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December 2011

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Community action!

Shirley Lanigan looked over a wall...

On a visit to Graiguenamanagh in south County Kilkenny recently, I looked over an old stone wall on a back lane in the town and spotted what looked like an intriguing-looking project. It appeared that someone had begun to take a derelict site in hand. Into the middle of what was obviously a bomb-site of an old garden plot, someone had inserted a line of raised beds. So far they were empty of vegetables or any other plants but they had been filled with good top soil.

At the top of the hilly site somebody had erected small willow arch and close by there was activity happening with a pile of stone. It all looked like the beginning of something. I had been tagging along with a group looking at the town as a Tidy Towns competitor and I asked our guide about the site.

It turned out that only a few weeks previously, that this had indeed been a piece of derelict, weedy ground. But Alison Allen, a native of the town, decided that it would make a great community garden. In only a few weeks, the little plot had been transformed from an eyesore to - if not yet a sight for sore eyes - then something well on the way.

Alison and her enterprising team are using it as a base for training skills. Apart from starting off the raised beds, she brought in someone to show the participants how to build a handsome stone wall. Using the local granite, the double wall was well advanced when we saw it. Built to hip height, a hollow centre was being left so that the top of the wall could be used as a planting opportunity. As a future garden feature and current teaching aid, it looked like a perfect diagram in a manual on how to build a wall. This had all been achieved in only two weeks by the small, but busy, group working on a FÁS- and Leader-sponsored course, learning horticulture and hard landscaping skills.

Walking back down Convent Lane I looked back at the new garden project and thought that this is what community is about. A piece of waste land has been restored. A feature that the judges in the 2012 Tidy Towns Competition are bound to be impressed with is up-and-running. Into the bargain, local people are learning new gardening and building skills that they will be able to use in future employment as well as in their own lives, and all of this being achieved from tiny resources to produce something tangible, pretty and useful!

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