An opencast mine turned into biodiversity paradise at Turra Lodge Farm in Laois
A hidden gem of restored nature in Laois is to be shared with the public next year, created by an inspirational family.
Turra Lodge Farm in Ballickmoyler near Carlow, is on the site of an abandoned opencast coalmine, now turned into a paradise for biodiversity.
It was bought by the Kelly family from Naas in 2002, and daughter Alexandria, 25, a nature blogger, says that with her three older brothers, younger sister and Mum and Dad, they are all passionate about creating a beautiful space in nature. The garden was featured on an RTÉ programme Ireland's Garden Heroes.
"Over the years we have worked on countless projects around the farm. From building to planting and everything in between we do it as a team," Alex told the Leinster Express.
When the land was originally being mined, it uncovered a natural spring which flooded the site and so operations were abandoned. Now the natural spring lake is thriving with wildlife and the farm is home to lots of unusual animals from miniature horses to pygmy goats.
Turra Lodge Farm is currently a private farm but the Kellys plan to open it to the public in 2022.
This December they aim to plant 2,000 trees, and are inviting the public to come and help.
"As the land here at Turra Lodge Farm has been exploited by mining in the past, I am working to try and restore some of the biodiversity and wildlife on the land. The trees planted will be a mixture of over 20 species of native saplings. They will be planted and protected for life here at Turra Lodge Farm.
"The trees will create habitat for countless species, increase the biodiversity in the area, and provide food for many species of bird and other wildlife alike. The hope is to be able to create a space that provides memories and enjoyment of those who
explore the future forest while doing our part to aid the current environmental crisis," Alex said.
She hopes to inspire others.
"The aim is to promote reforestation and environmental action. By getting people back in touch with nature I hope to inspire them. Whether it is planting a garden for pollinators or just being more sustainably conscious every little effort will help.
"By bringing people together we can celebrate the simplicity of planting a woodland that future generations can enjoy. The benefits that lie within nature are endless. For both our physical and mental health, nature has more to give than many realise. Like many others, nature has been my medicine during hard times and continues to support my mental health on the daily. Whether it is a short walk in the outdoors or working with the soil in the garden, nature has given so much more to me than I can ever imagine to return," she said.
On the Day there will be donation points for anyone who wishes to donate to local mental health charities.
"Mental health awareness is something close to my heart and as Christmas is a particular time of year where mental health is apparent we will be providing opportunities for people to support the cause," Alex said.
The event will take place on Saturday December 4 from 11am to 5pm.
"We are inviting everyone of all ages to come to the farm and help us plant this woodland of 2,000 trees. We will have tea, coffee, and hot chocolate available on the day so people can plant a tree, grab a hot chocolate, and visit the animals to kick off their 2021 Christmas season.
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