Chairperson of Stradbally Allotments Noel Ryan (left) at the opening of their first site, with a new home now found.
A Laois gardening allotment group have found a new home for their veggies after being closed for the past year.
The allotments were officially opened back in 2012 on land owned by Laois County Council near the town’s playground.
Over the years they built up to 25 plots with a strong community of growers sharing growing tips, fresh produce and friendship.
However, in 2019 Laois County Council began planning a new social housing estate called Carraig Glas, and the group had to leave the site.
Noel Ryan is the founder.
“We had built them up to be a lovely thing for the community but fair enough if the council want to develop it for houses and possibly a community centre,” he said.
He is delighted to say he has again found the allotments a new home. It is an old walled garden belonging to the Catholic parish.
“I had spotted this bit of land at the back of the parochial house. I had a word with the new Parish Priest Fr Ger Breen and he said he’d be delighted to see something like that on it,” he said.
Before the Covid-19 lockdown, he and other previous plot holders had already got busy preparing the site. It now has security fencing and also has 8ft gates.
“We cleaned down the stone walls, we are on our way to having water harvesting system and we will have 15 allotment sites,” he said.
There are still three spaces for anyone thinking about growing their own food.
Noel thinks that the lockdown and concern about food shortages will boost interest even more.
“It is after bringing people back down to reality, how important it is to appreciate the simple things. Life was such a rat race. People are buying flour again to bake their own bread. In one way it will bring some good in the long run. But the deaths are the hard part,” he said.
The members include busy working people and retired locals.
“When you work full time it’s nice to come and get your hands dirty. I’m delighted, I’ve had a lot of sickness and some tragedy in the past few years, and stuff like that keeps me going,” Noel said.
The rent is €100 a year for the 9m x 9m plots including insurance. Each holder gets access to water, farmyard manure, and a key. TUS worker Peter Hickey is on hand to help out.
“They can put whatever they like on their plots, a shed or a greenhouse. We have a secure shed for tools as well. We can’t wait to get it going now,” Noel said.