Restored garden project takes on a new dimension

by Ann Casey

A unique project, which will see the restoration of the old walled garden at Headfort House in Kells, as well as the provision of a drop-in facility in the town for people suffering from stress, has been chosen by the Meath Chronicle as the county’s entry in the national Get Involved sustainable community campaign.

Patricia McAlernon inspects the healthy-looking potato crop.
Patricia McAlernon inspects the healthy-looking potato crop.

The Get Involved campaign is a sustainable communities initiative developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland and sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. 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.

The Kells Community Growers’ group, which is carrying out a major overhaul of the substantial kitchen gardens at Headfort House, 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 campaign to restore the kitchen garden and provide a drop-in facility in the town of kells is already well underway. The substantial kitchen garden used to produce fresh fruit and vegetables for Headfort House, but over the last number of decades the garden had become totally overgrown.

The Community Growers have now cleared away much of the brambles and weeds and the cultivation of the land is also underway – with some produce having already ended up on dining tables in the area and the new flowers are attracting butterflies, bees and birds.

Ana Maire Blackburn, David Heaslip and Patricia McAlernon examine the flowers now flourishing in the garden.
Ana Maire Blackburn, David Heaslip and Patricia McAlernon examine the flowers now
flourishing in the garden.

The growers have now teamed with Tamhnach and Patricia McAlernan, chairperson of the Growers’ Group, has become a director of the mental health charity. David Heaslip, a volunteer who heads up the gardening project, explains that the aim is to secure a premises in the town of Kells from where they would sell produce from the garden and to set up a vegetable box scheme where 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. Ana Maire Blackburn, secretary of Kells Community Growers, explains that they are currently working on securing a premises for the shop and drop-in centre.

Ana Maire Blackburn examining the tomatoes growing in the new community garden.
Ana Maire Blackburn examining the tomatoes growing in the new community garden.

The centre will be all about inclusion – it will be there for people to drop in, have a cup of tea and a scone or cake, or even some soup made with vegetables from the kitchen garden. Meanwhile, work on transforming the garden at Headfort House continues apace.

The work is a significant undertaking with 45 years’ worth of weeds and undergrowth to remove. However, over the summer months, great progress was made and there has been a major clean-up taking place there and fruit and vegetables are now flourishing in the garden once again.

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.