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‘The result was amazing’: one man’s mission to reforest a barren Irish hillside

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Eoghan Daltun stood on a slope and pointed to a distant vista of verdant fields, craggy hills and conifer trees across the Beara peninsula in west Cork.

Sun glinted off the rocks and sheep grazed in meadows. It was serene – the sort of bucolic panorama that draws tourists and appears on Irish postcards to embody the Emerald Isle.

Daltun, however, had news for anyone tempted to marvel at nature’s majesty. “It’s ecological illiteracy. They can’t read the landscape they’re looking at. That is a completely barren landscape. It is biologically empty.”

The scenery, he said, represented environmental degradation. The sheep had devoured wild flowers and seedlings, preventing native trees from growing, and the conifers were part of a monoculture plantation that devastated biodiversity. “We are in the midst of a serious ecological crisis.”

Daltun is a pioneer in a rewilding movement that seeks to restore native forests that once blanketed 80% of Ireland and now cover just 1%, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

Over the past 14 years the farmer-cum-activist, author and sculptor…

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