Kilcash Wood is a Coillte site in the village on the lower slopes of Slievenamon. I guess climbing Slievenamon takes the focus away from here as a walking destination. It is a fairly typical Coillte forest, evidently focused on commercial forestry.
However just inside the entrance I spotted a well, with an enclosure similar to a typical holy well, but nothing I could find in terms of inscriptions or the like around to indicate any specific practice here.
The well water was pretty muddy with a lot of plant material inside:
My post on forest bathing on A Medical Education may have seemed a little sceptical in tone. That’s because it was in terms of the claims made for forest bathing as a therapy – as any initial response to a claimed novel therapy should be. The tone, however, hopefully didn’t conceal the interest and indeed enthusiasm I have in this activity.
One online resource Shinrin-Yoku.org which has a wealth of information on the practice. If you sign up at their site they send a starter email, including a link to a PDF of 10 “starter nature connection invitations.”
They are all interesting and, in my personal experience, quite effective tools for approaching the natural environment (and applicable beyond the forest – I used some on a trip to Slievenamon.
It would be wrong to reproduce the 10 moments here – the reader can go to the effort of signing up at Shinrin-yoku.org themselves for that! One in particular has caught the imagination of myself and my children, No. 7 – “Deer Ears.” I have found this a very effective and strikingly bringing attention to the soundscape of the forest, as well as a quick and easy way to initiate discussion with children about animal senses. It is particularly striking near a stream or waterfall:
Cup your hands behind your ears to make them larger. Walk quietly and slowly like a deer, alert for the subtle sounds of the forest around you. Turn your ‘deer ears’ towards sounds that catch your attention. Did you notice anything new with your amplified hearing?
Photos are from Glenbawn Woods, Marlfield, Tipperary
Two weeks ago I walked on Slievenamon, not all the way to the summit but simply up the path near Kilcash and then around the area just where this path meets the main route to the summit.
There are fine views from this area – not as extensive as further up obviously but nevertheless giving a great view of the Suir valley from Clonmel via Carrick to Waterford. The Suir bridge at Waterford seemed eeriely near.
On one side of this path there is a conifer plantation. A very brief walk in revealed, starkly, a major truth about conifers packed closely. They are essentially deserts in terms of biodiversity.
Only the edges of the plantation and the very tops of the trees inside showed any greenery. The bulk of the tree trunks, and most vividly the forest floor, showed no growth. Some birdsong aside, no sign of other life.
I have read much about the negatives of conifer plantations, but this haunting and – not to be overdramatic – actually rather distressing experience brought the lack of biodiversity home vividly.
Of course, no doubt with more expertise (and equipment) more life could be found in this habitat than my eye could find.
But the contrast with a different approach to forest is stark.
To illustrate this, here’s two shots of mixed woodland in Marlfield Woods: