Community to benefit in several ways from Kells garden project

The people of Kells will soon be flocking to a new organic fruit and vegetable shop in Carrick Street, with the opening of a charity shop and drop-in centre by the Kells Community Growers’ group. The venture is being run in conjunction with the Tamhnach Foundation, which provides support to people suffering from stress. The shop and drop-in centre, which will open in the very near future, is part of a unique project for Kells which also includes the restoration of the old walled garden at Headfort House in Kells.

Work in progress in the former walled garden at Headfort House, Kells.
Work in progress in the former walled garden at Headfort House, Kells.

The project has been chosen by the Meath Chronicle as this county’s entry in the national Get Involved sustainable communities campaign, which has been developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland. The Kells Community Growers has been carrying out a major overhaul of the substantial kitchen gardens at Headfort House and it is now paying dividends as the garden is yielding up its crops which will shortly be on sale in the Carrick Street centre. The group has secured a premises in what was an old motorbike shop and it is currently being refurbished ahead of its opening.

Patricia McAlernon shows off some of the plentiful crop of apples produced in the new community garden..
Patricia McAlernon shows off some of the plentiful crop of apples
produced in the new community garden..

The intention is to use the premises to sell Kells Community Growers produce in conjunction with other organic products. In addition, they intend to offer mental wellbeing workshops and offer other related services, including a charity shop. They are now actively seeking stock for the shop and calling for local people to donate items. Meanwhile, a virtual cornucopia of fresh vegetables and fruit, including potatoes, tomatoes and apples and a wealth of other produce has been yielded up by the kitchen garden at Headfort, which has been transformed by the work of the local growers. The project was a significant undertaking with 45 years’ worth of weeds and undergrowth to remove. However, over the summer months, great progress was made and fruit and vegetables are now flourishing there once again.

Ana Maire Blackburn, secretary; volunteer David Heaslip and Patricia McAlernon, chairperson, Kells Community Growers’ group.
Ana Maire Blackburn, secretary; volunteer David Heaslip and Patricia
McAlernon, chairperson, Kells Community Growers’ group.

The Kells Community Growers recently linked up with the Tamhnach Foundation, which provides workshops, therapies and support circles to alleviate people suffering distress arising from spiritual, psychological, emotional, nutritional and physical challenges. The produce of the kitchen garden will now help sustain the new dropin facility. “It will be a place to relax and enjoy the space,” says Patricia Mc McAlernon, chairperson of the Kells Community Growers’ group, who has recently also become a director of the mental health charity. “This is very much about giving back to society and it will be inclusive to everyone. We will be hooking up with different services and facilities so if somebody comes to us in dire straits, we can direct them to the appropriate services straight away,” she says.

The walled garden at Headfort once produced fresh fruit and vegetables for Headfort House, but over the last number of decades the garden had become totally overgrown and fallen into disuse. The Community Growers have cleared away most of the brambles and weeds and have cultivated the land with some produce having already ended up on dining tables in the area and with new flowers attracting butterflies, bees and birds. The produce will also be on sale in the new shop from where they plan to sell produce from the garden.

There are also plans to set up a vegetable box scheme where members of the public could go online and purchase boxes of organic fruit and vegetables from the garden. The shop would, in turn, help fund a drop-in facility for people suffering from stress and which would also provide workshops and stress management sessions. It will be there for people to drop in, have a cup of tea, or even some soup made with vegetables from the kitchen garden.

The work on transforming the garden at Headfort House has continued throughout the autumn – it is a significant undertaking and the group has extended thanks to Meath Partnership, their Tús participants and supervisor Rod Symes for the remarkable work carried out on the garden so far, There are many old and rare fruit trees in the garden which are being rejuvenated and grafting is taking place to preserve these old varieties for the future, The new shop premises will open shortly and updates can be found at www.tamhnach.org

The Get Involved campaign is a sustainable communities initiative developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland and is sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It is a way for local communities all over Ireland to work together to improve their own lives, create local jobs and protect the environment. The winning project – drawn from towns and villages across Ireland – will win a bursary of €5,000.