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Timoleague’s garden a blooming brilliant success

February 12th, 2024 8:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

All hands on deck at the Timoleague Educational Garden. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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When a small patch of land was left idle after the construction of a sewerage scheme, few could have thought it would become the pride of the entire community

TIMOLEAGUE Educational Garden has surpassed all expectations in its first 12 months, progressing from a forgotten wasteland to an award-winning space.

And the team behind it say that it’s all down to the input, support and generosity of the entire community which has been fully behind the initiative since it was something only dreamt of.

The project launched in January, but the seeds for the garden were sown a number of years ago, outlined Fine Gael Cllr John O’Sullivan.

‘A number of years ago the late Kay Collins approached me to know if Cork County Council had any piece of land that the school could use to show the children how to grow plants and other things.

‘At the time there wasn’t any land available and so no progress could be made. However, when the sewerage scheme was completed I noticed that there was a piece of land (where the garden is now) which was not required. Fortunately, I knew one of the senior executives in Irish Water and I suggested that to lease this piece of land to Timoleague National School in what would be a goodwill gesture and a good publicity gesture to the community.

‘He came back to me to say that Irish Water would be disposed to the idea so I put them and principal Norma Harte in contact and a deal was reached,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

The project got off the ground in earnest when local residents Val Burns and Susan Jackson were chatting about ideas to bring the community together after the pandemic.

Val ran her own forest school in the UK before returning to her native Timoleague, whilst Susan established the existing school garden, and herself and Susan then discovered their shared love of nature and gardening.

‘When the piece of land was donated to the school from Irish Water, the Educational Garden project idea was born,’ said Susan.

The garden now boasts pond plants, a bee and butterfly area to promote biodiversity, with plans to develop fruit, vegetables, wild flowers and a herbaceous bed.

At its core is a cabin which was donated by Space Cab in Brinny and put together by local builder Cathal Dineen and his staff. The cabin has been described as a turning point of the project as it’s a warm, welcoming, multipurpose space where people can drop in for a chat, a cuppa and try their hand at whatever task needs doing in the garden that particular day.

It’s also a valuable venue for the various talks and demonstrations hosted by the group which include composting, beekeeping, hanging baskets, seed saving, plant cuttings and wreath making.

Highlights over the past year are almost too plentiful to mention. Among other things, the garden community lists learning new skills such as composting, seed-saving, bee-keeping and plant propagation; seeing the kids having fun at the Saturday club and also seeing the school kids enjoying learning outdoors.

However, the social aspect has been a most surprising and invaluable part of the project with people of all ages making new friendships, and enjoying a sense of purpose and wellbeing.

‘The fact that everyone is welcome to come to the garden, regardless of their gardening skills is brilliant. It’s just a lovely space that everyone can enjoy being in,’ said one gardener.

Another added: ‘No matter how busy we are in the garden, all tools are put down in order to make time for the all-important cuppa and biscuits. Initially the gardening aspect of the project was my number one priority but I fast realised, that the social side of the garden was perhaps even more important to the people than the garden itself.’

The project has also showcased the available talent in the community. ‘It’s just amazing that 99% of our demonstrations, talks and specialised skills were delivered by locals. Since the project started in January, not one day went by without someone visiting or helping out in the garden. We have been blown away as to how much people have helped build this beautiful space, where there is something for everyone,’ said Val.

Over the past year the garden has won many accolades including: Muintir na Tire - Best in Category Community Involvement 2023; Nature Hero Awards; Cork Food Policy Council & Young Environmental Awards. It also played a large role in Timoleague Tidy Towns winning gold medal. But without community support the project would never have been, emphasised Susan.

‘We are a registered charity with Timoleague NS, everyone works voluntarily and the support of the community has been beyond our wildest dreams. It’s the people using the space that make the project a success. Our aim has always been to keep costs to a minimum and we have done so due to their unbelievable support and availing of grants.

John Powell, Val Burns, Susan Jackson and Donal Barry.


‘In 2023 we developed half of the garden and got our beautiful cabin up and functional. We plan to have a fundraiser early in 2024 and no doubt the community will rally around us again so we can complete the development side of the project,’ she said.

Plans for this year include completing the hard landscape of the garden, this includes a composting area to take the school’s food waste, installation of a rainwater collection area, installation of power and water in the cabin, additional herbaceous beds, a large demonstration area, and a kiddies area.

‘Throughout the year we will increase the number of educational talks and demonstrations, these will include evening events. Teaching basic gardening skills will be another priority, especially food growing. Becoming a sustainable project is an important aspect for us, so next year we intend to produce plants and items for sale. If the project continues to be as successful in 2024 as it has been this year, it’s going to be a fun filled year!’ said Val.

• If the Irish flag is flying, the garden is open and all are welcome to call in for a cuppa and chat on Thursday and Saturday from noon to 2pm.

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