Last Sunday I took a trip to Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary on a bus full of keen gardeners and GIYers. Why, you might ask, (as we all know it’s such a long way to Tipperary…..) Well, because that’s where you will find Ireland’s first Ecovillage. Set on 69 acres, the cluster of 50 energy-efficient homes, constructed mostly from sustainable materials such as straw, mud and hemp, blends seamlessly into the main street of Cloughjordan as a newly built neighborhood in the already established rural settlement. Despite the sustainable and somewhat alternative lifestyle adopted by the Ecovillagers they share a harmonious rapport with the wider community of Cloughjordan.
We were met by our tour guide Davie Philip at the market square just outside the renovated coach house. Davie works for Cultivate, an organization focused on sustainability through active education that has close associations with the Ecovillage.
Davie explained how community-supported agriculture (CSA) has been successfully implemented to feed their members. The Ecovillage operates an organic mixed farm of 40 acres. Primarily using biodynamic farming methods vegetables, cereals, milk and meat are produced for the community. The members pay an annual contribution, to cover administration, running costs and growers’ wages in return for a regular supply of in-season farm produce. Farmer Pat Malone delivered an insightful talk on growing for a community and answered some of our questions as we sheltered from a downpour in the on-site eco hostel.
Davie then guided the group through the site where we could glimpse the variety of homes that had been ecologically constructed. Each house is connected to a central heating system powered by 500m2 of solar water heating panels and an industrial wood-chip boiler.
We made our way up to the allotments where Bruce Darrell was waiting for us. Bruce works for RED Gardens. He outlined his role as a research grower, trialing and testing various horticultural concepts to find the most productive and sustainable solutions for future food production at the village. We saw evidence of the 20,000 plus trees that were planted, ambled through various polytunnels, past the WeCreate building- a green enterprise centre – and back to a cafe on Cloughjordan main street to reflect on the days events.
Although the project was granted planning permission only a few years ago, already there are 100 residents in the Ecovillage and that number is steadily rising. With five different serviced sites available to rent or buy, including apartments and live-work units, the village attracts like-minded souls fleeing the stresses of modern living in search of a more sustainable and peaceful life. In line with the Ecovillage goal to become a centre of education and training there are a number of courses and events run throughout the year. And of course you could always avail of a group tour, as we did. Free Introductory tours run from 3pm every Saturday and Sunday.
The Ecovillage ethos offers a practical model for community living that works with, instead of against, the environment. A model that works on so many levels. Please sit up and pay attention city and urban planners. Develop communities that provide sustainable, holistic solutions; give people a voice and the opportunity to control their own environment and lifestyles where they can be free from economic pressures, social degeneration and isolation. Most of all, have the foresight to recognise that this is the only way forward.
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