The first indication that this typical Dublin city street of 19th century terraced houses is anything but typical is the lamp-post. Clearly the tubs of flowers clustered around it are not municipal planting.
The house fronts are spick and span, flush with the street and with no front gardens, yet there is the feel of a country town about them…. less than a mile north of the city centre Spire.
This is the handiwork of Catherine and Seamus ,seen below with their family.
Catherine explains how everything has been achieved on a shoestring – old oil containers have been cut in half and painted black and now support climbers twined all around the door, and even thriving tomato plants.
The effect is wonderful – effusive, nostalgic, it lifts the spirits of all those who walk or drive down this street.
I spent the day in the company of inspirational people like Catherine who sweep their streets, plant flowers along our paths, volunteer at Community Gardens and help green our inner cities.
In a similar street close by, it’s noticeable how clean the paths and the drains are. At the foot of every tree there are clusters of annuals and perennials. The gardens are well cared for and the hedges neatly trimmed, almost without exception. All down to a hard working team of local residents.
All the more remarkable as this is an inner city area, with many complacent landlords and a constant turnover of tenants.
Community Gardens have sprung up in the area too – have a look as you walk/drive along …. little corners of wasteland now being lovingly tended by local volunteers, under the auspices of the Dublin Community Growers http://www.dcg.ie/
This is Serenity Community Garden, awash with bees and butterflies when I visited. It aims to provide a resource for the local community, for environmental education whilst promoting biodiversity. The beds are tended collectively and the produce shared , there is a wonderful greenhouse made out of plastic bottles, donated from the local pub, and a nearby pump for the recently drilled well.
Today the tomatoes are being tended in the greenhouse, beds weeded and potatoes and garlic dug up, to be cooked in butter later.
The garden volunteers attended a course in Wales before constructing the greenhouse from 1500 donated bottles, Derek explains. There is a water butt but, after trial and error, water is now piped directly inside, from the gutters to the earth.
Apart from the regular core of gardeners, others pop by to help or to chat. The garden serves a social function too.
“There are a lot of lonely people out there,” Susanne explains.
And this is Broadstone Community Garden, started just 18 months ago and a hive of activity on a Saturday afternoon.
A path of recycled bricks leads through the beds to the haven of an ancient tree.
Derec explains how the skills of many in the community were drawn on to achieve the garden.
A theatre set designer laid out the design for the raised beds.
Two local Italian architects designed the wonderful bench surrounding the tree.
The landlord of Broadstone Hall has provided a stand pipe for their use.
Whist there, the first crop of lumper potatoes were harvested.
Lumper potatoes, distinctively knobbly and lumpy in shape, were widely grown in Ireland before the devastating famine of the 1840s, as they thrived in poor soil. They fell prey to Phytophthora infestans, leading to the loss of 2 million Irish people through starvation or emigration. They almost disappeared from cultivation …until 2008 when they were grown again in Antrim as an heirloom varietal.
So there was a fair amount of interest as they emerged from the soil of this Community garden.
An inspiring day all round.
This part of Dublin, the north inner city, is rarely marked on tourist maps and yet it is here that you will find a thriving supportive community, real Dublin, a community of volunteers who, in an Ireland of retracting public services, gladly give of their time to create a greener environment for us all to enjoy.
(All photography mine)