We were off on our travels again recently with Julie at the wheel and Keith Crawford and I happy passengers as we made our way into the west to record this week’s programme.
We always love it when stories come to us and we have to say a big thank you to Kenny Donaldson from the South East Fermanagh Foundation for getting in touch to let us know about an allotment project in Lisnaskea.
Local enthusiastic “allotmenteers” have been working with their kindred spirits from the Killycarney Gardening Group in Blacklion, just over the border in County Cavan.
They have been happily sharing knowledge and gardening skills and growing a long list of tasty things while having fun at the same time, unquestionably vital to the whole process.
Already the 31 allotments, 3 polytunnels, tool shed, picnic table and garden bench have been put to great use and the sign which marks the entrance to the site bears the proud motto “The Community Growing Together”.
To prove that they mean it, they have to date produced an impressive range of vegetables including cabbages, potatoes, broccoli, beetroot, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, pumpkins, peppers, corn-on-the-cob, celery, scallions, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, broad beans, and an assortment of herbs.
Joining us on the day was Teresa O’Hare from Orchard Acre Farm who, with an eye toward next season, was taking a seed sowing workshop with the group.
As Kenny says: “People take great pride in being able to produce something for themselves and there is always healthy competition between allotment holders.”
Thanks to everybody for the warm welcome. We look forward to a return visit sometime when the sun is shining and the picnic table is groaning with summer bounty.
It was on down the road a bit for our second visit which took us through Enniskillen and on out the Sligo Road to find the lovely heritage gardens at Florencecourt.
The property, which was once the home of the Earls of Enniskillen, is now part of the National Trust family and we were met there by Rachel Keirse who manages the atmospheric 2 acre vegetable garden which, in time honoured tradition, is framed by stout walls which are softened by the mature trees on their other, woodland side.
Rachel is also very much involved with exciting plans to re-plant and re-invigorate the entire vegetable garden.
At the moment only one long, slender bed is planted up, but it was pretty as a cottage garden picture on the day of our visit with marigolds and sweet pea twinkling away brightly between the cabbages and the beans.
It was a real Fermanagh day and the fine mist left by a showery morning added to the hazy atmosphere of the gardens.
Keith went ahead to find Rachel while we parked the car and organised the machines. We caught up with them in the rose garden which you come upon like a lovely shock as you emerge from the woodland path leading from the house.
Then it’s over a pretty bridge which straddles two ponds, their banks softened and framed by plants made lush by the Fermanagh weather. And elsewhere in the gardens, velvety tufts of lichen clinging to the branches of trees further confirm how clean and fresh the air is.
Talking of trees, it’s impossible to visit Florencecourt and not pay homage to the Florencecourt Yew, mother of all Irish Yew trees. So off we set back into the woods to find her and when we did, it was impossible not to marvel at the fact that she has been there since the mid 1700s.
The tree was one of two seedlings found in the Cuilcagh Mountains by a local tenant farmer. He kept one which sadly didn’t survive but the other, famously presented to the 1st Earl of Enniskillen did, and she and thrives still.
So we doffed our gardening caps and wondered at the countless numbers of Irish Yew trees which owe their being to the Florencecourt Yew.