Category Archives: Meath Chronicle 2015

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.

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.

The group tackles the overgrown garden in Kells.

Kells group’s bid to restore garden to productive glory

The Kells Community Growers Group has been chosen as the Meath participant in the Get Involved 2015 competition. A major renaissance is underway at the substantial walled gardens at Headfort House in Kells thanks to this enterprising group of volunteers, The aim of the group is to restore the garden to its former productive glory, repair and use the greenhouses on the site and to create a growers’ co-operative in Kells, helping to create employment in the area. An official opening of the project took place in June by Junior Minister Damien English, along with Cllr Sarah Reilly. Early in the last century, Headfort House was supplied with its fresh fruit and vegetables from the substantial walled gardens in the grounds. Over the last several decades, however, the walled garden had become a tangle of overgrown weeds, brambles and grass and the once fertile greenhouses were lying empty and forlorn. Now, thanks to The Kells Community Growers’ Group, the garden is beginning to take shape, although there remains enormous work ahead as it was very neglected and overgrown before work started. One of the people behind the project is Lill Coyne, who got together with a group of volunteers about two-and-a half years ago and, with the help of Angela Murphy at the Kells People’s resource Centre, started looking at various sites around Kells on which to set up a community garden. They approached the Headfort Trust about the use of the walled garden at Headfort House and reached an agreement for the use of the garden by licence. With the help of a grant of €5,000 from the Community Foundation Ireland and other private funding, the enthusiastic volunteers moved into the garden in December 2013. Chairperson Patricia McAlernon explains that, as well as growing their own fruit, vegetables and even flowers, they are also prepared to look at other activities, including animal husbandry and may introduce hens and pigs to help turn over the soil.

Leading the Headfort operation (from left) are: Rod Synes, supervisor; Patricia McElernon, chairperson of Kells Community Growers; Lil Coyne, vice-chair; Philip Moran, Meath Partnership, and Dermot Dix, headmaster of Headfort School.
Leading the Headfort operation (from left) are: Rod Synes, supervisor;
Patricia McElernon, chairperson of Kells Community Growers; Lil Coyne,
vice-chair; Philip Moran, Meath Partnership, and Dermot Dix, headmaster
of Headfort School.

This year, they have applied for Grow It Yourself (GIY) funding and they also plan to apply for EU funding from Leader. As the extensive work continues, the group hopes the Headfort Trust will avail of funding to help with restoration of the four greenhouses. Patricia explains that they plan to sell their produce on Fridays and Saturdays at a market in Kells and to supply hotels, restaurants and private households. “We are a community group and we plan to set up a co-operative to sell our produce and eventually create employment,” she says. Over the longer term, they even envisage renting farmland in the area. Lill is the project facilitator and horticultural expert behind the project. She believes the community growers’ group will provide jobs to people who would enjoy working in the sector. The work they have already begun is aimed at increasing biodiversity in the garden and already they are growing vegetables, fruits and salads, as well as flowers which attract bees and butterflies, and birds who keep away pests.

Scott Smith, James McCormack and Paul Dennis working on the garden project earlier this year.
Scott Smith, James McCormack and Paul Dennis working on the garden
project earlier this year.

They have already sold some of their produce to Clonabreany House in nearby Crossakiel and at the Hay Festival in Kells. The group is being provided with two beehives by a local beekeeper and hopes to eventually have their own hives to help with the pollination of the apple trees and, of course, in order to produce their own honey. Headfort School, Dermot Dix, is delighted with the project, pointing out the garden had lain derelict for a long time. “When I was a child in this school, the walled garden provided produce for the school,” he recalls. “It was sad to see it going down and it is great now to see its restoration.” ‘Get Involved’ is a way for local communities to work together to improve their own lives, create local jobs and protect the environment. It is an initiative developed by 51 local newspapers throughout Ireland.

The aim of the group is to restore the garden to its former productive glory, repair and use the greenhouses on the site and to create a growers’ co-operative in Kells, helping to create employment in the area