Timoleague National School and the Tidy Towns committee have joined forces to develop a new garden that’s quickly becoming a focal point for people in the coastal village to grow, plant … or just enjoy a cuppa and a chat
BY MARTIN WALSH
WHAT was once a piece of wasteland skirting the estuary in Timoleague has been transformed into an educational garden that is fast becoming a focal part of the community.
Timoleague Tidy Towns member Susan Jackson described the new space that has its own larch-clad cabin. ‘It’s like a community centre in a garden, people can come down, sit in and do yoga, they can come here if they have questions – the people in the community around here have a wealth of knowledge.’
The advent of the educational garden isn’t that surprising, Norma Harte, principal of Timoleague National School explained. ‘Our school has a proud history of school garden and biodiversity projects. The benefits of gardening in school are immeasurable. Pupils learn focus, patience, co-operation and teamwork. It’s particularly lovely to see the children coming to school on gardening days armed with their wellingtons, gloves and smiles! The links to the primary school curriculum are obvious and they have resulted in awards from Science Foundation Ireland, Muintir na Tíre, Young Environmentalist Awards, ESB Science Blast, and Primary Science [email protected] Young Scientist Exhibition.’
On the day of our visit, adults and children were busy, armed with a fleet of wheelbarrows brimming with top soil, and manure was emptied into timber beds crafted by volunteers that have picked up the skill from seasoned timber specialists.
Aside from the obvious benefit to the larger community, the completion of the long-awaited Timoleague/Courtmacsherry sewerage scheme brought an added bonus, as Norma outlined.
‘Irish Water had a tract of land remaining and were delighted to support our biodiversity plans. They signed a licence agreement with the school for the land,’ she said.
Last March, applications for the GIY (Grow It Yourself) Community Classroom scheme opened and the Timoleague Tidy Towns committee enthusiastically agreed to a combined application. Since then, everything has taken on a new lease of life.
‘Both Val Burns and I have participated in the school garden,’ explained Susan. ‘The main thing about this garden as opposed to an allotment is that it’s a garden that is made by the community. Everything we do here, people learn from it, we start from building the bed, filling it with soil, planting it with seeds, caring for the plants and harvesting at the end.
‘We have pond plants, a bee and butterfly area to promote biodiversity, and we are going to do fruit, vegetables, wild flowers and a herbaceous bed. Really anything that someone wants in their own garden and have asked us to teach them, we can do it here.’
New Tidy Towns chairperson Val Burns spoke about the transformation of the space. ‘SpaceCab in Brinny donated a cabin and local builder Cathal Dineen and his staff put it together and put on the larch cladding, even showing us how to do it. It’s also a bit of a women’s and men’s shed and about learning other skills as well. People have done things they never did before or even thought they were capable of doing. For instance, one lady used a drill for the first time, she was very proud of herself.Another lady upholstered a chair for the first time, so it’s not just gardening.’
Indeed, it’s not. Some drop in for the chat and a cup of tea and that sparks an interest.
But things quickly harp back to the school and more importantly, the children, as Susan remarked, ‘They come over once a week with Val and she has a plan of what they will do as they learn the whole lifecycle of plants, biodiversity. Then all that is brought back to the school and into the curriculum.’
Donal Barry, former chairperson of Timoleague Tidy Towns, who remains active with the group said. ‘We have no doubt that one of the reasons for our silver medal win last year was due to the input of the children, who planted flowers around the school. Now, the plan is to grow the flowers here and then replant them around the village.
‘It is great to see the children and indeed their families involved. It’s great for everybody.’
The garden is a hive of activity every Thursday and Saturday from noon until 2pm, everybody learns and everybody is welcome. The reaction from four young and very enthusiastic pupils summed it up perfectly.
Anna NcInerney said: ‘The garden is lovely, I come here to meet my friends.’
Katie O’Rourke remarked how ‘everyone worked together to make it.’
‘It helps the environment and helps to bring everyone together’ added Sadbh Hanbridge, while Emily Murphy concluded ‘I like the garden because it is very creative, it gets minds going.’
The aim of the Timoleague Educational Garden, according to Norma Harte, ‘is to develop an educational space for adults and children and, more importantly, to build a community social hub.’ It’s early days yet, but those seeds appear to be firmly planted.