Netplants V: seaweed feasts & Irish folk

By December 2, 2016 Features No Comments

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I haven’t had the privilege of attending a Netplants workshop week since we hosted our own in Somerset in January (as other team members attended the two summertime meetings in Spain and Romania), so when the time came round for the trip to Ireland I was raring to go. After a hectic few months of new European projects, office openings, and the juggling of many multi-coloured Superact balls I was more than ready to get my hands stuck in to the Irish soil and reconnect with nature at its source.

Our destination was West Ireland and a hostel in the wonderful Killarney National Park. I was unprepared for the breathtaking beauty of the place – huge lakes, real mountains (the highest peaks in Ireland! Over 1000ms high!) all surrounded by rich lush green which, combined with the regular (and unpredictable!) bursts of rain, gave the surroundings a tropical, jungle-like feel. It was a real treat to spend time in the heart of this incredible landscape, to escape the modern world and be in touch with nature without phones or internet for a whole glorious week.

I was lucky to be joined by three upbeat, energetic and all-round entertaining travelling companions in the form of Trainer Ali Bridges, a bushcraft specialist; and our two Learners Fathi and Mohammed, both originally from the Sudan and now settled in Bristol with the refugee resettlement organisation Ashley Community Housing. I am full of admiration for the team’s helpful attitude and thirst for knowledge throughout the week, which I believe did Superact proud!

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Highlights include our two foraging expeditions, one around the forests of the National Park and the second out on the coast of Caherdaniel. We visited one of just three pure yew woodlands in Europe (the others being in Southern England and the Czech Republic), and one of the largest at 62 acres. The soft mossy green and old twisted trees felt like real hobbit country. Our guide gave fascinating insights in to the toxic nature of the yew tree which is paradoxically used as a component for cancer cures. We learnt many practical and tasty uses for common plants around us, including a leafy mosquito repellent to wear fetchingly behind the ear as a natural accessory!

On our trip to the Wild Atlantic Way we were treated to an educational and entertaining lesson in seaweed foraging by John Fitzgerald, a self-confessed (ex) Punk who warned us ‘never trust a hippy’. We gambolled about on the shore as he picked and cut different watery plants for us to try and after an exhilarating morning of bright sunshine and buffeting seaside air we returned to a feast of soft cheese and kelp, gingery Asian fronds, salty crackers and fruity seaweedy cocktails to wash it all down. The food was enjoyed by most, though some considered it more of an acquired taste!

During the rest of the week we visited local community gardens, cooked up traditional Irish dishes, and were treated to some lovely local hospitality. The final day of our trip coincided with Culture Day, and so we were lucky to have a grand finale of a traditional folk concert in the replica 1910 schoolhouse just minutes from our hostel. The Frankie Gavin & de Dannan combo played blistering jigs and reels on fiddle, accordion, double bass & bodhran which had the Netplants group up and dancing, a special and unique experience particularly for those from further afield.

So we returned full of inspiration for ways to incorporate nature in to our daily lives. We’re now looking forward to the 6th and final workshop week in Southern France in March next year, and to moving forward with the legacy of Netplants to achieve our aim of reconnecting people from across Europe with the benefits of all the environment has to offer.

Ursula Billington, Project Manager

I have many things to say about this trip. I learnt many things – history, farming, cooking, seaweed and about other countries! First we learnt about farming from 100 years ago and how they grew things and prepared food. I learnt about how things had developed from 100 years ago, from manual labour to using machines. My favourite thing was learning about seaweed and what you can do with it. You can use it for many things – including toothpaste! There are 50 different things you can do with seaweed – it’s amazing!

There were four different countries that joined us and I made good friends and was always laughing and happy. I hope to meet them all again in the future. Thank you!

Mohammed Ibrahim, Learner

Thank you very much for offering me this great opportunity to express my experience about the amazing trip I have ever had and I am also so glad to be a membership in Superact.

It was really useful trip for me personally, because I had known a lot of things I did not know before, like sea weeding. There are more than 15 sea weeds which are excellent for the heath and people who put the sea weeds in their food are very healthy and strong. One of these weeds call (Egg wick), which is a cure for the gum disease. I also learnt about compost. Farmers also use the sea weeds as compost for their plants, they put the sea weed in the water for about 5-6 days until it brewed into the water, then they take the water and watering the plants. It’s good for the soil and the plants. Furthermore, I learnt about different types of forests trees, some of them are poisons, so we have to be aware before we try them.

We also visited some historical houses, school and a carpenter shop; I really enjoyed it, because when you see the simple equipments people they used to use in their daily life, you feel how great they were. In addition I have known people from many countries, like France, Spain and Romania. I had a great time with them and I wish if we could meet again.

In the future I am going to know more about farming and sea weed and share my experience with people who are interested in farming or sea weeding. Finally I highly recommend people to try the sea weed in the food.

Kind regards, Fathi Mehdi, Learner

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For more information and regular Netplants updates visit our facebook page or contact ursula@superact.org.uk