FOLLOWING Coillte’s decision to pull out of the sale of land at Castlefreke, a member of the family which sought to buy it is now working with members of the committee which had opposed the sale.
By vote, Yorick Evans Freke was appointed to the new committee that was created at a public meeting at the Celtic Ross Hotel.
In the closing moments of the meeting – which was convened by the Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks campaign – Yorick Evans Freke addressed the crowd and spoke about the clear felling of a hilltop site at Castlefreke a few years ago and how it prompted his family to try and buy some of the land.
He said: ‘We were absolutely appalled at such a level of desecration, especially at such a wonderful, historic and generally sacred site.’
Speaking on behalf of his family – his father Stephen, mother Valerie and brother Rowan – Mr Evans Freke said: ‘It struck such an emotional chord with us we felt we had to do something.’
He apologised to those present and added: ‘We should have consulted the community initially, but in our rush to action – to try to prevent that from ever happening again – we took the course of action we did.’
Yorick Evans Freke said he would personally take up his position on the new committee – alongside Anthony Beese, Dominic Carroll, Pat Jo Connolly, Breda Cooney, Kieran Doyle, Frances Milner, John O’Callaghan, Marian O’Leary, Donogh O’Loughlin, Christopher O’Sullivan, Esther O’Regan, Pearse O’Sullivan and Neil Fitzpatrick – and he said: ‘I really hope we can be part of any solution going forward because this land means an incredible amount to our family, just as it does to all of you.’
Under commercial management, he said, clear felling does take place, but he described the practice as ‘an ecological disaster’ and added: ‘I cannot bear to see that again.’
Speaking to The Southern Star after the meeting, he said: ‘Our entire intention was to protect those lands from being clear felled again so the public and community can enjoy them. I want my grandchildren to be able to enjoy them and everyone else’s grandchildren here to be walking them together.’
The meeting – chaired by Dominic Carroll – went ahead despite Coillte’s announcement, last Thursday, confirming that it had completed its due diligence process and would not be progressing with the request to purchase a section of the land situated within Coillte’s forests at Castlefreke.
The public meeting chaired by Mr Carroll was very comprehensive.
Mr Carroll described it as ‘a celebration’ of what had been achieved through people power and a measured and strategic campaign.
He said the meeting was also ‘a contemplation’ of the campaign’s strategy and it had a third component – the ‘formulation’ of a plan to keep Castlefreke in public ownership and to ensure that the amenity is developed to its full potential.
Three people addressed how Castlefreke’s potential could be enhanced: John O’Callaghan outlined how the walks and trails could be extended and made more user-friendly; Donogh O’Loughlin outlined how the Special Area of Conservation could be protected; and Marian O’Leary spoke about the archaeological and historical significance of Castlefreke and how it could be safeguarded for the future.