Rooted in Ireland is an oak planting project in Drumconwell, which is just outside of Armagh, Northern Ireland. The tree site is set on 9 acres of beautiful, lush farmland, overlooking the picturesque and hugely historic Cathedral City. It is reputedly the same ground that King Conwell once strode upon, and indeed, there are the remains of an old ring fort, and a mass rock, in close proximity. This is an area of Ireland steeped in history, both ancient and modern. It has been the spiritual capital of Ireland for 1500 years. It is the historical center of St Patrick’s congregation, and the burial place of Brian Boru. It has been an educational center since that time, which is why it is known as the city of saints and scholars.
The history of the area is fascinating, reflecting 6,500 years of activity. People first arrived here in 4,500BC and have been arriving ever since, attracted partly by the wealth of visitor attractions including Cathedrals, museums, County Parks, National Trust properties, modern theaters, and a great range of restaurants, bars, and music venues. There is one thing however that is sadly lacking on the landscape, and that is trees. Ireland as a whole is now the most treeless land in Europe, with County Armagh being one of the worst affected, and this is where the Rooted in Ireland story begins.
The three directors of Rooted in Ireland, Patrick Nugent, Anne-Marie Nugent, and Peter Slevin had spent hours discussing setting up a business that was wholesome and beneficial to the environment, while also being unique to the area. Inspired by an article in an Australian newspaper about a similar project in Sydney, they set to work clearing and preparing the land, mapping out the planting paths, and finally, planting the oak trees themselves. There are currently 1700 trees planted, with another 2000 trees planned for the end of October. When the trees are in, they are then offered for sale to interested parties, who receive a certificate of ownership, a frame ready photograph of their tree. A plaque is attached to the tree, bearing the inscription of the purchaser’s choice, the date, and the name of the person who the tree is dedicated to. So far, most of the purchases have come from people in the United States, the most notable of whom is an Upstate New York Mayor, Mr. Jim Sottile.
In August two of Rooted in Ireland’s directors were invited to have a stall at the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual convention in Boston, Massachusetts. The response to the project was outstanding, with all the promotional material gone in a matter of hours. The Rooted in Ireland website (rootedinireland.com) has seen a huge increase in traffic since August, and people are purchasing trees to give as wedding presents, christening presents, etc. Some have been bought in memory of grandparents and relatives who arrived in the United States from Ireland.
The directors have big plans for the project, and intend to ultimately plant 10,000 trees in total. The site will be developed as more trees are purchased, and will include a visitor centre in the style of a famine cottage, a viewing platform, and various decorative features in keeping with the surrounding countryside. The project is currently being considered for funding by various grant bodies including the EU peace fund, and the South Armagh Tourism Initative, and will become an integral part of a visitor’s experience when they arrive in Armagh. The directors have been heartened at the help, encouragement, and support that has been given to them by people from all walks of life. It seems that everyone can see the benefit of the Rooted in Ireland ethos, and this is perhaps summed up by the following Greek proverb: “A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they will never sit in”.