Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust (CCGHT) have been awarded funding of £93,414 over two years to continue to develop the native tree nursery within HMP Magilligan to supply native trees to planting projects across Northern Ireland.
The native tree nursery within the walls of HMP Magilligan was established in November 2022, with an initial one-year investment from the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DAERA). The purpose of the tree nursery is to grow native UK and Irish species for distribution to tree planting projects across Northern Ireland, and it is the only tree nursery in the Northwest region.
There is a significant shortage of locally sourced trees for planting in Northern Ireland, with many currently having to be imported from Europe which increases the likelihood of bringing disease into the local population. Having a fully operational tree nursery within the grounds of the prison will ensure a bio secure stock of local trees, and the ability to grow species which are currently in short supply including holly, guelder rose, hazel, crab apple, willow, bird cherry and wild cherry.
In its first year the tree nursery has already achieved its UK and Irish Sourced and grown (UKISG) accreditation, a standard set by the Woodland Trust, who will be a key buyer of Magilligan tree nursery stock. Tree nursery staff and inmates have been busy over the late summer and autumn months collecting and processing tree seed from across Northern Ireland. Now in the winter months the inmate team and volunteers are braving the weather to collect willow cuttings to grow on within the prison which will help support planting projects, particularly those with a focus on wet woodland creation and riverbank stabilisation.
Kate Beggs, The National Lottery Community Fund’s Northern Ireland Director, said: “The Dormant Accounts Fund NI is continuing to help secure the future of voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations across Northern Ireland. It is building their capacity, resilience and sustainability, so that they can continue to deliver vital services to local communities.
“We are pleased to award this £93,414 grant to the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust to expand their tree nursery enterprise within the HMP Magilligan estate which will provide a sustainable income.”
This two-year funding will enable the tree nursery time to collect and grow trees from seed, and to establish the nursery as a registered non-profit community interest company. This in turn will build the capacity, resilience and sustainability of CCGHT as any proceeds from the nursery will be used to support community projects across the Trust’s geographic area.
A significant element of the tree nursery work is connecting people with nature by improving the education opportunities and access to nature for prison inmates, who are an underrepresented group, and tend to be a less engaged audience. Through external training on tree nursery development and tree growing and long-term nursery maintenance, inmates will learn new skills and understanding of the natural environment, while undergoing restorative justice by growing trees for communities against which they have offended.
Aisling Gribbin, Tree Nursery Co-ordinator, Project Officer at CCGHT said “I am delighted that the tree nursery has received this financial boost as it bridges the gap between collecting seed and growing an actual saleable tree, therefore giving myself and the inmates time to make the tree nursery viable and be able to stand alone without seeking future funding. HMP Magilligan have been a fantastic partner and I hope to continue long term to build a thriving Native Tree Nursery and help with the rehabilitation of those in the criminal justice system.”
It is hoped that with the support from the Dormant Accounts fund that Magilligan Native Tree Nursery can continue to grow and bring Justice for Native Woodlands in Northern Ireland.