The Hut, in Gurranabraher, provides a range of youth and community services, but many people don’t know that it is also home to a rooftop garden that has spectacular views over Cork City.
Last May, community health officer, Micheál O’Connor, and horticulturalist Emma Woodhouse enlisted volunteers to revamp the rooftop garden to make it an edible wonderland.
Planters of herbs and strawberries were joined by peas and sweetcorn for the first growing season.
In February, a wormery was added and 20 people attended a workshop to learn how to convert food waste generated in The Hut into valuable compost for future crops.
Plans for rooftop gigs, wildflower planting, and extending the strawberry beds have been put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, but Mr O’Connor says the rest of the summer months still hold plenty of opportunities.
“We’ll, hopefully, be able to get some events going again, obviously with social distancing in place,” he says. “We’re developing a volunteer plan to adapt to the phases in the coming weeks.”
An organic gardener for 20 years and a member of Cork Food Policy Council, Mr O’Connor is involved in a wider network of community gardens, including one of Cork’s best-established, The Glen, which has been open since 2009 and which has a volunteer group of 10-12 weekly.
Mr O’Connor says community gardens are a “collective response to maximising health and well-being.
“Just being in a space with plants is an engagement that increases our well-being,” he says.
Like many, Mr O’Connor believes the Covid-19 crisis has provided a steep learning curve for how community gardens and allotments can be managed.
“They’re public spaces, so legislation means we have to implement restrictions,” he says. “It’s difficult, but I think all the agencies and groups will have learned from this phase. I would hope there’d be many changes in how we deal with things if anything like this were to happen again.
“I’d hope we could be a bit more strategic in how we live with it.”