British-era rubble walls and archways from the time of the Knights are springing back to life at Buskett after years of neglect as part of an ambitious government project to rehabilitate the woodland.

Some 17,000 square metres of previously existing traditional rubble walls are being repaired and rebuilt using 1921 practices, based on plans dating back to the British period and beyond.

Meanwhile, 49 arches built at the time of the Grandmaster Lascaris, many in a severe state of deterioration, are also being painstakingly restored.

The project, Life Saving Buskett, began three years ago and wraps up in 2018.

Part-funded by the EU and managed by the government Parks Directorate, it is targeting a wide range of areas affecting the Natura 2000 site, from soil preservation and water management to ecological and historical regeneration.

We now have a team that has learned new methodologies and ecologically-sensitive practices

More than 3,000 indigenous trees have been planted from seeds harvested in Buskett itself, alien species introduced over many years have been removed, studies have been carried out into water flow in the valley, and seminars held with residents and farmers to explore the project’s impacts.

Project manager Mark Causon told the Times of Malta the project would not only create a better experience for Buskett’s countless visitors, but demonstrate how minimal sustainable interventions could yield powerful results, ideas which could potentially be replicated in other neglected areas.

“It would be a pity if the government did not embark on similar projects after the end of this one,” Dr Causon said. “We now have a team that has learned new methodologies and ecologically-sensitive practices. If the government were to enter into partnerships with local councils and NGOs who lack the financial means on their own, it would benefit the whole country.”

Central to the project is also an educational element, with tours for students ranging from primary to University-level highlighting Buskett’s many historical and ecological features.

Dr Causon said these tours were recently extended to elderly visitors as an experiment, with resounding success.

“We have to show people how to appreciate the environment as it is. Most people come here for recreation, but the beauty of Buskett is its uniqueness. It’s not just a garden like any other. There are plants which are unique to this area and which need to be protected.”

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