A FIVE-hectare woodland of Irish native trees in County Armagh has inspired a landowner and grandfather to lace up his running shoes and take on the epic challenge of completing his first ever marathon.
Sixty-seven-year-old Trevor Knipe, of Ballymartrim Wood, planted the woodland three years ago with the help of the Forest Expansion Scheme grant and woodland consultant Carolyn Trimble of IndiWoods, after realising that the rural stretch of land he owned was too steep and wet for farming.
After planting over five hectares of native trees such as Oaks, Rowans and Hazelnuts, Mr Knipe opened the woodland up to the public for walking and fundraising events and it has proved a huge hit with the local community.
The would-be marathon man then turned his attention to running, taking part in the Armagh Parkrun every Saturday before working his way up to a half marathon.
With that goal now achieved, Mr Knipe has set his sights on October’s Dublin Marathon and is using his woodland to train almost daily for the mammoth challenge.
Explaining why he chose to plant the woodland, he said: “I always wanted to do something with this land and I had seen other woodlands planted by Carolyn Trimble. She came and spoke to me about the grant, she went through the process for me and now I have the most beautiful woodland which covers just over five hectares.
“There are Rowan, Oaks, Birch, Alder, Hazelnut, Crab Apple, Scott’s Pine, Cherry trees and more. I have wildflowers for the first time this year so that’s something I will continue with next year.
“I have opened the woodland for fundraising events and a lot of runners said to me it would be a great place to have a run.
“Last week we held a 2.5km walk and a 5km run here to raise money for the Friends of the Cancer Centre and also the Armagh Parkrun Defibrillator,” he added.
Mr Knipe said he has been inspired to run the upcoming Dublin Marathon after losing a family member to cancer.
He explained: “I lost a cousin of mine to cancer back in June so that’s why I am running the Dublin Marathon on October 28. But the woodland has inspired me because it’s so beautiful, it’s improving the countryside, it’s something I can do to give back to the environment and leave a legacy.
“My daughter will be running the marathon with me. I am out running four days per week at the minute, so it’s good for my health as well.”
Demonstrating just how much his woodland is appreciated by the local Armagh community, he continued: “The young cubs from Armagh come out and use the woodland and have built their very own Bug Hotel here, people use it to walk their dogs and we hold fundraisers.
“I have seen a big increase in wildlife in the area. We have pheasants, pigeons, buzzards, small birds, ladybirds and lots of fungi growing in the winter.
“It’s a haven and is so peaceful. I was cycling before I took up running so I was always fit enough but now I am on a mission with running.”
Carolyn Trimble of IndiWoods commented: “Ballymartrim Wood is a fine example of what trees can do. The Forest Expansion Scheme is a fantastic scheme.
“The August deadline has passed and the second and final deadline for 2018 is September 28. Applications must be submitted prior to these dates or landowners will not be able to avail of the scheme.
“Last year I celebrated planting our one millionth tree in Northern Ireland so our aim is to continue building on that.
“All you need is a minimum of five hectares, the desire to have a 100 per cent funded grant, which also attracts an annual income of up to £425 per hectare for 10 years, and can be in addition to Single Farm Payments if you’re eligible. You don’t have to be a farmer to apply.”
“It’s amazing to hear Trevor is running the Dublin Marathon. He is so inspirational,” she added.