Magilligan Prison has become the rather unusual location for a native tree nursery as part of a new environmental scheme aimed at protecting and developing new Irish woodland.
Run by prisoners and capable of producing up to 70,000 trees every year, the new nursery established within the walls of the prison grows Holly, Guilder-rose, Hazel, Crab-apple, Willow, Bird-cherry and Wild-cherry trees.
The ‘Justice for Woodlands’ project is a joint venture between Magilligan Prison, Binevenagh Landscape Partnership Scheme, Woodland Trust, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, and was the recipient of an award for £54,190 from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Magilligan Prison Activities Governor Malcolm McClenaghan said, “Having this fully operational tree nursery within the grounds of the prison allows us to grow species which are currently in short supply and ensures a bio-secure stock of local trees for the future. It is the only tree nursery in the Northwest region and the only tree nursery supplying cell grown trees in Ireland.”
Governor McClenaghan added: “The nursery grows native UK and Irish species, mainly in cells, for distribution to tree planting projects across Northern Ireland. In the first year of the project 70,000 native tree seeds will be sown.”
Governor McClenaghan said Binevenagh and Coastal Lowlands worked with prison staff and inmates to get the nursery up and running.
“A significant element of this project is also connecting people with nature. Prisoners are learning new skills and through educational opportunities, external training on tree nursery maintenance and development, they are growing trees for communities against which they have offended.”
Presently there is a significant shortage of locally sourced trees for planting in Northern Ireland, with many currently having to be imported from Europe.
“This increases the likelihood of bringing disease into the local tree population,” explained Malcolm. “However, within the walls of Magilligan Prison this project will build on ecological and climate resilience by providing native trees for the creation of new woodland or expanding existing woodland.”
Aisling Gribbin from the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, said: “The Magilligan Tree Nursery is the first large scale nursery of its kind in Northern Ireland and only the second in Ireland which does not rely on European imported stock.
“The prisoners are integral to a lot of the seed collection, processing and managing the trees in the nursery, and they also play a part in the planting of the new trees in the local community.”
WATCH: A tree nursery within Magilligan Prison is protecting and developing new Irish woodland https://youtu.be/VqHnYZ5Nc9c