Community spirit flourishes in Abbeyfeale’s secret garden

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THE MAIN Limerick to Killarney road is just a stone’s throw away but in the heart of Abbeyfeale’s Town Garden, you wouldn’t know it.

Community Council Chairman, Maurice O’Connell is taking time out to show off his beloved Abbeyfeale to the Limerick Post.

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And there’s plenty to show off. Winding through the 29 acre park is the Feale River, where ducklings scatter at our coming and there is no sound but running water and rustling leaves.

Deep in the park is a small, contemplative garden, with stones that once formed part of an old church for seating and, at the centre, a sculpture by local artist Ruari Dennison entitled ‘Light on Stone”.

Funded by the Compassionate Communities fund from Milford Hospice, visitors are invited to sit in the garden and think with compassion about their loved ones.

Closer to the entrance are the exercise machines that will provide a free fitness boost for the whole community.

Earlier in our walk, Maurice showed us the plaques in the town which commemorate the place where the Bianconi company had the largest stage-coach depot in the country between 1786 and 1875.

Leahy’s Inn, a short distance away is where the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, was given to breaking his journey between his home in Derrynane and the Dublin Parliament and there are documents signed by him to order a coach and horses.

Yet another plaque commemorates a royal visitor to Abbeyfeale, Princess Christina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso.

There is documentary proof that the Italian writer and revolutionary stayed in Abbeyfeale, and this is the only record of her visit to Ireland.

There the Cistercian Abbey which gives the town part of its name and the first landmark building in the area built by the monks on land donated by Donal O’Brien, the King of LImerick and dating back to 1188.

Maurice O’Connell believes passionately in forging strong community links.

“The Community Council started up again two years ago with just five members and grew to 28 members and became a company limited by guarantee and has been granted charitable status.

“All the members play an active role and the Community Council is now recognised by Limerick City and County Council as an umbrella group for the various community organisations in Abbeyfeale,” he explains.

“The council gives people a platform to work together and we have successfully drawn down funding from Healthy Limerick and Healthy Ireland as well as the Town and Village Renewal scheme.

“But none of this would be possible without the commitment and full support of all the members working together for the betterment of the whole community,” Maurice explains.