Trees: From Seed to Sawdust - Episode 14 - Trees and the Castlecomer Discovery Park

In this programme Monica takes a visit to the Castlecomer Discovery Park to explore the role of Trees in supporting our mental health and wellbeing.
The Castlecomer Discovery Park is situated on the site of the former pleasure gardens of the Wandesforde Family, members of the landed gentry, who for 300 years, were central to the farming and coal mining activities in the area. Some of the trees that they brought back from their trips in Europe and elsewhere still stand at the park and a favourite among many people is the giant Redwood - with its soft spongey bark. Len Brophy is the maintenance man at the Discovery Park, and he introduces us to a few favourite trees in the area.  
 The Discovery Park was developed as a tribute to the mining traditions in the area and over the years it has evolved to incorporate adventure activities like Zip Lines, kayaking, boating and of course the Tree Top Walk.  According to Jo McCarthy, Activities Manager at the Park, nature, the trees and the successful completion of the challenge of the Tree Top Walk can bring huge benefits to children and improve their confidence and connections with each other.  Learning is also accelerated in the outdoors and while forest bathing and other outdoor activities are almost mandatory in other countries, Ireland is only beginning to embrace it.  
 The Discovery Park has responded to the magic of the woods by building an elf village where fairy houses and wooden toadstools capture the imagination of all visitors including the craft workers who sell their wares at the retail centre in the park.  Dominika Stoppa makes lino-prints inspired by the trees and fairies.  She also painted the - 'Be A Climate Change Hero' artwork at the entrance to the park.
 Kathy Purcell, General Manager of the Discovery Park believes that they have a powerful role to play in spreading the message about climate change, especially given the carbon history of the area in relation to coal mining; coal being a major cause of the global warming we are experiencing now.  The 80 acres of woodland, managed by Coillte, might help them reach their target of balancing out the carbon extracted, and carbon sunk back into the soil through the efforts they are making
 Like all non-profit organisations, the Discovery Park is dependent on funding to keep themselves going in the off-season.  Leader, Pobal, Kilkenny County Council have all been important in this regard.  More recently they have been successful in obtaining funding from the Department of Agriculture to run a mental health and wellbeing course for farmers in the park.  Manager Kathy Purcell believes that the park and woodland's continued presence in the area adds to what Kilkenny has to offer in relation to a tourist destination. 
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