AN ambitious plan by the Monageer Grotto Group to create a sensory garden is the Wexford People’s entry in the 2015 Get Involved competition, a community initiative aimed at helping build a more sustainable Ireland. Get Involved is sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Clann Credo social investment fund, and the Monageer project being championed by this newspaper will see the creation of a meandering sensory walk linking the Grotto car park to the woodland walk. It will involve many local contractors, tradesmen, voluntary groups, FAS and individuals and is intended to be completed in several phases. Phase one will start immediately with the clearing of the site and the laying of the path foundations and kerbing to be completed by October 2015. Phase 2 will see the building of several raised beds to be completed by December 2015.
Phase 3 will begin in spring with the building of the central stonework oval seated
area. Planting will also begin in spring. Phase 4 will be the addition of sculptures, water features, seats, lights and will be done over the summer of 2016. Once completed, the area will greatly enhance the existing amenity that is the Grotto and the group envisages large numbers of visitors, not only from the local area, but from further afield and will be used by schools and groups for events throughout the year. Recycled materials will be used wherever possible in the sensory garden’s creation, with solar lights, solar water features, sensory and wildlife plants.
Since the formation of the Monageer Grotto Group in 2004, meetings take place every Monday night, for the months of May to September, to carry out any maintenance jobs that need doing. ‘We have a dedicated group of nine people who show up on these nights,’ said Liam Nolan, from the group. ‘When required we have also given extra hours on a Saturday, like this year when we put in a new gravel pathway through the new woodland walk and a new play area. ‘We also have had over the past 11 years the support and help of the local FAS workers. It is our intention to expand our Monday nights for the full year.
FAS will allocate more hours to the grotto once this new venture is in place. And once the project is finished I can see some more people coming on board with us to help out, even on a small scale every bit extra will be a help to us.’ The sensory walkway will have a central oval seated area in stone-work that can be used by the local School, Youth Club, Active Retirement Group and many locals, as well as outside visitors. ‘We will install an exchange library in the area where anyone can get a book to read.
We will hold storytelling, Easter, summer and Hallowe’en activities here too. The wide pathway will meander through raised flower beds at various heights, making the flowers and other touchable items accessible to people of all ages and to wheelchair users,’ said Liam. The cost of the project is estimated at €28,000 and the Monageer Grotto Group has applied for funding to the Wexford County Council and is looking for other soures of funding as well.
The sensory garden will be an environment that is designed with the purpose of stimulating the senses. This stimulation occurs courtesy of plants and the use of materials that engage one’s senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. Sensory gardens are popular with and beneficial to both children and adults, especially those who have sensory processing issues, including autism and other disabilities.
To get the maximum use from a sensory garden, it is important to include tactile materials, water, and sound and to make the area accessible to wheelchair users, buggies, people with vision problems or mobility issues. Sensory gardens, such as the one being created in Monageer, are used for recreational and educational purposes. To incorporate this element into the walk a central seated area surrounded by a wall and flowers will be included which can be used for nature study classes and events such as small parish gatherings.
Get Involved is a sustainable community initiative and competition developed by two local newspaper associations – NNi Local and the RNPAI. Between them, these two associations represent 51 local newspapers with a combined readership of 1.65 million people across all 26 counties in the Republic. Local newspapers, including the Wexford People, are getting involved to promote voluntary sustainability projects and to ensure that local communities all over Ireland become much more resilient to the many changes they face.
The projects will compete to be awarded for their work in the national competition. The overall prize fund is €12,000. Themes for the projects nationally include Energy. Water, Food, Nature/Biodiversity, Sustainable Employment, Ecotourism, Resource Efficiency, Community Impact. In addition, the Clann Credo sponsored Community Impact prize can encapsulate any of these themes.‘ Earlier this year, the Monageer Grotto celebrated its 50th anniversary with the official opening of the Woodland Walk which is located in the grounds.