An Gairdín Beo – A Living Garden for Carlow
I’m sitting quietly in the common room area of a new community garden project in the middle of Carlow town and in this particular instant, I couldn’t feel more at peace. The wall clock is ticking loudly, cars are passing by on the old Dublin Road and in the distance I can hear the shouts of children as they play. All of these are unfamiliar sounds to a woman who’s been living in rural Ireland for the past 17 years, someone who’s usual neighbours are herds of cows and hedgerow birds. The weekend sounds are somehow reassuring as I sit alone in this quiet, old school building during my volunteer shift, feeling an unusual sense of Saturday peace as I wait for company.
Just through the open door crunchy leaves are skittering around the tarmac, early losses from the nearby silver birch and chestnut trees, marking the beginning of the seasonal change.
My eyes are drawn to the area that will soon be full of raised vegetable growing beds and a compost area and I can feel the bubbles of excitement in my tummy when I think about the plans for developing this garden. The potential for this social food growing and eco hub, bang in the middle of the county-town is heart-stirring.
This garden will be a place to socialise, to learn, to eat, to create, laugh, meditate or just be at one with nature in a green space that’s being created for the community, by the community. It’s unlikely it will be this quiet once the growing begins.
An Gairdín Beo, a living garden for Carlow, is in its early stages of development and the changes the other volunteers have made over the weeks in preparation for hosting the recent Integration Forum gathering, are palpable.
Where, just a short while ago there were laurel and bracken, pathways now meander beneath cleared stretches of overhanging evergreens, revealing steps with urns and other delights. In the distant end of the contemplation area, stags head sumac glow in the low sunlight, trees and and shrubs have been tidied, old flower growing areas resurrected and the undergrowth cleared from basketball courts that will one day be replaced by timber and soil.
Both of the buildings have been spruced up, cleaned and painted, toilets repaired and I can only imagine how different it was here just a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting friends in the UK.
In September twenty nations moved into the garden for two hours for the Forum event, bringing life and vibrancy, food, song, art, laughter and music during the annual event that’s struggled to find a natural home until now.
We hope that An Gairdín Beo will welcome many more Carlow communities over the coming years.
I was contacted twelve months ago about this new, two-acre community garden project in Carlow town, that sits snugly beside St Leo’s college and convent. It’s the first community garden that I’ve personally volunteered in and not simply worked with, and it’s cheering.
I’ve written many posts that you can find here about why community gardening is so good if you haven’t had the chance to join a community garden yourself, but a new group of us are beginning to live and breathe them in this urban centre.
Truly, the mental health benefits alone of being in a tranquil setting surrounded by nature, in a place that has already begun to enthuse so many people, cannot be underestimated.
Sharing the Harvest
Next weekend An Gairdín Beo will be holding another event that we hope will help to go some way towards solving the problem of what to do with our excess harvest. Perhaps next year we’ll be harvesting from the new community garden beds, but for now it will be from our own gardens as we try to find a solution for the food waste that often drips from abundant crab apple, plum and apple trees that surround many of us.
From 2pm to 4pm on Saturday, 17th October the gates will be open wide once more and we will welcome everyone who wants to come inside and bring their excess harvest, perhaps swapping fruit or vegetables, or maybe just taking what you want in exchange for a donation towards the creation of this special garden.
We hope to be pressing apples (bring some empty containers in case), tea making and cake devouring as well as generally enjoying the company of new friends and people who enjoy being close to their food sources or who want to learn more about this or other community gardens.
If you’d like to become involved or simply keep in touch with the activities in An Gairdín Beo and watch from afar how the community garden develops, you can find our Facebook Group here.
Hope to see you there sometime.