Experience ‘Every Blooming Thing’ in Castleblayney!

Connect with nature at fringe event of drama festival

Reflections on ‘nature and the arts’ is the theme of this unique event which takes place in Hope Castle Lodge, Castle Square, Castleblayney on Saturday, 4 March from 2pm to 5pm. The afternoon will include a focus on the natural treasure that is the Lough Muckno estate. The way in which nature can influence the visual arts and the spoken / written word will also be a theme at the event. The presenters on the afternoon will include Billy Flynn, Alison Bole and Michael Harris. The event will be chaired by Liam Murtagh from the Transition Monaghan group. Joe Hanratty of the Drama Festival Committee will also talk about the setting for the event.    

hope lodge.pngThe restored Hope Castle Lodge at the entrance to Lough Muckno Park will be the venue for the ‘Every Blooming Thing’ event’


As part of the afternoon’s event, ecologist Billy Flynn will lead a one-hour nature walk


Billy Flynn, Ecologist

from the venue to the shore of Lough Muckno and the Black Island. He will help us discover the wealth that nature provides us with at our doorstep as the spring season bursts on the scene. Separately Billy has been advising Castleblayney Tidy Towns Committee and last year in association with the Group he produced a 3 Year Tidy Towns Plan for Castleblayney.



The ‘Springwatch’ walk during the event will include a visit to the shoreline of Lough Muckno and to the woodland floor on the Black Island.  


From the visual arts dimension, Monaghan based sculptor Alison Bole will revea


‘Energy’ by Alison Bole

l how nature influences her work – she will show us some us some samples of her work to illustrate how it emerges in her work. One of Alison’s sculptures entitled ‘Energy’ – depicting the “energy, enthusiasm and vision of voluntary organisations” stands at the front of the Community Enterprise Centre in Castleblayney. It was erected there in 2001 to mark the UN International Year of the Volunteer.




alison.pngMonaghan based sculptor Alison Bole will be one of the presenters


The title of the event was inspired by some lines in Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Inniskeen Road: July Evening –

“…I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing”

Poets have long been inspired to tune their lyrics to the variations in landscape, the


Michael Harris, Mullyash 

changes in season, and the natural features around them. The various challenges now facing the natural world, poetry can play an important role in highlighting the interconnectedness of us as humans and the natural world around us. Michael Harris will share some of his own poems and those of others to illustrate this link. Michael is from Mullyash, Castleblayney and he is currently based in London.

Anyone attending the event is advised to wear warm and rainproof clothing and suitable footwear for the walk. Admission is €5 at the door. See ‘Fringe Events’ at http://www.castleblayneydramafestival.ie.

Small Scale Land Use – Ben Law and Woodland Coppicing

by Conan Connolly


I’ve been an outdoor lover since I can remember. Growing up on my family’s smallholding in Magheracloone in the 1990’s, little did I know that the land based skills I was so keen to learn from my grandfather would be made virtually redundant by “progress”. These very skills, passed down through centuries of land working, and developed through the experimentation and ingenuity of our ancestors, are all but lost in rural Ireland today. Our connection with the wildlife and seasons, our skills of observation and ingenuity, of thinking outside the box, gone! Our ways of taking it easy, stopping for a chat with passers by, gone! Our ways of working with the neighbours, sharing tools machinery and knowledge, all gone. It seems like the only thing that hasn’t gone is the hard work! The way of life of rural people has been completely transformed by destructive national and EU strategies and policies on how we manage our land. These policies have undermined the production of healthy, affordable produce by forcing rural people to intensify and compete with each other. This seemingly small and uncontrollable factor has left rural communities in Ireland decimated. We all intuitively know that small farms and coops create employment. We know they can protect and even enhance cherished landscapes and provide local sustainable and varied food if managed and supported correctly. The unfortunate thing is we don’t seem to have been able to do anything to help ourselves succumbing to this “progress”. I am very glad to see among the rural people of this area of England a though real awareness here that small-scale, ecological land use is at the heart of their rural culture and communities. They knew this way of life is good healthy and sustainable, and they’ve kept it.

I had the pleasure to visit the woodsman and master craftsman, Ben Law in the past few weeks. His knowledge and passion for his work inspired me to write this article. He is a shining example of how small-scale, ecological land use can work. His case demonstrates how simple ingenuity and creativity can enhance the landscape, build community, protect dying crafts and provide local sustainable and varied food (and drink!). Ben has been managing the woodland areas at Prickly Nut Wood for over 20 years. Ben started off trading his labour for 8 acres of woodland. He transformed and improved his plot so expertly that now he looks after nearly 100 acres for his neighbours. The wood is primarily coppice woodland of sweet chestnut and some mixed coppice – hazel, ash and field maple with oak standards. There is also an 80 tree cider and juice orchard and a larch plantation.

Coppice management is the oldest known form of woodland management, by cutting broadleaf trees during their winter dormant phase, the trees do not die but send up vibrant new shoots which grow on to become poles which are sustainably harvested for a wide range of products. When we were there we got the chance to help with some of the harvesting, I think he likes to “share” the heavy work! The area of trees Ben is currently coppicing will be coppiced next again in thirty years time. The periodic coppicing process allows new light into the woodland floor stimulating growth of flowering plants and in turn food for butterfly and bees. He says “today’s management provides timber for products, whilst also ensuring increased bio-diversity for future generations”. Through his desire to see buildings constructed from local, sustainable materials, Ben has also pioneered roundwood timber framing.  As it was in a special area of scientific interest it took ten years to get planning permission for Ben to build his self-sufficient straw bale woodland cottage on his land. Ben has built his own and other houses, shops, school buildings from the local supply of renewable coppiced timber.

I realise that many see living on the land as a chore and a “dead end career”. “Go get yourself an education”, they say. “Get off the land and away from the back breaking toil and stress.” I never saw farming as a chore until I stopped and looked back. When I see how we farm in Ireland, doing as we’re told by policy makers and market owners, I now get why it is seen as a burden. When I went to get that university education (also doing as I was told) little did I realise that it would lead me back to Permaculture.

Channel Four’s Grand Designs followed Ben’s build. It’s available at http://www.channel4.com/programmes/grand-designs/on-demand/41975-012

Conan is outgoing Secretary of Transition Monaghan. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering from TCD. He is currently completing a Certificate in Permaculture Design with ShiftBristol.

‘Every Blooming Thing’ (Fringe Event, Castleblayney Drama Festival)

This event will take place on Saturday, 4 March, 2pm – 5pm in the Gate Lodge, Castle Square, Castleblayney. The event


Michael Harris from Mullyash is a presenter

will be chaired by Liam Murtagh from the Transition Monaghan group. Joe Hanratty of the Drama Festival Committee will speak about the setting for the event. The afternoon event is being organised as a fringe event of this year’s Castleblayney Drama Festival.  For further details see http://www.castleblayneydramafestival.ie


A ‘Forest School’ for Monaghan Children?


Dermot McNally of Transition Monaghan looks at our increasing detachment from nature as a result of our modern lifestyles which focus strongly on consumerism, urbanisation and automation, and have led to concern for our physical, emotional and mental health. Thankfully, pro-active reaction has led to the formation of many groups and activities to reinstate our connection with the surrounding natural world. In this article, Dermot explores the concept of ‘Forest Schools’ and how it could be applied in County Monaghan.

There is no doubt that today’s children are missing out on old fashioned outdoor fun and adventure. Could ‘forest schooling’ use nature as the place for learning as well as a playground for society’s youngest?

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Going Dutch, Going Green – Transport

Last year, Jennifer Mc Aree of Transition Monaghan moved to Delft in the Netherlands to live


Jennifer Mc Aree goes Dutch in Delft!

and work. The Dutch are widely known for their advanced environmental protection and sustainability practices. With a population of nearly 17 million in an area roughly half the size of the island of Ireland, the Netherlands may be tiny but it is highly urbanised and densely populated. This brings with it many challenges, but also plenty of opportunities for innovation and transformation. In this article Jennifer focuses on sustainable Dutch transport practices.


You can’t mention the Netherlands without talking about bikes, so I’ll start there. Bicycles are everywhere. Everybody has one and they are an iconic symbol of the country. Cyclists are kings, and cars and pedestrians must obey them at every turn. The bike lanes here are fantastic – wide, defined and often separate from the roads. Cars are obliged to slow down and/or stop for cyclists within cities, while pedestrians must watch out for them at their peril. Many tourists learn this the hard way!

I bought a bike the day I arrived in Delft. They can range from cheap, second-hand bangers (like mine) to very expensive, top of the range models (including electric versions). Dutch bikes are heavy, sturdy and built for longevity, with no gears and back-pedalling often serves as the braking method. Cyclists here are fearless, fast and confident; after all they begin cycling as toddlers. There is no age, race or class distinction within cycling – everyone uses their bikes to get around. The climate is similar to Ireland’s but this doesn’t deter the Dutch from cycling. People seem to be healthier here; few are overweight or obese. Parents often bring their small children around on cargo bikes (these have carrier boxes attached to the front). Of course, the very flat landscape really complements cycling here – there are no hills, unlike Monaghan!

The Netherlands was not always so bicycle friendly however. While cycling was a typical form of transport until after World War II, the introduction of cheaper cars and oil in the 1950s, coupled with strong economic growth, meant the number of cars multiplied at a staggering rate. With the arrival of the 1973 oil crisis, along with a huge increase in road fatalities, particularly involving children, communities rose up by staging large anti-car protests throughout the country, urging the government to take action. The campaign’s slogan was “Stop de Kindermoord” (“Stop the Child Murder”). It worked. The government began to plan and construct segregated cycle paths, which made it safer for cyclists, while simultaneously encouraging more people to take up cycling again. Plus, cycling is virtually free and requires no petrol or diesel!


Another huge part of Dutch life is the train. Over 600,000 people use the trains daily, primarily on the commute to and from work. Commuters often cycle to the station and park their bike for free in the vast bicycle parking facilities that cater for thousands of bikes – best not forget where you’ve parked yours! Trains run mostly on time, but when they don’t there is chaos (the Dutch know how to complain!). It is possible to reach almost anywhere you want to go by rail. Journeys for all trains, trams and buses can be paid for with the same travel card. There is joined-up thinking in terms of public transport – train, bus and metro stops are located in the same stations for ease of making connections. Amazingly, since 1st January 2017 all electric trains (the majority) in the Netherlands have been running on 100% wind energy.


There are still plenty of cars in the Netherlands. After all there are almost 17 million people packed into this tiny country, and much of the young working population lives in the Randstad megalopolis area, which comprises the four largest cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Traffic jams are a problem in this region, although they are mostly limited to the outskirts of cities. Main streets have few to no cars and underground parking is common. There is also constantly a move towards improving public transport and drivers are encouraged to purchase electric cars through financial incentives. Furthermore, there is a proposal to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2025 onwards.

So far I have really enjoyed my experience in this small, yet pioneering country – and I’m learning a lot. I could fill pages on Dutch transport alone. Next time, I’ll move on to the many renewable energy advancements happening here.

A list of events and notices on in February can be found here

Transition Ireland Meeting: Dublin, Feb 2017

Mícheál Callaghan of Transition Monaghan attended a meeting of Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland (TINI) in Dublin on Saturday last. Despite the Transition Town movement having started in Ireland there has been no formal Transition structure on a national level here for some time.


A selection of the attendees pictured after the meeting. L – R: Alistair Smith (Dublin), Theresa O’Donoghue (Clare), Mícheál Callaghan (Monaghan), Kevin Dennehy (Dublin), Elizabeth Creed (Kinsale).

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Dáil votes to divest from fossil fuels

Last week the Government was defeated as the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill passed the


Oisin Coughlan, Director of Friends of the Earth

second stage 90 votes to 53. Ireland may soon become the world’s first country to fully divest from all fossil fuels. Friends of the Earth described as “historic” the vote to progress a Bill to pull taxpayer’s money out of fossil fuel companies. Commenting on the landmark vote, Oisin Coughlan, Director of Friends of the Earth said: “This is first real sign of leadership from Ireland on climate action.”


Call for volunteers in Monaghan to plant ‘1 million trees’ on Saturday, 11 February

rossmorePictured above is Rossmore Park. Trees are the lungs of the earth and provide natural sanctuaries.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the bad news in the world, there can be no better way to counteract this than by getting your hands dirty and making a positive impact in your local community. Why not join Transition Monaghan in planting trees in Monaghan Town on Saturday February 11th at 10am. In Castleblayney the Community Gardens Group welcome people to come along to their tree planting at Park Road Community Garden at 11am.

The ‘one million trees in one day’ initiative hopes to see one million trees planted all treesacross Ireland on the day. In Monaghan, our Transition will be planting 100 trees, with a mix of native ‘woodland’ and ‘hedgerow’ trees. We will be joined by other local groups on the day, including the Tidy Towns, Men’s Sheds and the Allotment Society. In particular, we welcome new volunteers to lend a hand in the planting. All you need are weather proof clothes and a pair of sturdy shoes or boots. If you have a spade, this is a plus, but if not we will provide some. We will announce the precise locations in next week’s noticeboard and on our Facebook page. For further information, please email transitionmonaghan@gmail.com or call 086 865 2724.

February notices can be found here