Bear Hunt

When my son was small we would often go off for the day on ” adventures.” We loved the book We’re  going on a bear hunt and one of our favourite places to go was to what every local calls” the Monks in Collon”.

We were introduced to it by my friend Sinead and we would all head off together the 3 kids in tow. Such a simple thing really as we were only heading up the road but to children it must have seemed vast. While driving we would chant the words from the book and there was a real sense of anticipation and excitement.  As you go  in the gate there’s a picture perfect  waterfall on the left. Then you drive up under the canopy of trees and you feel like you’re deep in a forest. We’d park the car and the kids would tumble out and race ahead of us to the maze. In April it was always full of primroses and bluebells and the odd nettle to sting unsuspecting ankles. The kids would scramble out of the car  and rush through this wilderness and search for each other or sometimes seek out the chocolates we’d hide along the way. We would hear them shrieking with laughter and wonder. To them this simple maze must have seemed enormous  and when finally we would all  meet in the centre we used to feel  we’d been on our very own great adventure. Never found any bears though !

The waterfall at the entrance
The drive up
Entrance to the maze
Primroses line the edge of the maze
The tree in the centre of the maze

After that we’d stroll up to the giant trees beside the little graveyard and the kids would marvel at how the trees had grown so huge that they had touched the ground and almost re grown from where they lay. They would climb along the trunks and being kids not worry about adult fears like the sap staining their clothes or the bark scratching their knees. To them it was whatever they wanted it to be and to hear the peals of  laughter as they played hide and seek was such a joy.

Kids paradise

Natures climbing frame
This was the scratchy one
This tree is like a giant snake

A few times when we had someone for first communion we would go up to the little shop the monks have and buy some memento. The children loved it and picked out rosary beads and mini statues of the Child of Prague and miraculous medals. It was extra special if the monk would have them blessed and I hope those keepsakes will be discovered some day and trigger the memory of a happy carefree day .

Looks like a giant May altar

I know I’m sometimes very nostalgic and this is mostly because I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful memories of childhood myself which I think help form the adult you later become. Good memories are like a safety blanket and can comfort us in times of need and make us feel secure in our place in the world. I like to think that these few hours out will stand to my son and his pals as happy childhood memories.

So you are now wondering what the heck has this got to do with gardening? If you’ve read this far” bear” with me ( dadum I’m here all week folks ! )  I tend to see the world through the lens of gardening so imagine my delight when I was told that you could buy plants in the Melifont Abbey gardens. Bear hunts AND plants what a great combination.


I buy most of my greenhouse vegetables there as they sell some great tomato varieties such as Shirley and Tumbler. I also get cucumber, courgette and peppers. In the past I got herbs such as parsley  and tarragon and last year managed to grab a few sungold tomato plants. They also sell some nice perennial plants and sometimes there’s barely room for me in the car when I’ve filled it with lavender, geums, aquilegia and ferns. Every time I turn in the gate I’m reminded of those earlier times and I’m grateful it’s there and so accessible. With a carload of plants and precious memories who could ask for more.



Why do I garden?

As you’ve probably figured out by now I love to garden. On occasion I wonder why. My Uncle John who died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 96 gardened all his life, planting vegetables, fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. He was a solitary man given to melancholy but he often remarked to me that when he went out into the garden he forgot about everything except the task at hand. He said it was  impossible to feel down in the dumps  when you’re gardening. I would have to agree as to be outdoors, digging, planting, dividing plants, pruning, mulching, cleaning up leaves or even the dreaded weeding it all becomes about the job you are doing. Does the plant need shade or sun, moist or dry soil, good drainage, eventual height and spread or most importantly in this garden will it be in the way of the lawnmower. With all this to think about who has time to worry or stress and its a great way of zoning out.

I bought a book recently called “ The bad tempered gardener” by British gardener and journalist Anne Wareham. I bought it based on the answer she gave to a question that has long puzzled me.”  Why do you garden?” and her answer was, because she felt  compelled to do so. She doesn’t even like the gardening its the result she likes. She said that gardening is like outdoor housework ! Although I disagree with her on the last point the compulsion is one I completely identify with. That is exactly how I feel sometimes as I’m knee deep in muck and dirt or my back is aching from hauling stones and digging holes and I say to myself why am I not inside with a book beside the fire and I grin to myself and say “Thank you Anne for making it so simple.” I feel compelled to garden!

Sometimes  people don’t garden as they feel they don’t know enough.They would love to garden but can’t because physically they’re not able, they would love to garden but don’t have the space, the time, the knowledge, the head space, the energy, the courage, the list is endless. However I think it is buried deep in all of us to enjoy nature and to try to do the most basic thing which is to grow something. To be active and connect with the earth can never be a bad thing and working your muscles  can help ensure you’re less likely to get many modern diseases such as heart disease, obesity, stroke or depression. It can help with anxiety as you are the one who is in control choosing and planting. Chopping or pruning  shrubs or hedges  can be a great way to let off steam and all in the knowledge that you will actually be doing them good and making them regrow stronger and more invigorated. Children can learn to take care of plants and where food comes from and how things grow if you give them the proper care. This in itself is a great life lesson. Plants are not choosey they don’t care who looks after them what race or religion you are as long as you give them what they need they will thrive.

Gardens are everywhere, They are in religion starting with Adam and Eve, in literature, in film, in art, in castles or cottages, in towns and schools. People plant flowers on graves or bring pots with flowers  and the symbolism of renewal and life can bring comfort to those left behind. Flowers feature everywhere at weddings, on the altar and pews, at the reception and the brides bouquet . As people celebrate special occasions a tree or shrub is often given as a symbol or a living gift to mark the occasion. People garden on a grand scale or on a balcony, in window boxes or in containers or just in their own back garden. Increasingly kids garden in schools, inmates garden in prisons, patients enjoy the garden in nursing homes and many city workers head to the park to relax and de-stress over lunch. Again the list goes on and on and everywhere humans are connecting with nature and the earth and making themselves feel good. Even if you only garden in your imagination or watch Gardener’s World or visit gardens open to the public its the connection with nature thats important and makes us all gardeners together.

Where else would you engage so many of the senses ? To see a riot of shape and colour, to smell a gorgeous rose, to taste a divine  tomato, to touch papery bark of a tree or to hear grasses rustle in the wind .


” Gardening is medicine that does not need a prescription and has no limit on dosage ”

Author Unknown