Cloontuskert Development and Tidy Towns Association CLG

Transformation through Sustainable Gardening

Cloontuskert is one of the six Bord na Móna villages developed nationwide in the early 1950s. Now, Cloontuskert is at the very heart of Just Transition, living through significant social and economic consequences as part of the transition from brown to green with the closure of local peat harvesting operations. Despite the challenges faced, the Cloontuskert community is leading the way in county Roscommon in sustainable development, taking inspiration from Frank Gibney, an early proponent of sustainable development, who designed our village.

Since 2019, with the wonderful support of GRETB Community Education, our community has been actively involved in reimagining unused spaces/wasteground areas through sustainable development projects which allow the creation of community amenities that further the Sustainable Development Goals whilst satisfying local needs. The amenities developed centre around sustainable gardening, providing rich ‘hands on’ educational opportunities for the Cloontuskert community and members from other environmental groups.

We have worked with Hannah Mole, GRETB tutor, Earthcare Permaculture Design, to use active amenity development as a basis for supporting learner choice, inclusive practice, and collaboration in covering sustainable gardening topics and concepts involved. Such examples include developing a Green Flag winning Community Orchard, Community Composter and currently a Community Nuttery.

  1. Challenge Tackled

The courses held since 2019 have embodied sustainable development through education with the educational opportunities offered to over 25 learners through GRETB Community Education allowing course participants to see first-hand the impact and difference that sustainable practice and design can make in the completion of the development projects aforementioned. The duration of the Sustainable Gardening courses held to date have parallel huge transformation in Cloontuskert with the closure of local peat harvesting operations in Bord na Móna and the ESB and associated transition from brown to green. GRETB has provided Cloontuskert with a unique opportunity to learn more about sustainability and what it means for daily life in our village, now and into the future. Without GRETB’s support and our tutor Hannah Mole’s direction they would not have been able to achieve what they have to date. They had the vision, but without direction, what our learners have realised to date would have remained a dream. Core concepts around sustainability, the SDGs, sustainable design and practice, and sustainable gardening methods, concepts and strategies have all been explored through our work since 2019, providing a means of facilitating discussion, active learning methodologies and inclusive practice in education. The learners taking part in our Sustainable Gardening initiative come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Cloontuskert is a recognised area of socioeconomic disadvantage, currently being compounded as a community at the heart of the Just Transition. Many of the learners did not complete their secondary education, with a local culture previously being to take employment with Bord na Móna or agriculture as early school leavers. Some learners have additional educational needs which they have been eager to support through the use of inclusive practice in course delivery (collaboration between our tutor Hannah Mole and Chairperson Shauna O’Neill (Physics and Chemistry teacher). Other learners come with formal education at third level, many of whom have demonstrated the importance that the community places on education, previously inaccessible in previous decades to community members. Together, the GRETB, tutor Hannah Mole and learners have supported one another, brought their diverse life and educational experiences together, grown educationally and socially, united by a common bond to learn and a strong sense of community spirit and pride of place. Cloontuskert has a unique community spirit and pride of place, having been an entrant to the Tidy Towns competition since 1965 and currently being a 5-in-a-row national Bronze medal holder.

  1. Target group, beneficiaries or clients

When they began this project in 2019, they could never have imagined the opportunities that would result for collaboration, partnership and further sustainable development. GRETB Community Education have provided the Cloontuskert community with a lifeline of hope given what its members are experiencing at present, many of whom have now found themselves unemployed due to local job losses in Bord na Móna and the ESB. Hannah Mole, appointed tutor with GRETB, of Earthcare Permaculture Design, is just amazing and has assisted us with networking and forging bonds with other members from other community groups and voluntary interests alike. The members of Ballyleague Men’s Shed have done trojan work with us in the creation of their sustainable amenities where machinery was needed for landscaping and construction works. Examples include digger use to construct Hügelkultur mounds at their Orchard, installation of large composting bays at their Community Composter and most recently the development of an SDG-inspired Outdoor Classroom to accommodate continued and future learning in their community. They worked with the An Taisce Environmental Education Unit to prepare a Green Flag 3 of 6 Community Award application which they recently they’re successful in securing as an international mark of excellence at their Orchard.

  1. Solution

The completion of 7 stages of Community Education courses centring on Sustainable Gardening with real world application to the sustainable development of local amenities in the Cloontuskert community. Facilitation of networking, collaboration and opportunities that have arisen during this time to maximise the educational and social impact on the community of Cloontuskert and course participants. For example, this is captured in a Sunday Times piece for which journalist Rose Costello featured our Community Orchard creation from a previous dumping ground in Cloontuskert using sustainable development through education. Link available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/growing-community-garden-ireland-wasteland-dublin-explained-j2g2sf62t Achievement by Cloontuskert Development and Tidy Towns Association CLG of an An Taisce Green Flag Community award for our Community Orchard site. Selection for Irish Architecture Foundation Reimagine Placemaking Programme which Cloontuskert has just become the first community to take part in its “Workers’ Villages” project, funded by the Creative Climate Action Fund. Our selection for this project was aided largely by the basis of sustainable development/learning facilitated by GRETB Community Education Promotion of further education in the community by direct linkage with provision of support by GRETB Roscommon. The courses taking place directly in Cloontuskert have provided learners with greater accessibility to information and supports for further education

  1. Innovation

Despite the significant challenges posed by the pandemic, those involved with the initiative have rallied together through this difficult time to support, care for, and look out for one another. The close-knit nature of the community has acted as a 4 of 6 beacon of hope in a time of great turbulence. The passion and commitment of the volunteers has been unwavering, and in order to sustain the activities we had to sthece inspiration from innovation and adaptivity within the work scheme to accommodate the ‘new normal’ which we all face, particularly challenging for the initiative during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. The Spring of this year was completed by Zoom call due to government restrictions. This focused on the techniques, concepts and strategies involved in the final plating out of all fruit trees and berry bushes on the Community Orchard site. The trees (20 trees) and soft fruits (60 plants) were originally purchased with grant aid through the Community Environment Action Fund 2019/2020, one of many external grants we have started since 2019 to make the sustainable development vision a reality. GRETB Community Education and the tutor Hannah Mole have provided us great learning in developing organisational tools to be able to plan and implement the aspects related to starting materials in the pursuit of the sustainable development work. All of the fruit trees and soft fruit bushes had been originally purchased all in spring 2020 and delivered mere days before the imposition of the very first Covid-19 lockdown. Due the emergency that ensued, the learners got together to save all trees and plants purchased by heeling them all into a temporary nursery area on site. This is where they remained for a whole year until earlier this year in Spring 2021 when Cloontuskert Tidy Towns and Ballyleague Men’s Shed volunteers got together, all working within government guidelines, to complete all planting over the course of a single day, from early morning until the darkness of the evening set in. Despite the challenges faced, those involved with learning through the initiative have adapted through innovative thinking and a strong and unique passion for the work we are doing. The group values highly the importance of good governance, planning and record keeping. As such, during Covid-19, we have created and are actively using a number of Plans to provide guidance on best procedure use surrounding the hosting of education courses.

  1. Unique Selling Point
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  2. Impact

They believe that what has been achieved in Cloontuskert by those involved with the GRETB-funded ‘Transformation by Sustainable Gardening’ initiative is unparalleled given the cultural heritage of Cloontuskert, a unique tie to the brown era, from which we are collectively transitioning, the area’s socioconomic context, and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic during the life of the initiative to date, For a community previously excluded from access to mainstream and further education, the initiative has provided not only the Cloontuskert community but other interested individuals, to learn about a new area that applies sustainable practice which can not only transform community spaces but the learners’ lives and collective learning experiences. Learners have reported positive experiences with education, increases in their confidence, self efficacy, sense of belonging in the community, positive response to educational supports offered, particularly by use of inclusive practice, ability to collaborate with other learners, and growth of educational potential to utilise further educational opportunities. The real-world benefits to learners on an individual level is collectively demonstrated in the physical manifestation of their learning in the form of unique sustainable community spaces and amenities now in existance, previously captured in and limited to the minds of the learners.

Potential 84%