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Ciara Parsons Permaculture Co Ordinator with volunteer Michelle Taylor in the pollytunnel at The Common Knowledge Centre, Kilfenora

Finding our common ground

Dozens of people across North Clare are learning the skills necessary to reimagine the way land is used in the area and help build an environmentally sustainable future for the county.
Eight local groups from across North Clare are currently taking part in a free project entitled Common Ground, hosted at the Common Knowledge centre in Kilfenora.
As part of this project, representatives from each group gather in Kilfenora once a month to learn from experts about actions that can be taken to protect the environment.
As well as gaining this valuable knowledge, these groups are also learning from each other and generating a wider community of people to work together into the future.
The Common Ground project is managed by Ciara Parsons, the Common Knowledge permaculture coordinator and Aoife Hammond.
“We have brought together eight groups from the north and the west of Clare for a six month programme. People come once a month and they learn about all the different aspects of biodiversity, climate, organic growing, permaculture and regenerative land maintenance,” said Aoife.
“Our aim is that at the end of the project, each of these groups will be in a position to take on a community meitheal in their own townlands.
“Each month, Ciara does one outdoor session with the groups, so people might learn about fencing one week, or growing or invasive species, and then we usually have a guest speaker who is involved in community gardening or community engagement or biodiversity.
“When people come in for the workshop days they are getting a real range of experiences. It is half taught and interactive learning and the other half of the day is out in the garden, actually doing things.”
More than 40 local groups applied to take part in the project with eight groups being chosen. These groups include Ennistymon Men’s Shed, Inagh Tidy Towns, Kilfenora Tidy Towns, the Kilfenora Sustainable Energy Community Groups, Lisdoonvarna Fáilte, Quare Clare, the King Thomond Centre and Wild about Miltown Malbay.
“This is about creating an integrated support system in the community. We have a lot of different groups coming together who wouldn’t necessarily work together normally, and the idea is about creating a group of people right across the region who would be interested in continuing to work together once this project is finished,” said Aoife.
“It has been amazing. On the first day that we brought all the groups together, there was a person from Kilfenora and a person from Doolin, living 15 minutes apart, both doing the exact same kind of work, and they had never met.
“We see this as an opportunity to bring people together. This is only the start, we can see the relationships being built. You can see people asking each other questions on our WhatsApp and learning to support each other.”
In addition to this monthly gathering, Common Ground is also hosting a weekly event called Field Good Friday’s where interested local people come together to work in Kilfenora, share their skills and experience and enjoy a nice communal meal.
“This has really been one of the highlights. It is part of the project but Field Good Fridays has really stepped out on its own in recent weeks. This is a community volunteer day where people come from the local community each Friday, they work with Ciara on the land and learn about ponds, increasing biodiversity, restoring ecosystems and managing invasive species,” said Aoife.
“People are coming to us each week and learning about all of these things and we are getting some really important regenerative work done on our land. Which is brilliant for us.
“People come at 10am every Friday, we work for a while and then we have lunch made by our chef, Ash.
“The work is educational but really for us this is about building a community and making connections between people.
“We are getting a real variety of people. There are people from the Ukrainian community, from the direct provision centre in Lisdoonvarna, we get older people in the community, younger people from the community.
“Mostly it is Clare based but we are getting some people who are travelling from Limerick to be part of it.”
These projects are supported by Rethink Ireland as part of their Impact for Munster. Aoife is hoping that Field Good Friday’s can continue to take place in Kilfenora for the foreseeable future.
“Common Ground is going to continue until October but we are hoping to find someone to support the Feel Good Friday’s so we can keep that going indefinitely, it has been having such a positive impact on the ground,” said Aoife.
“It is important that we can offer this for free to people so that everyone can access it. We want to make sure that people who are in rural Ireland, and are maybe dealing with isolation, can access something like this in an affordable way.”
Anyone can take part in Field Good Friday’s but they are asked to contact Common Ground through their website or by emailing aoife@ourcommonknowledge.org.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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