An oasis of calm and inclusivity in Ardbraccan
An Solas Glan, the community garden at Ardbraccan has undergone a recent facelift with new pathways, making it more wheelchair accessible.
The three-acre amenity has benefitted from major drainage works, has a newly refurbished car park and is in full bloom for the summer.
"It is more accessible for wheelchair and people with disabilities now thanks to Meath County Council and Cllr Emer Toibin," says founder Frances Campion.
She says the next project is to develop a sensory garden in the centre of the grounds and the development of a medicinal herb garden.
"We have lots of plans," she says.
Solas Glan focuses on self sufficiency, healthy lifestyles, comradeship and biodiversity and is looking for volunteers and sponsorship to allow it expand.
The bigger plan for Solas Glán is to make it more amenable to the wider community by creating workshops for both the able bodied and less abled people.
“It can be a space for people with special needs, with mental health issues, those eager to learn how to plant and sow, a learning centre for all, a relaxation space for those cooped up in apartments, for yoga and tai chi,” says Frances.
During lockdown, fundraising was difficult and fewer volunteers could visit the three acre gardens.
"We are looking for people to volunteer and help out in the gardens and we are registered with Meath Partnership for volunteers.
"People can come here and do as much or as little as they like.
"It is a lovely spot to do a bit of gardening or just come and have a chat," she explains.
Fruit and vegetable plants from the surplus grown at the gardens are currently on sale there, and it is an ideal place to have a bit of quiet time or even enjoy a cup of tea.
Now that restrictions are easing, volunteers and visitors are welcome.
"Due to the unseasonably chilly weather in April and lockdown for much of the first half of this year, there is plenty of work to catch up on."
Frances and her group are planning on the provision of workshops, horticultural training, increasing biodiversity, and providing happy spaces for everyone to commune with nature and each other.
Solas Glan had very ambitious plans for redevelopment last year when they submitted an application to Meath County Council for funding.
To address the long running drainage issues which delayed the realisation of many creative ideas, major funding was required. Through the hard work of the Solas Glan committee and the support of Cllr Tóibín, a robust application was submitted and good news followed with the announcement of €25,000 Town and Village Renewal funding topped up with €5,000 from the Council's own funds.
This money was put to use quickly and some of the plans that had been hatching for many years were finally converted into reality. Pipes were laid to mitigate against poor drainage and the car park levelled and resurfaced. New pathways were introduced for directional access throughout the site. A wildflower meadow and memory garden was planted and through the An Solas Glan Facebook page, people could have a tree planted in memory of a loved one.
Frances and the other volunteers are now looking ahead to the months and years to come.
“We have many skilled people willing to give up their time for the community like herbalists, gardeners, sensory tutors, wildlife photographers, horticulturists, home cooks, jam makers, flower arrangers, Yoga instructors, special needs assistants and poultry farmers.“
While Solas Glan looks fantastic at the moment with its wonderful flowers, fruit and vegetables as well as ducks, hens, geese and cats, the land, which is leased from Tara Mines has so much more potential and there are plans to develop it even further.
"The recurring lockdowns resulting from Covid-19 have highlighted the importance now more than ever that green spaces are critical to our wellbeing on so many levels. The joy in volunteering and working with others has so many benefits and offers people the opportunity to collaborate on a project that is to the common good of the community," says Cllr Tóibín.
If you would like to become a volunteer check out the FB page or contact solasglannavan@gmail or call 086 346 1266.