How many times have you heard how great you’ll feel if you get outside and into nature? I’ve read several papers on the science behind it, have seen the positive and powerful effects that being in a community garden has on people’s good mood, and yet it still takes me by surprise. The power of nature on our mental health was really bought home to me this summer when Mr G and I met up with old friends and headed over to the Wild Atlantic Way for eight nights in our camper vans.
Taking two teenage girls away in a medium wheelbase converted Transit could have been a recipe for disaster, and it wasn’t without its moments, yet it worked. Three nights at Eagle Point near Bantry, three at Pure Camping on Loop Head then two at Lakeside, Mountshannon were exactly what we all needed.
Blessed with fantastic weather which enabled us to sit outside until midnight and master the art of cooking pizza on a BBQ, we were able to chat and laugh and catch up while we watched the Perseid meteor shower from wobbly camper chairs. Thanks to a lucky break in the weather, we were also able to see the dramatic landscapes of Beara Peninsula, swim in the crystal clear waters at the Bridges of Ross and kayak in Lough Derg, all of which could have gone horribly wrong if the unpredictable Irish weather had filled the skies with drizzle and cloud.
Yet it was the couple of hours spent at The Ewe Experience Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Glengarriff, West Cork where I witnessed a teenage transformation. Our 15-year-old didn’t want to walk around a garden that we’d found details of on a rack in the campsite office and she certainly didn’t want to look at sculptures made of recycled stuff. She was very happy to share her displeasure with anyone within a couple of metres, be it with cutting looks, snappy comebacks or simply body language that oozed angst. We knew we had a long drive ahead of us as we moved to the next site so didn’t give her the option of staying behind in the van. We paid the inexpensive fee to enter the garden and hoped for the best.
It’s difficult to know how to begin to describe the enchanting sculpture trail that enfolded before us. The Ewe garden is a nature trail lined with art, sculpture, games, facts as well as lots of quiet, contemplative thought. It’s a place of wonder and discovery and two hours isn’t enough to stop and read, see and do everything in it. Privately owned yet publicly shared, artist Sheena and her writer husband Kurt have filled the twisty, hilly woodland that the river and waterfall run through, with pieces that will inspire, bring a smile and transform you. I can testify that our grouchy teen came out the other side a beautiful, happy human being once more who wanted to talk about the pieces that caught her eye. She also had my camera so all the photos shared below are from her viewpoint, almost all of which are different from the ones I took on my phone.
Coincidentally, before we set off for Clare, Mr G had begun creating his own piece of recycled sculpture for the Global Green Community Garden at Electric Picnic that I was coordinating for organisers Cultivate. Ian was like a child in a toy shop the afternoon we visited ReCreate to pick out materials for the sculpture and only had the finishing touches to add when we returned from our holiday.
The concept of the piece was something like “Adam and Eve, the first community gardeners were lured out of the garden by the golden ‘apple’ and all the shiny bling that technology brings with it, yet there’s still hope, a child’s hand reaches out of the top clutching a dove of peace”…
The artistic flair that Ian has shared with us is relatively new, but judging by the amount of people who photographed the piece at the Music and Arts Festival, his skills didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’m looking forward to more of his creations and perhaps this is the beginning of a sculpture garden in County Carlow, unless you’ve any other ideas what to do with a 12 foot golden mannequin concept tree…?