Volunteers ‘Field of Dreams’ wins Best Environmental Initiative!
In a 15-year labour of love, Woodland Trust volunteer Sir Bob Salisbury and his wife, Rosemary, have transformed a barren corner of County Tyrone into a wildlife haven. Their hard work has certainly paid off when their beautiful gardens and woodland known affectionately as The FOD, short for ‘Field of Dreams’ won the prestigious Sustainable Ireland award for the Best Environmental Initiative.
Sir Bob explains, “When we acquired the first five acres, it was a rural desert, neglected and devoid of birdsong. It was nothing like the landscape Rosemary recalled from her childhood here, when there were skylarks, curlews and many small birds. We decided to try to turn the clock back.
“Neither of us were experts in biodiversity, we knew nothing of garden design, had little spare cash but we had a dream. We played it by ear and started planting trees under our own steam – over 1,000 whips of alder, oak, maple, ash, hazel and pine. We excavated three large ponds, thickened up existing hedgerows to form small woods and sowed a wildflower meadow. Then we waited with bated breath.
“Before long, the new ponds were visited by hundreds of frogs and newts, as well as heron, buzzard and otters. Mallard, teal, moorhen and water rail began breeding, the occasional dabchick, cormorant or merganser dropped in, and great diving beetles, ramshorn water snails and water boatmen appeared. Fieldfares, house martins and swallows came in droves, charms of goldfinches swirled around the thistles and sparrowhawks hunted. Irish hares and barn owls appeared, the first seen in the area for over thirty years. Results of what seemed, at times, a crazy scheme exceeded our wildest dreams.
“When another nine acres came up for sale on our boundary, I applied for a forestry grant with the guidance of the Woodland Trust and put in another 4,500 native trees, creating 12 acres of woodland in total. A neighbour had already planted 38 acres of woodland and the farmer opposite is set to plant a further 22 acres. So with our planting and the mature woodland in Seskinore Forest we now have a very sizeable woodland area.
“To-date, we’ve spotted 64 bird species, many of them nesting, and 11 mammals – this morning we were watching hares on our lawn. When I look at photos of how it used to look, I wonder how on earth we got started in the first place.
In early 2018 Sir Bob shared his passions and learnings by penning the story of the ‘Field of Dreams’ – How we transformed a rural desert into a thriving garden’ to give inspiration and hope to others that dreams can come true with a little bit of grit and determination!