Author and environmental activist Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle

National Tree Week - Pakenham talks 'In the company of trees'

National Tree Week spans from Sunday March 21 to Saturday March 21, and this week, Nationwide revisited Westmeath's most well known tree custodian, Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle.

His love of trees began over 70 years ago when, as a child growing up in Oxford, he travelled to Tullynally, the 1500-acre estate located beside Castlepollard, to spend time on holidays with his uncle.

Thomas inherited the estate, a place where trees have been planted and allowed to grow undisturbed, aged 27.

Speaking to Valerie Waters about his book, In The Company of Trees, Thomas explained how "It's an emotional business planting trees, and an even more emotional cutting them down because it's a form of murder really."

He adds how just being the company of trees has helped keep him happy and healthy.

"I think trees are not just therapy and comfort, but they keep us in order too. They cut us down to size don't they, when we look at a tree in a completely different timescale, and it really makes us feel rather small and perhaps that's good for us.

"If you're with trees you always have company, as the title of the book says, you're never alone," he continued.

Thomas explained that when he entered his 80s, he was suddenly confronted with the thought that he might not live to see trees that he's planted, mature.

"The penny's only just dropped recently, and that's not a pleasant thing to think of. On the other hand, when one moves on to the next stage, whatever it is, it's nice to think you're leaving things behind which other people will... [which will] enrich people's lives, it nice to achieve something to help others, I'm sure my trees will survive me and I'm sure they'll be well looked after."

Ireland's tree cover is a small fraction of what it once was, and at 11%, we are way behind our European neighbours whose average is over 30%.

National Tree Week aims to get people out in nature, as walking through native Irish woodland has been proven to improve our mood and mental health.

It also seeks to encourage us to plant more trees, or look after ones we already have.