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Heritage Week 2023 - the week that was.

August 21st, 2023

As another Heritage Week draws to a close, I thought I'd share some of my highlights from the last nine days, filled with activities, talks, walks, tours, nature, archeology, history, science, and the best that Carlow and Kilkenny has to offer in built, natural and cultural heritage.

Sunday, August 13th - Lecture in Borris Library with Dr. Peadar McArdle

Dr. Peadar McArdle, former Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland, delivered a hugely entertaining and fascinating talk on the unique geological heritage of County Carlow.

Apt that it was held in Borris Library, a beautiful building built from local granite. Indeed Dr. McArdle argues rightly that Borris is unique in Ireland for its granite heritage.

Thanks to Carlow County Council's Heritage Officer, Eoin O'Sullivan and County Librarian John Shortall for organising a fantastically informative event.

Monday, August 14th - Seed saving walk and talk with Monica Fleming

For day three of #Heritageweek2023, I joined in with Monica Fleming's sunset walk around the Abbey Meadow in Callan, County Kilkenny, identifying wild plants and learning seed harvesting techniques. It was a beautiful, clear evening, that gave our local built and natural heritage an opportunity to shine.

Míle buíochas to Monica, to Kilkenny County Council Heritage Officer, Regina Fitzpatrick, and to our recently appointed Biodiversity Officer Bernadette Moloney for a wonderful event.

Tuesday August 15th - some Citizen Science and a barn owl talk

As we hit the middle of the week, the pace was picking up, and I attended two equally fantastic events on Tuesday. First up, an early start in Thomastown for a wonderful wild plant walk.

A shot of birch sap, some dandelion flapjacks with hawthorn relish, and we were off!

A wild plant walk with Maura Brennan of the Acorn Project is always full of surprises and Tuesday morning's event was no different. Maura brought with her a wonderful box of outdoor classroom kit, surveying tools, nets and identification swatches, and the great news is that a lot of these tools can now be borrowed from your local library, under a new scheme from the The Heritage Council that makes citizen science available to all with kits to help in identifying flora and fauna. Kilkenny is one of the first county libraries to offer this.

Míle buíochas arís Bernadette Moloney, Maura and staff of Thomastown library.

I wrapped up the evening with a barn owl talk from John Lusby of Birdwatch Ireland in the River Court Hotel.

I recall a time with our Heritage Forum where a talk about barn owls attracted only a handful of people. Such is the grá for these birds in Kilkenny now that there was standing room only at this #heritageweek talk - possibly the biggest crowd I've ever seen for a Heritage Week event. John was so full of praise for volunteers and landowners in the county who have contributed to a significant rise in Barn Owl numbers. #GoodNewsforNature to end the day!

Wednesday August 16th - recording milk churn stands and visiting Merino Mill

Wednesday was a bumper day for Heritage Week activity, and I was delighted to attend a really fascinating workshop teaching people how to be active participants in the ongoing recording and preservation of our agricultural heritage.

Milk churn stands (pictured above) were once a common feature of rural Ireland, and at this workshop, participants learned how to record them. Documenting, recording and mapping unusual, and often vernacular features of our built and industrial heritage is hugely important, and is carried out mostly by volunteer field recorders.

Anne-Karoline Distel is one such volunteer and at Castlecomer Library on Wednesday she gave a really informative talk on one aspect of her recording work, milk churn stands. Anne maps her recordings with photographs on an open source platform called Open Street Map, and her work is leading to mapping similar heritage features in other countries. We had a lovely chat with attendees over the cuppa afterwards about the collecting of milk for creameries around north Kilkenny.

In the evening then I headed to Merino Mill on the banks of Abhainn Rí in Ennisnag, where Billy Wallace delivered an absolutely fascinating, no notes talk on the turbulent history of the mills, which were really unique in Europe of that time.

In its heyday, the Merino Mill provided economic independence, education and a social structure to an entire community in the early 1800s. The land was once home to a sizable flock of merino sheep and significant woolen mill operation. Now derelict, the mill holds many great stories and so much history.

Thanks to The Nore Vision for organising the event and to Billy for his talk on a balmy August evening.

Thursday August 17th - unveiling the Carlow GAA trophy display

Carlow County Museum is one of the best municipal museums in the country, and it was wonderful to see it being enhanced further during #HeritageWeek2023.

In collaboration with Cumann Luthcleas Gael Catharlach, the museum unveiled a Carlow GAA display with many wonderful artefacts from the proud heritage of GAA in the County.

I was also delighted to receive a signed copy of the History of the GAA in 100 Objects from the author Siobhán Doyle.

Míle buíochas le Stúratheoir Dermot Mulligan agus leis an foireann go léir.

Saturday August 19th -A native Irish tree trail and little bit of scything

Kells Tidy Towns have developed a really beautiful Native Irish Tree Trail (Bealach na gCrann) leading from the priory along Abhainn Rí and onto the bridge.

The trail also includes some of our native understory and hedgerow shrubs such as spindle and guelder rose. Míle buíochas leis an coiste, it was a real pleasure to walk the trail as part of Heritage Week.

We stopped at the King's Mill Restaurant for the best of food, tea and coffee. Thank You Agata and your amazing team, you have created something special in and for Kells.

Finally, I concluded my #heritageweek2023 with a little scythe event and tried my hand at scything with Maura Brennan of the Acorn Project in Hacketstown Biodiversity Garden.

We carefully cut down this year's meadow and harvested off the seed. This is such an amazing little space developed by local volunteers, and it was a great way to end an incredible week of celebrating the best of our built, natural and cultural heritage across the counties of Carlow and Kilkenny. I'm so grateful to the many community groups and volunteers across the country who devise and host these wonderful events, and who each and every year go above and beyond to make National Heritage Week bigger and better than ever.

I'm already looking forward to next year!


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