This blog is in English, since it mainly deals with a 10 day journey to England, Ireland and Scotland to find and meet potential partners for the MEERGroen (MoreGreen) and Meerbomen.nu (More trees now) approach. And our new contacts may be interested to learn about the findings.
This trip was undertaken as an initiative of Grant Holton who has become more and more active and enthusiastic about what we do. Also Aideen from Irish origin and working with us in Holland has been very helpful.
The logic behind the trip was simple. What we do is great fun but solving the climate and the biodiversity crises needs a global approach. With 1.6 million trees and 10.000 registered volunteers it is going quite well in The Netherlands, so the next step to be taken is to get European partners. In Germany the first steps are taken in January. The climatic and harvest conditions in the UK and Ireland are comparable to those in the Netherlands and also the affinity with and concern about the problems are reasons to look for potential partners there.
We left on March 18 in the evening of the day that we handed out 10.000 trees and planted 7.000 in a climate forest in Sassenheim. After a quick bath we ended up in Hoek van Holland on the 21 o’clock boat to Harwich, where we arrived at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning. At 7 o’clock we had a first meeting in the oldest Agroforestry farm of the UK of David and Julia in East Anglia: 23 ha. And at 12 o’clock we agreed that the farm was a good spot for a test launch of the meerbomen principles on November 23- 25. The next stop was Cambridge, but not before we scouted the motorways potential to harvest millions of samplings and noticed that 95% of trees that were planted along a new moterway had not received much care and had died. That are 2 good reasons to get involved. In Cambridge we met James and Bob: documentary makers with an interest in rewilding a valley along the river in the middle of town. The 2nd day brought us via an national trust park to Corby in the center of the abandoned iron and coal industry region. There we met with foresters and a council member who were involved in the management of some Royal estates and forests arounds Rockingham Castle. Our interests were very complementary and a harvest excursion/demonstration brought great interest and results. Through the Heritage fund that is also focusing on projects that strengthen social cohesion, there may even be some funding available to professionalize the pilot projects and to get our Tree Planner tool converted from Dutch into English. And foresters with experience in handling volunteer groups are also available
So in high spirits we took the 2nd ferry to Dublin on Tuesday for the Irish Tree week. Our main contact was Orla Farrel, the driving force behind Easy Treasy that had organized daily activities involving mainly schools and councils to plant trees for at least 10 years already. Orla was known by everybody and introduced us to many councils like Fingal, Swords and Wicklow where we planted trees and demonstrated where and how many trees can be ‘saved’ and harvested.
The most impressive visit of the entire trip (picture) was to Dunsany: a 950 year old estate of 1200 ha where the current 38th Earl, Mr. Pluncket has started a 300 ha rewilding process with lots of potential to harvest and plant trees. Aideen had flown in from Holland and joined us during a part of the Irish trip together with Orla. The Irish tree week also involved some meetings and lectures. A useful meeting was in Dublin where we learnt that Ireland from 1901 onwards is working towards 18 % forest cover from 1 % and has now reached ca 11 %. The More trees now approach may be of assistance in that process. Several foresters and a Forest Council member were interested in further contacts. In Wicklow we also met with Diarmuid MCrann, founder of Trees4all and also planted some trees. On Friday night we traveled north to an Eco restoration Camp in Carrickmacross in the middle of a traditional dairy region. On Saturday we held an webinar about Eco restoration, rewilding and the More trees now principles with some 40 attendees. On Sunday 26 we left England via Belfast on our way to Scotland with high hopes of multiple partners and test sites for next season. In Scotland we met Jeremy and Wendy Cunningham who were involved in multiple rewilding an community forest projects. One of these projects was a 650 ha new forest in the barren sheep pastures of Scotland, another was focused on water retention on a formerly canalized stream in their home valley and a third was the reviving of highland bogs after removing non indigenous pine and spruce forests. All these decades long running project have substantial funding, volunteers and plenty of scientific monitoring and research. So it was very inspiring to see what was already going on and there is certainly potential for collaboration.
The trip back home was by ferry from Newcastle. The lunch before departure we spent with council members, foresters and other people from Northumberland and Newcastle. They already had a good infrastructure, some budget and an eager interest to collaborate and get a broader social involvement in rewilding, forest plantations and community woodland going.
When we arrived back in the Netherlands much work had been done in the distribution of the last trees, the preparation of multiple vegetable gardens for seeding and the 16th MEERGroen orchard.
After 1 day of catching up we moved on to the final celebration of the meerbomen 22/23 season. We were hosted (mostly for free..) in a Landal vacation camp. The previous 21/22 season the core group counted 26 people. This year we had expanded to nearly 100 and from 5.000 registered volunteers we had grown to over 10.000. It was a great honor that one of my closest volunteers, Mario, received the Marianne Minnesma productivity price and that I was invited to hand out the Franke van der Laan Biodiversity price to Margot and Jeremy from the Maarsen tree hub.
Franke van der Laan