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Estate creating its own Garden of Eden

Tom Mc Evoy, Peter Brigdale and Cormac Mc Carthy, local residents and members of An Sean Dún Heritage Group. Photograph by Declan Monaghan

IT all started with the Garden of Eden. Not biblically of course but in An tSean Dún on the Tulla Road. Residents of the housing estate have embarked on an ambitious plan to improve their area along with promoting the surrounding biodiversity and heritage of the area.

 

 

Tom Mc Evoy, Peter Brigdale and Cormac Mc Carthy, local residents and members of An Sean Dún Heritage Group. Photograph by Declan Monaghan
IT all started with the Garden of Eden. Not biblically of course but in An tSean Dún on the Tulla Road. Residents of the housing estate have embarked on an ambitious plan to improve their area along with promoting the surrounding biodiversity and heritage of the area.

The community has come together in an inspiration to other estates throughout the town and county. Among the projects to be undertaken are plans for a living willow sculpture in the estate that will be set in a meadow planted with wildflowers.

It is hoped the project, which has recently received funding under the Local Agenda 21 grant, will get underway in the spring.

This is just one of the many initiatives that has formed part of a heritage and biodiversity plan developed for the estate. The plan was singled out for mention by judges in this year’s national Tidy Towns competition.
Resident Tom McEvoy explained the impetus behind the initiative. “The committee first came together a few years ago when the builder went into liquidation. We noticed the grass wasn’t being cut and then one lady took it upon herself that she was going to cut the grass in the front lawn. She basically spurred everybody into action to do something about where we were living.”

What followed was the setting up of the local committee. However, they didn’t just settle for grass cutting. Peter Brigdale recalled, “We started collecting subs to get a landscaper in but then we decided we should give something back to the local community. The first thing we had was a summer barbecue and it has just gone from strength to strength.”

Through regular meetings, the community was asked what they wanted to see in their estate. A website, Facebook page and newsletter have been established to keep residents informed on upcoming projects, along with giving them a chance to get involved. The Facebook page was recently used to survey the community on the name of the estate, as research has shown that the ‘t’ in the name is not grammatically correct.

Tom said, “This is a local group that has embraced each other to be a proper community, we are trying to offer what people want. We want to encourage people to offer ideas. When the ideas come back, they are investigated and properly managed to try and bring projects to fruition. That’s the brilliant thing about this estate, because people do get behind what is being done.”

One of the ideas that has come to fruition was the creation of the Garden of Eden, a community orchard planted in the summer in a piece of ground that was previously unusable in the estate. The project was supported by FH Wetlands, Ennis Tidy Towns and Ennis Town Council.

“We planted berries, plum trees, apple trees, nut trees, all kinds of trees. This is just about trying to get people knowledgeable about growing plants and fruits. It was just fantastic to see so many children involved in the planting. Any fruit or nuts that grow will be available to the local community. It was a great education for the kids and we have had fantastic feedback,” said Peter.

Resident Cormac McCarthy added, “The garden really creates a focal point for the estate, it’s something that was created for the community and by the community. The Garden of Eden however, is only part of the overall project for the estate. It was the catalyst for the larger heritage and biodiversity plan that is being developed for the estate.”

He added, “There is a huge amount of heritage here. We are right beside Roslevan House, there is a ringfort within the estate, we have a huge amount of mature trees and we have a hugely important fen right beside the estate. There is quite a lot going on and a lot of people might not be fully aware of it. There is a lot of potential to enhance these habitats. While we started with the Garden of Eden, we have also come up with a number of measures for the whole estate.”

It is proposed to install an interpretative sign at the front of the estate, outlining what has been done along, with putting up bat and bird boxes in the mature trees. Other plans include planting native wetland-loving trees, other native trees and they are working on the idea of putting up a protective screen at the ringfort.
Of course, there is also the willow sculpture. “We want to get everybody involved in the shape, form and construction of it. There will also be the wildflower meadow. This is once again about utilising those green spaces that aren’t much use to any of the kids or adults in the estate and to link it all in with the houses, every household will get a wildflower seed mix sachet. We will be doing it next spring  so hopefully come summer, we will have a beautiful meadow with the willow sculpture,” explained Cormac.

The residents’ committee have already met to discuss the best ways of supporting the community in this project.

“We are hugely conscious that whatever we do, we have agreement and buy-in from everybody, the people living in the estate and also the relevant State bodies and local bodies. Ennis Town Council has been incredibly helpful both from the point of view of calling in the bond on the estate but they have also been actively engaged with the heritage plan,” added Cormac.

Tom added, “The heritage trail is something that is unique to this estate and it is something that requires funding and support, which is the key to getting it delivered.”

Local reaction to the plans has been extremely positive. “It has always been a close-knit community. People often say in towns and cities that people don’t know their neighbours but that’s not the case here and a lot of that is down to the work being done,” said Cormac.

Tom added, “We have a number of rented properties here and we are getting those people to buy into what we are doing too. This isn’t just for the people involved, it’s also enhancing property values in the estate and the town. It’s an encouraging sign when you see the place in a nice state when you come to view a house for rent or sale.”

They believe what is being done in An tSean Dún could be replicated in other estates in Ennis. “The approach is quite generic, it just needs to be tailored. We are fortunate in that we have the ringfort, the fen and Roslevan House. But if you look at any estate, as long as they have trees, sections of grass or even a wet patch with rushes, something can be done.

“It’s all down to interpretation. There is a huge scope to replicate this and a lot of it is done through the generosity of residents, not just financially but also through manpower. If other residents’ associations want to contact us, they can do so through our website www.anseandun.com or email anseandun@gmail.com. Our plan is on the website and if other associations feel they can use it and tweak it for their own estate, then they are more than welcome to,” said Cormac.

The efforts being undertaken in the housing estate were included in Ennis’ submission to the Tidy Towns competition as an example of best practice.

“We are delighted with the mention from the Tidy Towns. I think they were seriously encouraged by what we were doing and have given us their support in any way they can. Both myself and Peter are members of Ennis Tidy Towns and as they say in their slogan, it’s our town, love it. What we’re trying to do is love our area and if everyone can do that then the overall picture is a better one.”

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