There was much fanfare and excitement at the official opening of the Stradbally Community Allotments, last Friday.
“We had an absolutely fantastic day, there was a huge turnout. We were really taken aback by the response from the community,” said Noel Ryan, chairperson of the Community Allotments Committee.
The official opening was performed by Mairead McGuinness, MEP. After cutting the ribbon and performing the opening, she planted an apple tree in one of the flower beds close to the entrance, which will be marked with a special plaque.
It was Noel’s idea to set up allotments in Stradbally, after his experiences tending to his own allotment in Portarlington for the last four years. A builder by trade, surgery left him unable to work, so Noel was looking for a new challenge to fill his time
“I’ve been travelling over to Port to my allotment for the last four years. I wouldn’t have known anyone over there before I joined, but now I have an unbelievable amount of friends and I’ll keep my allotment over there,” he said.
It was Noel who casually mentioned the idea to local Cllr Tom Mulhall, last October and identified a site close to the children’s playground and adult park which would have been suitable for the allotments.
In her speech, Anne Goodwin from Laois Partnership commented on how quickly the project had come together.
“Bit by bit it came together,” Noel said.
The allotments have been very popular in the area and already 21 out of 25 have been snapped up.
“It’s very well organised, and we’re getting a real community spirit up there now. I was up this morning checking on my own allotment and there was two or three families up there, chatting away. People from some of the new estates have also joined and we’re getting to know them. We hope to have social evenings, like BBQ’s up there too.”
The project is funded by Laois Partnership and the local credit union. Although, they have only just begun in the last few months, the committee have big plans for the coming year.
“Phase two will be an orchard and recreational area and we will have polytunnels where members will have their own sections,” Noel explains.
The official opening was attended by many local county councillors and officials from Laois County Council including Anna Marie Delaney who spoke on behalf of the county manager, who was unable to attend.
Other speakers included Anne Goodwin, Lily Champ, who encouraged more people to start growing their own and Tom Mulhall. Noel acted as MC and also spoke at the event on behalf of the committee.
Cllr Tom Mulhall said it was a wonderful day and complimented the committee on all their hard work.
“It’s a good news story for the Stradbally. There is a very good committee in place, and everything was so well organised last Friday. They’ve made a good start and it can only improve from here in the future.”