling operation and pulling the brash into piles (windrows) that will gradually decompose over time. Next, a machine came in and prepared the ground for the new seedlings by mixing the soil, and the final step was to erect a deer fence to keep the hungry deer out.

In December, we started to plant it
In early December, we planted the two areas with a mix of native trees. In the area closest to the car park we planted birch, Scots pine, oak, rowan and holly, which will develop into a pioneer birch woodland. In the area near the Red Barn, we planted the same mix of species but in different proportions. This area will develop into an oak-birch-holly woodland. These new native woodlands will see a greater diversity of species in the Dublin Mountains, enhance the habitat for wildlife and bring beautiful autumn colour to the hills. We are working with the DMP to create new walking trails next year.

Also this year, we clearfelled an area of Sitka spruce in Cruagh, opening up the wonderful views over Dublin city. It will be replanted with native woodland next spring. An area of Sitka spruce in Ballyedmonduff was also felled and will be replanted with spruce, birch and rowan next spring. Unfortunately, our plans to replant a large area of burnt forest in Carrickgollogan with new native woodland were delayed due to a felling licence appeal. Happily, in December the appeal was heard by the Forestry Appeals Committee and the licence approved. Work is due to commence next year to remove the burnt and blown-down trees and replant the area with native oak-birch-holly woodland the following autumn.

Ticknock Clearfell near the Red Barn
Planting the new pioneer birch native woodland

Thanks for all your support in 2020! We look forward to continued progress in 2021
2020 has been a really exciting year for the Dublin Mountains and the importance of the Makeover has been highlighted by the massive increase in visitors, who are getting outdoors and enjoying this wonderful amenity on their doorstep during these challenging Covid times. We’re hugely grateful for the support and patience that the public have shown as we progress this long-term project and look forward to continuing the transformation over the coming years. We will continue to work closely with our partners in the Dublin Mountains Partnership to protect and enhance this wonderful resource on Dublin's doorstep.

Find out more about Coillte Nature's work in our End of Year Report

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