Continuing Our Irish Updates

Hello again, here’s the next part of our story, I think one more update and we will be all caught up!

When we arrived at Virginia Park Lodge, a wedding party was also unloading and arriving. We had to walk through the throng of very nicely dressed people with our backpacks and work jeans on, which I thought was quite comical, until we found someone to direct us. 

We were put up into two rooms, where I shared a room with another wwoofer from Italy. 

The gardens were absolutely stunning. It was the biggest set of polytunnels and largest amount of growing space we had seen so far. Even though other hosts had larger amounts of land, because the lodge catered to weddings, they had to make the entire place beautiful and they maintained a wide variety of flowers and hedges and trees as their ornamental garden. 

The fruit and veg from the garden was either used in the kitchen at the lodge, or was sent off to the other two restaurants in London that were owned by the same chef. Because of this, there was always something big and exciting to do. For instance we had to clear out and replant the entirety of two of the three huge polytunnels, just to make them more effective and to meet the demands of the kitchens.  

The gardeners and groundskeepers we worked with were so sweet and kind to us. They always made sure we were taken care of, as the Lodge kind of fell down on the job more often than not. The problem was that the lodge wasn’t ready to have wwoofers, but they still continued to take them on. Hopefully they’ll have made it better after we left. 

While we were staying in Virginia though, Maire and Martin (the aunt and uncle of our third host that I mentioned last week) made a point of seeing us and helping us out when they could. On our first Saturday there, the three of us and our new wwoofing friend Olga caught a bus to a small town about 30 minutes away to see Kitten Cottage’s pop up charity shop, just to say hello and offer any help. Again, the whole family was incredibly kind and offered anything that we wanted or needed without charge, which helped immensely. We were able to stock up on new pants, some toiletries, and something to read. 

Later on in the week, we got a text from Maire saying that she’d be by to pick us up and take us on a bit of an adventure. We went to see Loughcrew, an adventure center with zip line and obstacle courses, and the adjoining cairns. It was an incredible day, and ended with all of us holding new born kittens. 

We had a wonderful time getting to know Katy’s extended family, and we would love to come back to Ireland specifically to reconnect with everyone later on. 

Working at Virginia Park Lodge was a great experience, as we learned what it’s like to work on a larger scale farm. Of course it wasn’t as big as any kind of commercial farm, but it was considerably larger than the other family farms that we had seen so far. 

One of the gardeners that we worked with at the lodge, Pricilla, was kind enough to drive us half way to our next host, where he would meet us. It’s always sad to say goodbye to all of the new friends we’ve made, but you have to in order to meet more people and continue learning.

Thanks for checking in again! Here’s to hoping for more consistent updates from here on out. 

-R

Time to Catch Up!

Hello again, long time no post!

I obviously didn’t keep my word in that I would be updating more regularly- I am sorry about that. A lot has been happening, and we have actually finished our time in Ireland and have just arrived in the U.K. So, in order to catch up and try not to bore you all (whoever is still left), I’ll catch us all up within the next two or more pieces!

Since the last post, not only has about two months​ passed, but we’ve also made it through to our 6th and final host for our Irish leg of the trip.

We left off at An Ghrian Glas Farm, which was such an amazing farm to stay and work at. Our hosts were Katy and Tommy, along with their two dogs Lilly and Wren, as well as Gaston, their highly adventurous cat. We were responsible for the every day maintenance of the farm, including feeding the chickens and ducks and letting them roam, feeding and entertaining the pet pig Ola, and walking the horse and two ponies to and from their pasture. It was an incredibly entertaining and enjoyable time, and really gave us perspective on what it’s like to have our own farm and animals.

Katy and Tommy were some of the nicest and easy to get along with people we have met on this trip. Being around them and working with them was fantastic with never a dull moment. Katy was kind enough to give us all horse lessons, not necessarily to ride them but to just be more comfortable around them, especially since Ashley and I have never really interacted with horses on our own before.

Tommy worked out in the property with us on his days off, and over the course of three days he built an entire fence made of pallets nearly by himself. We just moved all of the pallets from where they were dumped off by the truck (I’m pretty sure that was the most intensive upper body work out I’ve had on this trip!).

While we were here, we were also able to spend an overnight trip in Galway, as the town near to the farm was located right along the motorway and was a quick bus ride away. Galway is one of my favorite cities anywhere, as it’s actually quite small and very friendly. When we went, it was too early for the tourist season to be starting, so we had a quiet and closer to a local experience than when we later visited in the middle of May.

The streets of Galway remind you of the history and age of the city, as everything is paved with old cobblestones, the buildings are all clustered close together, and they are always full of people bustling about. As we went during the middle of the week, there weren’t as many street performances but you still came across people singing their hearts out and performing amazing music for anyone to appreciate as they passed.

While we were here, I also was able to find an amazing artist and get a tattoo as a reminder of our time in Ireland. I fell in love with chickens over the course of our trip, and am now determined to have chickens at any place I end up living. So I  thought I might as well carry around a hen of my own.

One other notable event was that we spent Easter with our hosts. I’m pretty sure it’s up there in some of my favorite memories over the course of my life. It was just such a comfortable and enjoyable day, I always end up smiling when I think back on it! Our morning started with Katy knocking on our caravan door and delivering boxes with chocolate eggs inside, saying “everyone should eat chocolate for breakfast on Easter!”.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready to meet and host some of their neighbors who also had wwoofers staying with them, their baby daughter, another friend and her young son, and Katy’s parents. We helped to make a fire pit in order to roast an entire pig leg that they had from their farm the year before. We also were able to stack up some pallets for furniture, which worked surprisingly well!

Everyone was incredibly friendly and enjoyable to be around. Conversation was comfortable and easily flowed between everyone, and we stayed out well into the evening despite the chill. I suppose it was just the comfort of the entire day that really made an impression on me, but whatever it was, it was a great day.

As you can imagine, we were all a bit hard pressed to leave this farm for our next host. However that’s the nature of our trip, to move to the next place to see as many places and learn as much as we can!

Ireland’s bus and train system is less than ideal, and the only way we could see to get to our next town, which was only an hour away by car but no bus routes ran the path, was to go all the way back to Dublin, and then take a bus from Dublin to the town of Virginia. Fortunately for us, Katy’s mom was kind enough to give us a lift to Virginia, as she had to go and visit her sister who lived in the town anyway. So we all piled into her tiny car, and she took us across the windy roads to Virginia. We were dropped off at her sister’s house, Maire, who runs an animal sanctuary called Kitten Cottage. She houses any stray cats, kittens, lizards, hedgehogs, chickens, etc that would otherwise be killed or left unwanted. We were then taken into town to our new host, Virginia Park Lodge, by their brother, Martin. So over the course of the day we met a good portion of Katy’s extended family and were treated incredibly kindly and felt like family.

Thank you all for your patience, and the rest of our trip in Ireland is on its way!

-R