Peter Dowdall: Cork garden will create a positive space for all

Peter Dowdall meets Irene and Eoin O'Connor as work starts on a community garden in memory of their daughter Béibhinn 
Peter Dowdall: Cork garden will create a positive space for all

Irene and Eoin O'Connor turning the sod in the Carrigaline Community Park for the Heart Angel Garden, and Peter Dowdall, Irish Examiner. PIcture: Dan Linehan

What is the purpose of a garden? This is something that you may never have thought of or, if like me, you spend your life in gardens and creating new ones, then it is a question that is constantly at the forefront of your mind.

When designing a garden for a client, some of the purpose is dictated by them. 

They may need a space for kids to play, they may want somewhere to grow their own food. A utility area for composting waste and storing the bins et al will nearly always be necessary.

 Irene and Eoin O'Connor turning the sod in the Carrigaline Community Park for the Heart Angel Garden. Also pictured are Peter Dowdall, Irish Examiner gardening columnist, and Paul McCarthy, Full O'Beans. Picture: Dan Linehan
Irene and Eoin O'Connor turning the sod in the Carrigaline Community Park for the Heart Angel Garden. Also pictured are Peter Dowdall, Irish Examiner gardening columnist, and Paul McCarthy, Full O'Beans. Picture: Dan Linehan

There are many wants and needs when it comes to private gardens, and thus every garden is different.

Public gardens have a different set of rules, as public safety and the needs of the wider community must be met. However, every garden plays many greater and more universal roles, those of counteracting the effects of climate change, providing a home for wildlife and thus helping to reduce the rate of species extinction, assisting us all with our mental health, and providing an area where we can improve our physical health.

Something special is happening in the community park in Carrigaline, Co Cork, at the moment.

The community is coming together to create The Heart Angel Garden, and I met the dedicated team there as the sod was turned on January 15.

“The aim of this garden, which will be created within the wider park, is for it to be an interactive space, for specially designed programmes such as play therapy for children, headspace, and encouraging and educating people on rewilding and its importance to the environment,” said Irene O’Connor, co-founder of The Heart Angel Charity.

DESIGN

It is being designed by garden designer Maura Duffy, and it is hoped that the garden will create an inspirational and positive space for the community.

“I want to inspire everyone to live their best life, and it is designed around #theheartangel challenges designed for the primary schools by The Heart Angel Charity,” said Maura.

Furthermore, there will be a space for children in the community who cannot run and jump in the park to go to enjoy themselves, a quiet space for young parents and toddler children, a place for everyone in the community who needs some headspace, some time-out in amongst the beauty of trees, shrubs, and wildlife. 

POSITIVITY

This whole garden project is brimming with positivity and will showcase all that a garden should be, namely a happy and interactive space.

For me, a garden isn’t just something to be admired from the footpath or from inside a window. It should call you into it, to want to become part of it, and that’s not just a statement aimed at children. 

We all need to get our hands dirty, feel the birch stems brushing against our hair (or lack of, in my case!), feel the breeze, hear the ducks, and just “be” part of the garden.

In general terms, the garden will be designed around eight individual sections situated under existing trees, which will be underplanted with wildflowers.

Each of the eight sections will be full of brightness and inspiration, individually designed by a commissioned artist, each around one of the eight themes of #theheartangel challenge.

SECTIONS

Each section in front of each tree will inspire a different aim: kindness, forgiveness, inclusion, joy, courage/bravery, love, gratitude, and happiness.

A central area of the garden will be designed upon a large black circle. This will act as an interactive blackboard where wishes, positive messages, and pictures can be drawn with chalk and can be washed away with the rain.

BENCHES

Three curved benches will be situated around this central area, encouraging visitors once more to pause and to become part of the landscape.

The driving force behind this garden is local woman Irene O’Connor, and it couldn’t become a reality without the inspirational and co-operative members of the local council.

At the launch of the Heart Angel Charity in memory of Béibhinn O’Connor her mum Irene and cousins Brooke and Jacob O'Connor at Cork City Hall. Picture: Siobhan Russell
At the launch of the Heart Angel Charity in memory of Béibhinn O’Connor her mum Irene and cousins Brooke and Jacob O'Connor at Cork City Hall. Picture: Siobhan Russell

Irene and her husband Eoin heartbreakingly lost their young daughter Béibhinn 16 months ago, and feel inspired by her life to create this positive and inclusive space in which all the community can feel part of.

Béibhinn O'Connor in whose memory the garden is being created. 
Béibhinn O'Connor in whose memory the garden is being created. 

Though the idea may belong to Irene and Eoin, many local and voluntary groups are getting involved including local artists and community organisations, and central to the space in Carrigaline will be a sculpture that will reflect new beginnings, rebirth, hope, and light.

When it is completed, it will include coloured stained glass to give a burst of energy when the south light hits and which will give a completely different light form of colour and energy when light from the west hits.

ENERGY

It will create rainbows and bursts of different coloured energy and light.

At present, this space is mostly used for yoga classes and meditation, so these lights will be very apt for all who undertake yoga and will reflect the light of our chakras and the energies that inspires us.

Irene and Eoin O'Connor.
Irene and Eoin O'Connor.

I will let the final words on this garden to The Heart Angel founder Irene.

“Our charity mission is and will always be kindness, and it will in years to come to go far beyond our first project The Heart Angel Garden in Carrigaline. I do understand that we cannot change the world, but…..”

  • For more information see www.theheartangel.ie 
  • If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please click here for a list of support services.

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