Faughan Valley wood remembers Irish war dead

Sir Bob Salisbury with Eila Doughty during the tree-planting at Brackfield Wood in the Faughan Valley
Sir Bob Salisbury with Eila Doughty during the tree-planting at Brackfield Wood in the Faughan Valley

A centenary wood in the north west’s beautiful Faughan Valley has opened its leafy arms to the public during a WWI centenary tree planting.

The Woodland Trust’s ‘Brackfield Wood’, right by the banks of the River Faughan, is one of four flagship woods being created across the UK in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of World War One.

In total, the trust’s ambitious four-year centenary woods project will see millions of trees planted in recognition of the millions of lives lost and affected by the war.

Among those attending the tree-planting in Co Londonderry was Sir Robert Salisbury – a former professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham – who said he was “delighted to see so many people there to recognise conservation and want more woodland in Northern Ireland”.

He said: “I just thought it was really uplifting to find there are so many keen people who are prepared to plant something that will be their legacy. There was a lovely mixture of elderly people and junior groups there who sent out a strong message. Sometimes the countryside which is lovely in Ireland is not appreciated by everybody.”

Sir Robert said he was invited along by the Woodland Trust after he developed a wildlife garden near his home in Seskinore, outside Omagh. He said gardening is a “lovely contrast with the other stuff I have been doing in Northern Ireland like funding reviews”.

Picture: Michael Cooper

Picture: Michael Cooper

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said they hope by the end of the project “to have 40,000 native trees planted here at Brackfield, with carpets of wildflowers including iconic poppies”.

It’s estimated that more than 40,000 men from Ireland lost their lives in World War One.

“It will be a place where wildlife will thrive and where people can walk, relax and reflect,” said Mr Cregg.

“The trees, which will stand for generations to come, will be a living, growing tribute to the people from Ireland who played a part in the war: the soldiers, their families and loved ones.”

Meanwhile, brothers Alan, Erick and Steve Williamson lost their great-uncle, Private Joseph Stevenson, during the war.

“Joseph was killed at the Battle of Messines in Belgium,” said Alan.

He added: “We’ll never forget him. Various family members have actually travelled to Belgium, with the British Legion, to visit the grave. And this new wood will certainly help to keep Joseph’s memory well and truly alive.”

The First World War centenary woods project is supported by the Trust’s lead partner Sainsbury’s, helping plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.