Blessed Golden New Year One and All!
In the Way of the Forest
This year was another milestone in our greening of Arunachala and surrounds. It was our 20th planting season, our 19th year of mitigating fire damage. And oh, how the results are showing, with a canopy closing over many areas of the Hill and natural regeneration spreading into the remaining open patches. This means that on the slopes of the Hill we have shifted away from mass planting, and are working to nurture back into the landscape some of the rarer evergreen trees of the region, creating groves where the altitude and topography are conducive to their survival. These are now thriving and establishing living seed banks that will become self generating in the coming years.
We also expanded our planting on the fringes of Nedungavadi, Kosaalai and Aadaiyur lakes, and were given permission to begin work on planting in the Nedungavadi forest area. All in all, we ended up planting more trees than ever before (over 22,000), that too of record diversity, as the seed collecting team really took their work to a new level, spending countless hours in local forests and managing to find and germinate a number of species that have thus far eluded our efforts.
We are incredibly pleased to announce that The Forest Way is one of two recipients of this year’s Habitats Trust Conservation Grants, and the other recipients are our dear friends at the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary.
This will be a three year support of our ecological restoration work, and we trust, a long and fruitful collaboration well into the future. Huge thanks to all those at the Habitats Trust who have recognised the value and authenticity of our years of ground work, and chosen to support its continued growth and blossoming into the future. We literally just received this news at the time of writing, and are still beaming with gratitude and excitement at how it will enable a deepening and expansion of our work in the coming years. Hats off to all the team who made it happen.
This type of institutional funding is new to us, and necessary given the current size of operations. But this is also a moment to again thank so many of you whose individual generosity has kept us going through all these years, and upon whom we still rely. We truly hope to remain largely funded by individuals who are personally touched and connected to what we are all doing together. It is the spirit of how the project began and has always run; organically, based on trust, with interconnectedness and a shared love for this place and the life that can flourish here. Thanks to all of you.
With children we are monitoring the growth rates, survival and various other parameters of the different species comprising the evergreen patch, at regular intervals. This data will improve our understanding of questions such as which pioneer trees provide most nurturance to the slow growing evergreens, as well as it being a great way for the children to engage more deeply with the planting process and engage with nature through an ecological way of thinking.
Watering the Evergreen Patches
During the hot summer months, three of the older school groups volunteered to water the plants that are being monitored as part of the study.
For four days a week, groups of students, teachers and volunteers carried between 5-35 liters of water each up to the evergreen patches.
This is the first time we have attempted the herculean task of watering plants that high on the mountain, thus increasing their chances of survival during the delicate period post planting.
Our Tamil Bird Book got published!
This was long in the coming. After the success of the English ‘Birds of Tiruvannamalai’ it was clear that a Tamil version was due. The project got delayed because we kept spotting new arrivals to add to the book! The book is a great resource for people wanting to learn about the birds of the region. We have covered the identification, behaviour and ecology of 254 species of birds, along with photographs and illustrations and other interesting information on local names and ecosystems.
We hope this book helps spread the joy of connecting to the world of birds in Tiruvannamalai and Tamil Nadu!
To get a copy email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marudam Farm School
Through last year we’ve been exploring the topic of ‘Wellness’ with our diverse parents and teaching body. We tried to understand the expression of wellness through themes such as Relationships, Social justice, Movement, Creativity and connecting to Nature. We attempted to create experiential spaces to shed light on this important and too often neglected topic. We also started conversations about Child Safety with our parent community.
After a two year break due to COVID we were delighted to host the event again in late October. Together with some 400 guests from various schools and places around Tamil Nadu and Karnataka we celebrated the joy of craft and art, shared and taught by artisans from near and far. The week ended with a grand Mela on a brilliantly sunny as well as rainy day…
Enjoy snippets from Marudam School Life over the past year
This year has been a good rain year, yet again. The rains have been spread out evenly from May onward, giving the trees a long growing season and giving us an opportunity to spread our planting season.
We have crossed 1200 mm yet again, without flooding of the land. It has been a delight to have a full well of water despite extensive planting of paddy. Feeling blessed.
Thamarai Kulam Updates
Work on the new park around the Tamarai Kolam lake has continued. The latest addition is the nearly completed outdoor calisthenics and parkour gym.
Interface with neighbouring Narikuravar and Irula communities
Wipro Foundation’s grant has greatly supported our work with the Irula and Narikuravar colonies relocated on to the land near our campus. Two teachers and a curriculum designer have been providing suitable academic inputs. Beside that we’ve been offering training in craft work as well as weekly park days and nature exposures, as well as basic health care.
Our weaving centre continues to make ecological-minded beautiful fabric, clothes and art. To allow for workshop events we’ve built an open space with a thatch roof. Please come and visit us! (at the Annamalai Reforestation Society not far from our school)
Eco printing has been a big hit, and even the Kindergarteners were able to make beautiful designs using this simple technique.
Sanctuary Asia Awards
V. Arun, managing trustee of The Forest Way has been awarded Wildlife service award by Sanctuary Asia, and Suprabha Seshan, Forestway trustee AS WELL as managing trustee of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, has been awarded the Green Teacher Award
We cheer and applaud them both!
Thanks to collaborations with Quantum Data Engines, we’ve been able to procure a 2-acre plot adjoining Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, Wayanad. QDE’s generous support has enabled us to extend the area under forest cover and extend our support to protect the biodiversity in that space as well.
New Community Members
The new block was completed room by room in the summer months. It comprises of a media room/class, a granary, an admin room, a small guest room, a garbage separation unit and a piano room. A hearty thank you for all the many who contributed towards it with their time, labour, expertise and financial support!
The new land to the south of Marudam, purchased by a group of friends and well wishers is getting spruced up at an increasing pace, with trees, vegetable gardens, and three houses in various stages of progress. We would like to extend a special big thank you to Krishna, our friend from Sittilingi, who’s been lovingly helping each house owner fulfil their dreams in the best style and ecological fashion.
At the Forest Park: Water tank is getting revamped; Nursery Wall; Got longer; a new toilet block