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timeline

april 22 1997
the birth of the lamma forest

 

The Lamma Forest is born with the vision of creating a forest on the scenic northern hills of Lamma Island in what was (and is today) one of the island’s most beautiful spots. 15 minute walk from Yung Shue Wan and a forty-minute journey from Central, the scenic yet barren hills of Northern Lamma between Po Wah Yuen and Pak Kok are chosen as the site of THE LAMMA FOREST PROJECT. The proximity to Yung Shue Wan and  rich flora and fauna in the near-by valleys makes this an ideal area to be reforested. The vision is to unite all the valleys with forestland creating one large eco-system with Lamma Island’s largest fresh water stream and swamp land running through it.

“By creating a forest, hope is given. By planting a forest, life is enriched. By setting a living example, people can see and feel the greening of the Earth & thereby empowering proactive change within & without themselves.” Bobsy

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april 25 1997
first planting

 

First tree planting day in the Lamma Forest

The task was to plant 1, 000 trees for Lamma, 500 on the 25th and 500 on the 26th.

We had never planted this many trees in one go before and our experience was pretty limited.

The land was hard and the soil was brittle, luckily there had been a little rain a few days earlier and so we had a little help from Mother Nature. We mobilized the Lamma community in the days leading up to the tree plant and had generated a lot of enthusiasm amongst the volunteers.

The three key people from ABLE Charity who shouldered the bulk of the planning and organisation were Tobias Forster, Karen Sylvester & Bobsy.

The two day operation was a success and the foundations of the Forest were laid …

april 25 1997
lamma forest book

The Lamma Forest Book documents the very beginning of the Lamma Forest and its progress to 2003.

november 22 1996
ten yellow bins

 

The story of how Hong Kong gets its first designer recycling bins and two inspirational women.

Six foot two bright yellow paper recycling bins make their appearance at the Hong Kong Outlying Islands ferry piers in November 1997. The words “Time to recycle” boldly printed around a red, blue and green recycling logo make a strong presence to inspire change and raise awareness.

After many months of hard work, envisioning, design challenges, limited budgets, red tape negotiations, corporate dealings, Government approvals and sponsorship hassles… Our vision and dream to give Hong Kong its first attractive, functional and educational bins is realised.

Thanks in part to the forward thinking Body Shop and their kind sponsorship and trust, a willing EPD & FEHD, ABLE Charity goes ahead to manufacture and put up 10 big yellow bins, as they become fondly known, on the streets of Hong Kong.

It was a glorious sunny and fresh November’s day back in 1997 as we all gathered in front of pier No.4 for the official ceremony of launching Hong Kong’s first conscious paper recycling bins.

We were so excited, we all put on our crisp white ABLE Charity long sleeved shirts to meet up with: friends, supporters, Government officials from the EPD and the FEHD. The Body Shop representatives of Hong Kong and Macau, Marcus and Margarette Tancock came along with the legendary founder of Body Shop International and global activist the late Anita Roddick who had especially flown in were also present. I, myself was representing ABLE together with co-founder Tobias Forster, someone who had tirelessly worked on this project.

I mention these two women with pride as they both became friends of mine. I had so much respect and awe for both women, powerful, integral and conscious activists fighting big battles on behalf of women and our Mother Earth. The Body Shop was one of my first true inspirations as I stepped into the world of conscious entrepreneurship back in the late 1980’s. I remember walking into their Oxford Street shop in London and being blown away by the concept of effortlessly marrying business with environmental and social awareness. The feel of their packaging, conscious messages about not testing on animals, the environment, bigger picture living  all put across in a creative, graphical and appealing way inspired me. This had a massive impact on my young mind and helped guide me into finding my own voice and message moving forwards.To eventually become her friend was a blessing. Sadly and tragically she left us far too soon but not without leaving our planet a much richer and safer place.

Margarette Tancock was my first inspiration here in Hong Kong. She introduced me to the world of meditation and showed me that Hong Kong had plenty of spirituality to offer anyone seeking. As the founder of the Body Shop Hong Kong she also showed me how to marry both business and activism harmoniously. She always had a kind word and encouragement to give me any time I needed it.

She too tragically left us far too soon but also not without leaving Hong Kong and our world a much better place in her wake.

The ceremony was successful and the 10 big yellow bins graced our outlying ferry piers for another 5 years. During their short lifecycle they graced and greeted daily commuters as they stepped on and off their ferries with heaps of daily newspapers and other packaging they were bringing from their homes and offices to very openly and clearly recycle. Looking back they were perhaps not the best designed bins, but they worked and above all raised our city’s awareness for the time to recycle.

Hong Kong has come a long way since those early days and now paper recycling is part and parcel of our daily lives but back then it was revolutionary.

I for one miss seeing those big happy yellow bins.

april 25 1998
'planting a forest'

 

Following on from the success of the first tree planting in the Forest the previous year we were empowered, excited ready to go with another one. April has traditionally been the tree planting window in Hong Kong for planting trees and so we set about planting another 1000 trees over a sunny and hot weekend. We pretty much repeated the process we had learnt form the first event and before we knew it another 1000 babes had been sunk in to the land. A picture was slowly starting to emerge of the potential of what can be one day.

Luck was on our side as out of nowhere the government decides to plant thousands of trees on the same land. Low and behold suddenly thousands of trees join our two thousand pioneer species and as if by magic there is now a forest, all be it of baby trees that were barely visible from a distance. This single act made a world of a difference. It was a much needed boost to our efforts and suddenly gave us the momentum to confidently plough ahead and boldly say that we are “planting a forest”

august 1998
creating the tree circle

 

The Tree Circle, one of the major landmarks in the Lamma Forest, is perhaps the best kept secret on Lamma. Not so easy to access, hidden from view and rather off the beaten track so to speak. This beautiful living sculpture stands about 30 feet in diameter on a small hill overlooking both the Southern path looking North, and old Tai Ping looking South East.

First conceived and planted back on the full moon of August 1998 when there was nothing but shrubs on that hill. I first spotted it whilst planting up in the hills and had looked over towards it many times following a hunch and a feeling and some sort of pull towards that spot. Once we did finally go up there to explore we found out, to our delight, that it was just big enough in diameter to accommodate some form of sculpture or clearing. But what exactly ? I had always fantasised about a circle of bamboo forming a living sculpture that could be sat in and admired looking up towards the sky… Hmmmm such a feeling of  bliss and serenity would always wash over me when I imagined that vision. So, here was a chance to plant a living circular sculpture right there, not of bamboo as this was too risky, but of trees.

I spoke to my friends about this and some aligned with this idea. A ceremonial gathering of sorts was proposed so as to make a happening out of this event which is what we often did back in those days. As it happened there was a Kabbalist Shaman visiting on Lamma and he liked the  idea of incorporating some sacred geometrical ritual into the circle. I can’t confess to either remember or fully understand the science behind the ceremony and ritual that took place on that lovely balmy evening under the full moon.

The 12 trees, approximating 7 feet in hight and the necessary compost and tools were all organised through ABLE Charity the day before using our usual modes of transporting the trees to Lamma and getting ready  for tree planting etc. It was not an easy task carrying the large trees and all the tools up to the top of the hill through dense shrubs and up steep inclines but we were all gun ho and excited. We first had to clear the tall grass and shrubs to reveal the space. We then had to measure the circumference and pace the circle as accurately as our hands and eyes would allow. The task took about 8 hours or so to accomplish. We were naked but very content and happy with our work that suddenly revealed a perfect circle of 12 tall and proud trees with a 12 granite stoned fire place circle within the outer circle of trees. A beautiful sight indeed.

The gathering and the ceremony was scheduled for the following evening which was the full moon, the harvest moon, a full and bright beauty hanging in the sky above us.

The tribe gathered, the ceremony had, the feast enjoyed, we drummed and danced  and made merry up in the green hills of the forest under the watchful bright eye in the sky.

The Tree Circle was born.

october 1998
cheung yeung fire

 

This was a terrible day in the fledging history of the Forest when a large angry fire ripped throughout the newly planted hills above Pak Kok. A careless family of grave visitors had ignorantly started a fire from the grave they were attending by burning paper money in an uncontrolled way. The atmosphere was dry and the wind was blowing resulting in ideal conditions for forest fires. The flames quickly spread and burnt out of control. As it happened we were on standby as we had been concerned about the vast number of fires that were happening all over Hong Kong during this holiday. There was a handful of volunteers walking amongst the hills around the Forest. We spotted the smoke and called the local fire department who then mobilised on their small fire engines and rushed to the scene. As the fire spread and threatened nearby houses the helicopters were called in to combat the angry flames. We worked hand in hand with the fire fighters trying our best to stop the advancing flames using nothing more than fire beaters, buckets of water and our love for the trees. It was an epic day where volunteers worked beyond their civic duty and risked limbs & life to stop the fires. There are some classic photos of this day for the record.

After the fires were successfully put out and the fatigue set in, and after the adrenalin rush was over  and we started to reflect on the loss of thousands of trees, the tremendous loss dawned on us. Sadness kicked in and we wondered if there was any hope of realizing our dream. A very sobering day indeed and one to remember.

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february 19 2001
forest maintenance with island school

february 24 2002
clearing gaia valley

april 1 2003
'fire watch patrol'

ABLE CHARITY had been organizing “fire watch patrols” twice a year since those big fires of 1998.. On one day alone in 1998 there were forty (40) fires sweeping across lamma island including the notorious fire that burnt a few thousand baby trees in the Forest.

Saturday the 5th of April is the Ching Ming festival, the first of the traditional grave sweeping days. The second is the Cheung Yung in october. On these days the Chinese community visits their ancestors’ graves and tends to them, as well as burning paper money and incense sometimes in dry conditions, this coupled with a bit of neglect can cause some serious fires…

Since we started patrolling and together with the rising awareness amongst the people and the Government efforts the number of fires has dropped quite considerably. In fact the previous year there was only a handful of small fires on lamma. This is a great improvement but we cannot afford to drop our guard especially around the “lamma forest” area.

The text below is from flyers and posters we put up around the Lamma in the days leading up to these public holidays.


ABLE CHARITY is seeking volunteers to help patrol on the day. if you are willing and able please email us at: able_charity@hkisl.net or phone us on 2982 6994 to register.

what you will need on the day:
water for drinking and perhaps some snacks.
a hat and suncream if hot and sunny.
a mobile phone (essential).
sturdy shoes and some strong long trousers like jeans.
a pair of binoculars (if possible) will be handy.
but above all what we really, really need is RAIN!!!
keep your fingers crossed.

may 10 2003
tree planting day

The Lamma Forest is growing…on saturday the 10th of May the Lamma community came out in force to take part in the ongoing reforestation of the scenic hills of their island. It was good to see so many families up on the hills and such an eclectic mix of people enjoying the fresh easterly winds and the hot sunshine. Most people were up there for the first time and it was quite rewarding to see the delight on their faces as the realization of how well the forest is doing and as the beauty of its location dawned on them.

As always the day had its challenges and its heroes. The reward of completing the task: all 500 trees safely tucked away in the rich soil of their new home overlooking the scenic hills, valleys and sea of lamma island.

All the trees planted were native Hong Kong trees rich in seeds, flowers and fruits. Indigenous species that will attract birds and other wild life in the coming years. Thanks to the efforts of Lamma people and the Government the total number of trees planted in the one area has climbed to 15, 500. We estimate another 10, 000 trees can be planted in and around the forest which stretches from Po Wah Yuen in the south to Pak Kok in the north and from Tai Ping in the East to the coast in the West, covering some of the most picturesque scenes of our beautiful island.

The species of trees were selected by experts from the Kadoorie Botanical Farm and Gardens KFBG to blend in with the local ecology. We planted 50 trees from each species.

For ABLE Charity the challenge does not stop here. The trees need to be cared for especially in their initial stages by watering them as frequently as possible and that is quite a challenge as there is no water up in the hills. The task also requires walking up and down with heavy water back packs… We will be organizing forest maintenance days which will include pruning, weeding and clean ups etc… And that is how the forest grows with love, vision and commitment.

may 17 2007
tree planting day

october 12 2008
wedding in the forest

 

A wedding is held in the Forest

Why not!? What a wonderful place to get married. The weather is perfect. The Forest is lush. The birds are happy. A wedding gathering is arranged for our lovely friends and beautiful couple Sleiman & Catherine. The location chosen is a flat plateau surrounded by mature Eucalyptus trees planted back in 1999/2000 and lots of babe Incense trees in the surrounding bush. Friends, family and loved ones gather where the feast is set. The ceremony takes place in the fresh cool air, music is played, food and drink enjoyed where a wonderful day and touching spiritual ceremony is had by one and all.

The site has since been named Wedding Grove.

october 30 2008
forest path clearing day

The Lamma Forest involves a lot more than just tree planting days. In fact the bulk of the work is Forest Maintenance which involves: clearing of the paths, their maintenance such as pruning and looking after trees. We also do typhoon damage management, picking up of rubbish along the main public path that runs through the forest en route to Pak Kok and many other small tasks such as gathering fire wood amongst others.

These tasks are often done with the help of schools, Corporations, NGO’s and sometimes paid labourers. The photos on this page are taken from a very productive and successful day organised together with APA and a large group of school students in their charge.

APA has been quite active over the years in the Lamma Forest as part of their educational courses they run to educate students about the value of nature and outdoor living.