Eco-Neighbourhood Festival in an Irish City Suburb

It is refreshing to know in these times of economic gloom that in the heart of a very built up urban suburb, a neighbourhood fair dedicated to heritage and a traditional rural lifestyle could capture the imagination of local people.
Traditional Cast Iron Kitchen Cooking Set over an Open Fire at Harvest Fest

Well that happened on September 22nd in Galway city when approximately 350 people attended the Ballinfoile Mór Harvest and Heritage Festival in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden.
The event, now in its third year, has as its theme the promotion of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables.
Mayor of Galway, Cllr Terry O'Flaherty buys some of Garden vegetables & fruits
But the festival has become more than a tribute to organic food. It has metamorphosed into a celebration of the broader themes of community (Meitheal), culture, children, environment, ecology, social heritage and preserving traditional hand-made arts, crafts and skills.
Second Hand Book & Toys Stalls
Hence there were  stalls for locally baked cakes and buns as well as for locally produced wooden and leather goods; an open hearth fire where potatoes were being boiled in skillet pots; a outdoor oven made from local clay serving pizzas; a Irish traditional music seisiún; dozens of scarecrows in a multitude of colours and sizes made by children from the local primary school (Scoil san Phronsias) and playschool (Sunny Meadows); woodturning; a blacksmith's forge; a bike repair workshop; second hand books and toys stalls; a tree conservation stall; a vintage bike display; pony rides for kids; a lively DJ playing an eclectic mix of dance music and Irish ballads; impromptu Irish dancing and singing; a marine aquarium, juggling and face-painting.
Mihchelle looking after the Cakes & Buns Stall
But one of the most popular highlights of the festival  was without doubt the shoeing of a horse by farrier Joe Dodds which enthralled all those present. 
Joe Dodds Shoeing a Horse

Thanks to the efforts of a small band of dedicated and socially conscious residents, Ballinfoile is witnessing a resurgence in community volunteerism based around a sense of community, pride of place and of awareness of the need to preserve local heritage in a time of growing globalisation.  
Scarecrows giving a Children's & Artistic dimension to the garden
Plans are already being made to make the Ballinfoile Mór Harvest and Heritage Festival even bigger and better, with topics such as butter churning, quilt making and children's street games being included.

Buying a Book
Trad Seisiún in action

There were queues all day long at the Anja's Face painting stall

Serving Hot & Cold Dishes

Elder Taylor selling 'Little Herbal Garden' Boxes

A captive Audience for the Juggling Demonstrations

Galway Atlantaquaria's Aquarium populated with crabs, starfishes & other creatures of the seas

Mayor Terry O'Flaherty addresses the crowds

Foroige youth volunteers serving pizzas freshly baked in the garden's Clay Oven

Joe's Pony Rides were a big hit with the children

What a fine collection of Scarecrows!

Joe wooing the audience with his wonderful crooning

The Garden's Wooden Seats & Benches were made by local craftpeople
Nothing like a good cuppa of tea and a good chat!

Fergus & Willy at the Fruit & Vegetable Stall

Matthew and Lenka showing samples of wild food from Irish forests
Jay at the Bike Repair workshop

See previous articles:
Third Annual Harvest Festival in Galway Neighbourhood

Second Harvest Festival in a Galway Neighbourhoood

Mayor to officially open Galway city's largest community garden

A Celtic Forest Garden in 21st century Ireland

'Summer Picnic & Cycle in the Park' event to start a new tradition?

Caroline with one of the 'High Nelly Bicycle's restored by Cumann na bhFear

New Greenway Route to Link Seven Castles in Galway City & County

Cloonacauneen Castle
New Greenway Route to Link Seven Castles in Galway City and County
Years of community grassroots initiated activity will finally bear fruit on Sunday October 7th when Slí na gCaisleán (‘The Way of the Castles’) will be launched which it is hoped will form the basis for a network of Greenways (scenic pedestrians and cycling routes) linking Galway city with the rural landscapes of east county Galway.

The event takes place as part of National Trails Day, a special time of the year to celebrate Ireland’s wonderful variety of trails and a chance for everyone to enjoy some of our most beautiful countryside, forests, mountains and lakes.
Ballindooley Castle
A milestone in the development of the ‘Off the Beaten Track’ guided heritage cycle tours that are now in their third year, this event will cover a route that encompasses seven castles on the north and eastern side of Galway city and into Galway county. ‘Slí na gCaisleán’ will start (10am) from and finish at Terryland Castle in a 25mile looped cycle route that will include castles at Menlo, Cloonacauneen, Killeen, Ballybrit, Castlegar and Ballindooley.
Carrowbrowne Bog Road that has been cleared of debris by conservation volunteers
Ballybrit Castle at the famous Race Course
Three of these castle are lived in, with one being a hotel.

This leisurely cycle will journey over through a picturesque idyllic landscape of hills, botharins, abandoned farms, karst outcrops, bogs, lakes, dykes, turloughs and meadows.
Carrowbrowne farmland
The vision and hard work to make this Greenways network become a reality encompassed many different groups and individuals including university students, farmers, environmental campaigners, city residents, cycling advocates, heritage groups, local authority officials and politicians.
Terryland Castle: Starting point for the '7 Castle Looped Castle Route'
Menlo Castle
Start time: 10am, October 7th
Rendezvous point: Terryland Castle, Terryland Forest Park, Dyke Road.
Organisers & Supporters: Terryland Forest Park Steering Committee, Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park, Cumann na bhFear and Galway City Council (Recreation and Amenity), City Planning & Greenways office, GTU and the HSE.
Ballindooley Lough
Note: Participants should bring along their own bicycle, suitable clothing and packed lunch. There will be a stop over at Cloonacauneen Castle where participants can purchase food and beverages. Any children twelve years or under must be accompanied by an adult. All participants must sign a form agreeing to abide by the rules of the tour.
For further information, contact Brendan Smith at
Picnic along the banks of the Corrib river, Menlo
Castlegar Castle

The Grotto, St. Peter & Pauls' Church, Coolough

'High Nelly' bicycle enthusiasts, Terryland Forest Park, Lus Leana

Menlo Botharîn
Cyclists enjoying lunch at Cloonacauneen Castle
On the road to Cloonacauneen Castle (background)

Spelman's Botharîn, Castlegar

Third Annual Harvest & Heritage Festival in Galway city neighbourhood

Part 1 of an exciting programme for Ballinfoile Mór Harvest & Heritage Festival 2012
Bike Repair workshop, Outdoor Baking, Blacksmith’s Forge amongst highlights of Ballinfoile Harvest Festival

Scarecrows, an outdoor pizza oven, a blacksmith’s forge, a bike repair workshop, demonstrations of straw rope-making and locally produced cakes and jams will feature as some of the highlights of the third annual Ballinfoile Mór Harvest and Heritage Festival that will take place on Saturday September 22nd in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
Part 2 of an exciting programme for Ballinfoile Mór Harvest & Heritage Festival 2012
We have put together an exciting programme of events to appeal to all ages in a wonderful garden setting that will be a celebration of the high level of volunteerism and sense of community that exists amongst the ordinary people of the Ballinfoile, Bothár an Choiste and Tirellan area.  
As well as the organic garden growers, Cumann na bhFear (aka Men’s Shed), Scoil San Phroinsias,  the Tús community work placement scheme, RAPID, Galway City Council, Conservation Volunteers Terryland Forest Park, Foroige, Sunny Meadows playschool and other local groups are involved in a neighbourhood festival based around promoting locally grown food produce, culture, crafts, arts, heritage and environmental awareness.
“We will have pizzas served freshly baked from our own outdoor oven; spuds boiled in traditional skillet pots over an open fire; “Granny’s Kitchen” with delicious cakes and buns made to old-time recipes; food dishes from Africa and Asia; an organic food stall; a blacksmith’s forge producing domestic and garden metal implements; demonstrations of farrier skills, traditional drystone walling and straw rope making; an Irish music seisiún; wooden and leather good stalls displaying locally made bee-hives, garden benches, pens and hair barrettes; a ‘High Nelly’ Bike Restoration heritage exhibit; disc jockeys; a marine aquarium; face-painting and an array of scarecrows

Harvest Fest 2011-Garden plots were covered with Scarecrows made by local chldren
Dozens of scarecrows of all shapes and sizes will populate the vegetable plots.
The scarecrows, made out of straw and recycled clothes by the children of Scoil San Phroinsias and the Sunny Meadows preschool, will pay homage to the age–old tradition that farmers and gardener used up until recently to protect the seeds and shoots of their food crops from being eaten by birds.
Harvest Fest 2011 - Volunteers Brian & Tiernan staffing the Bike Repair Workshops
We will also have a bike maintenance workshop where people can bring along their bicycles to get expert advice on how to adjust brakes, fix a puncture and clean gears.
“The aim of this and similar grassroots festivals across Ireland is to foster a feeling of individual self worth and purpose as well as to engender a sense of place and neighbourly goodwill amongst residents of local communities;  to help Irish people re-discover the value of making, repairing and growing everyday items. As a nation the Irish have traditionally been characterized by a strong community ethos as exemplified by the GAA, ‘Meitheal’ and a coming together in times of adversity. In this era of recession, high employment, growing emigration and a lowering of national expectations, we need ordinary people to once again take the lead in improving the quality of life of their own localities.

The Festival starts at noon on Saturday September 22nd and continues until 2.30pm.
Mr. Nolan cycled all the way from Gort to attend the 2011 Ballinfoile Harvest Festival

Harvest Fest 2011- Delicious Home-Cooked Delicacies on offer

Harvest Fest 2011- Cumann na bhFear stand

Harvest Fest 2011 - Tiernan serves Smoothies
Councillor Frank Fahey with Tom Cuffe who organised Birdwatching tours of the neighbouring Terryland woodlands

The home-made Jam Stall

The Bike-Powered Smoothies maker

The Organic Fruit & Vegetable Stall

Volunteers from the Lisbrook Asylum Accommodation Centre digging vegetables at the Harvest Fesst

'Bling' Your Bike

Harvest Fest 2011 - Getting the Blacksmith's forge assembled

Serving freshly made ice lollipops

Part of the Huge crowd that attended the Ballinfoile Mór Harvest Festival Sept 2011