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Allot of harvesting on the Tulla Road

THE announcement earlier this year that allotments were being made available to greenfingered gardening fans in the Ennis area was met with great enthusiasm. Back in May, over 40 allotments were allocated to individuals and groups, with the produce now being successfully harvested.

The allotments are the first of many projects which are planned to be developed by the newly established Clare Environmental Education Centre, which is based at Cappahard Farm on the Tulla Road. The idea behind the centre is to educate the general public on many different aspects of the environment and the issues that impact on it.

Flan Markham working on his allotment at the Clare Environmental Educational centre, Cappahard, Tulla Road, Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly.

“This is definitely going to evolve into a bigger thing.The allotments have been going really well and we are delighted with that. They are only one facet of what we are planning to do in the future with the Clare Environmental Education Centre,” said a spokesman.

Among the more immediate plans for the CEEC will be a course on ‘Organic Food Production for the Family Table’. The course is aimed, not just at those interested in renting an allotment but also at those who have some space to grow in their own gardens and who would like some advice.
Running from October 2009 through to September 2010, the course takes the participants through the growing season and is suitable for anyone with an active interest in growing their own food. The course consists of nine, half-day, practical sessions on a demonstration allotment at Cappahard Farm. The course will cover ground preparation, planting, pest and weed control, thinning, composting and harvesting. There are 20 places available, so those interested are being urged to book early.

“There is definitely a change out there, people are more interested in the actual taste of food. There is no comparison between growing your own and what you get in the shops. The vegetables in the shop might look beautiful but there is no taste to them compared to what you would grow in your own garden,” explained the spokesman.

Also, as part of the 2009 National Heritage Week celebrations, the CEEC are inviting members of the local community to join them on a guided walk of the flood plains of Ennis, focusing on the impact of humans on the natural environment.  The walk kicks off at 3pm on Saturday at the allotment car park at Cappahard Farm. Those planning to attend are urged to bring wellies and waterproofs.

While plans for the future of the CEEC are currently being made, at the allotment itself, it’s harvest time for many of those who earlier this year, began planting in earnest to make the most of the growing season.

With the exception of potato blight, which affected about half of the potatoes planted, everything else is growing well – including the weeds.  
For an increasing number of individuals and families, allotments are a lifestyle choice representing a sustainable and satisfying approach to food production, promoting cultural heritage, health and well-being, personal development, environmental protection and a sense of community.   

A great sense of delight and achievement is evident among the budding allotment community in Cappahard. Flan Markham is one of the many who have been growing produce at the site since it first began. Originally from Coolmeen but now living in Clarecastle, he said he loves to get outside in the fresh air and grow his vegetables.

“I’m from a family of farmers in West Clare and I’ve not farmed for years not since I was a young lad, but it’s in the blood. I have no garden in Clarecastle so it’s great to get out here in the garden growing the spuds, cabbage, parsnips, turnips and onions. It’s lovely out here, it’s  a great idea to have this allotment and it’s great to be able to bring home the veg. All of the people who come here are lovely, I didn’t know any of them until I came here,” he said.

The growing experience of those who have been dubbed the ‘allotmenteers’ is varied, ranging from the novice who are acquainting themselves with their ‘green fingers’ for the first time, to the seasoned gardener.  

However, while the growers are all different, everyone has the same aspiration – to grow fresh, organic produce ‘for the table’. Many lessons have been learned so far, including that growing your own food is literally a hands-on process and the best way to learn is to do it yourself. The soil is of excellent quality at the allotments and very little ground preparation was needed, except for digging.  

“As well as the growing, there is also a social aspect to the allotments. We have many families coming up here, bringing their kids along while they work on the allotments. The children also get to learn about growing and they love seeing the animals here like the peacocks. People working on their allotments get to know their neighbours,” said the spokesman.

For more information on renting an allotment, the Organic Food Production course and the guided walk, call Jimmy Spelissy on 086 8336264.

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