Hilltop raths are Ireland’s most common field monument. They date from the early centuries AD and were used to protect a house, its buildings, people and livestock in a safe enclosure. It is likely that the earthen bank was made stock proof by planting blackthorn, hawthorn, or gorse. If cut branches were used, these might have carried seeds which would then grow into a living barrier, particularly once the rath was abandoned and stock no longer nibbled the young growth. The bushes and trees which mark such raths today may be the living descendants of those original bushes.
Inauguration sites of ancient tribal kings may be adorned by trees. Tullyhogue near Stewartstown in Co. Tyrone was the crowning place of one of our greatest tribes, the O’Neills, and is now itself crowned by a fine mix of trees. It stands proud above a landscape that once was wooded, now productive improved agricultural land.
It is said that trees here were destroyed in a tribal reprisal raid – cutting the enemies’ trees was no doubt symbolic of toppling greater power – but they were re-planted.