The folk behind Hometree, a not-for-profit organisation which works to establish and conserve permanent native woodland in Ireland, are launching their Ardnaculla Summer School for the second year in a row.

The organisation is divided into three main pillars: education, afforestation and conservation. A large part of the work they do is through educational outreach.

They also work with Irish farmers to increase on-farm tree cover in ways which are best suited to land type and enterprise.

Through their Co Clare-based Ardnaculla Summer School (located near the town of Ennistymon), they aim to encourage attendees to make connections with nature and explore the ways we can make a positive environmental impact.

Taking place on Friday, 7 July until Sunday, 9 July, the Ardnaculla Summer Schools will bring together some innovative thinkers and practitioners working in woodland conservation and biodiversity restoration. It will feature workshops, discussions and hands-on events.

Among the speakers at the summer school are surfer, scientist and explorer Easkey Britton; writer and documentary maker Manchán Magan; sustainability researcher and lecturer Dr Niall Ó Brolcháin; wildlife rangers Tim and Barry O’Donoghue; farmers Joe Hope and John Duffy; Marina Conway, CEO, Western Forestry Co-op; and Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD.

Something for everyone

Matt Smith, CEO of Hometree, says this school is for anyone who has an interest in nature, biodiversity and restoration.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer, landowner, a student or a pensioner – there is something at the summer school for you. We even have a Forest School for children from ages 3-12. Education is a huge part of what we do at Hometree. If we don’t understand nature, how can we be expected to protect it? Our vision is to restore many thousands of acres of wild woodland across the country and we hope the three day event will inspire more people to get involved.”

New projects

This past November, Hometree launched their €12m Wild Atlantic Rainforest Project which aims to restore 4000ac into native forest. Work is continuing on the first phase of the project at their 280ac Cnocán Bán site in Connemara.

Ecological assessments have been completed and Hometree is meeting with neighbours, state bodies and other stakeholders regarding the restoration plan for the site. The organisation has also signed contracts to purchase 88ac of peatland and woodland in Co Sligo.

Hometree's project lead, Ray Ó Foghlú, says the summer school will be an opportunity for the public to experience the work Hometree is doing year-round.

“Historically, up to 80% of Ireland was covered in wild forests of birch, pine and oak; now only small fragments remain. Nature has an incredible ability to regenerate itself and we can help. We are already working with leading experts to re-establish thriving ecosystems in places like Clare, Galway, Sligo and Wicklow and have ambitious plans for many more areas.”

Marina Conway is the CEO of Western Forestry Co-op and is a speaker at this year’s Ardnaculla Summer School. She says she hopes that farmers will be in attendance.

“Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty in forestry at the moment, the incoming programme does have some really exciting options for farmers. This is a great opportunity to see what might work for you.”

Tickets for the Ardnaculla Summer School start at €5 per event and are available now on eventbrite. For more information, visit

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Ray Ó Foghlú: the environmentalist who doesn't want to tell you what to do

Hometree: a charitable organisation with farmers and forests in mind