Replanting Caledonian forest - Fr Peter digs in

Trees For Life group, out in the hills
Trees For Life group, out in the hills

Peter Randall SJ (member of the parish team at St Wilfrid’s Preston), along with a group of nine others, recently participated in a tree planting initiative with Trees For Life at Invermoriston on the west coast of Loch Ness in Scotland.

In efforts to bring into fruition Pope Francis’ instructions in his encyclical Laudato Si’, Jesuits across the UK have come up with ways to be greener. Pope Francis sees climate change as a threat to humanity and creation.

In a bid to get the Caledonian forest in Scotland back on its feet, the Trees For Life volunteers planted native species instead of imported seeds. They also nurtured little seedlings which they took out into the hills to plant.

Vast areas of Scotland used to be covered in trees known as the Caledonian forest. A wide range of animal species no longer find the area habitable, whereas more recently introduced deer, who lack natural predators, destroy young trees. Beavers in particular used to be endemic, and are now coming back.

Newly planted Rowan tree

Trees were cut down and crofters were evicted from the land during the nineteenth century in order to expand sheep grazing. Some of the timber was used for ammunition boxes.

Reflecting on his experience, Fr Peter said: “It was great because it was a team of people who all wanted to help recreate the Caledonian forest. All we can do is do a little bit and keep going.”

“A lot of Scotland that we see at the moment is actually very poor ecologically because it has lost a lot of its trees.”

Speaking on the importance of caring for the environment, he added: “Being green means respecting God’s creation and not leaving future generations, human beings and living organisms impoverished through what we do”.

Trees For Life provides plenty of volunteering opportunities and encourages people to care for the environment.