Dolphin’s Barn community garden under threat

Is this the DEATH of (y)our garden ?

Builders and machinery have moved in, trees and plants have been taken up and it looks like it might be the end for the Dolphins Barn Community Garden, which celebrated its first birthday on Wednesday the 12th of April. Presently the garden crew has 54 people on its mailing list and there have been at least twice that in the garden.

After nearly a year of what turned out to be a really positive experiment in sustainable urban gardening, re-establishment of community, healthy use of derelict space and the creation of new friendships, things have taken a change for the worse… but it might not be the end. There is the possibility of revisiting matters later in the year, but the gardening project has been put on hold for the moment after a number of meetings with the owners of the land where the garden is established.

dolphins barn community garden birthday party on good friday
Dolphins barn community garden birthday party on good friday

On Sunday the 19th of March, 2 days after a very successful open day: Paddy’s Day spud planting, we were visited in the garden by one of the directors of the White Heather Industrial Estate, on whose land the garden exists. He had received a letter from the City Council stating that their estate needed to be cleaned up or else they would receive a fine. We had made unsuccessful attempts to establish contact with the owners at the beginning of the project. After that discussion it was felt that “His only real request was that we tidy up a bit”, he mentioned that there might be building work in the future and that we might have to move our newly planted orchard. He also stated that no planning submission had been made at this stage but that they were looking at “development” of the area. Curiously enough at the same time on Indymedia, someone quite irate called Concerned resident Dolphins Barn appeared out of the blue and stated that “One of the factory owners at the moment is very disturbed by these trespassers”. From that time on communication was kept up between the garden crew, the industrial estate and the council, who had already given some months previous a €600 grant to the garden. A deadline of the 10th of April was agreed on for a final decision from White Heather as to whether we would be allowed to carry on working in this space, which for many has become a very special space to spend time living, learning and working simply as a human being.

Unfortunately we have not been successful in getting permission from the industrial estate to keep gardening but we have permission to watch the spuds grow. But the story is not over yet, join us this Friday for the first birthday party of the garden and we’ll see how things unfold. We are currently in discussion with the council about looking for another more permanent plot to set up a garden, if you know of any please let us know.

Brief timeline
(Quotes taken from garden email list, many different contributors)

-12 April 2005 – Dolphins Barn community garden comes to life; ground broken, trees planted, dreams realized.

-19th March – Garden crew meets in garden with and has initial discussion with one of White Heather Industrial estate directors, on whose land we have worked on for nearly a year with no problems. Outcome of that: “His only real request was that we tidy up a bit.”

-26th march – Meet again in garden with same director, a different tone this time: “While he acknowledged that there had been some improvement in the garden’s appearance compared with last weekend, he told me that at this point he considers that our use of the land is trespass and that we are going to have to leave. He recommended that we remove anything of value.”

-2nd April – First sighting of “a number of workmen on the site from JC Devereux, including a skip, a mini digger and a small loader.”

-3rd April – Meet same director again, this time: “I asked him expressly if we could do any further planting and he said no. We are free to come down and ‘watch the potatoes growing’ (exciting!!), but nothing further should be done.”

-7th April – By this time a series of discussions had been set up between the garden crew, the city council and the industrial estate director. Mainstream newspapers wanted to run a story about what was happening but the garden crew decided through consensus that it was preferable to put this off until after the 10th of April, which was the date the director had given when he would have a final stand on things.
”I’ve just spoken with Willie Morrogh (City Council) who had a meeting with the White Heather director and the litter warden this morning. Anyways, the litter warden signed off on the cleanup. Despite this, it appears that the White Heather director is not prepared to allow us to continue to use the site (apart from watching the spuds…….feckity feck). The primary reason given is security (and liability).”

-10th April 2006 – No change of view from directors: “time to take action.”

Where to from here?
It must be stressed that the White Heather Industrial estate have kindly permitted us to use the site throughout 2005. but that due to the landscaping plans for the site, the fruit trees and bushes have been relocated to the Phibsboro garden. We still hope that there will be a community garden in the future where the present garden now exists, but if not there are other avenues open for exploration. In conjunction with the long term plan that prompted the picking of the dolphins barn patch we hope to find somewhere along the botanic spine and with that try to encourage more people to get involved with the result of creating more gardens throughout the city.

So if we have to move there are other possible locations on the Botanic Spine that we are thinking about:
1- The empty green lot, 200m down the canal after Margaret the gardeners, at Donore bridge.
2- IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art); the gardens, this was discussed and some artists said they would help make an official proposal to IMMA, that was originally to be an independent garden if there were numbers.
3- War memorial gardens and accompanying lands, very nice on banks of Liffey: a new Liffey valley plan is being drawn up at present.
4- Phoenix park, huge, definite space there to be used.
5- Phibsboro garden- support what is there and build on it, lots of land up there, that’s where the dolphins barn trees are at present.
6- Sheriff St, I haven’t been there in a while, but that was the catalyst for all this to begin with, we started the tree walk there and planted a good few trees there, there is room in the empty green patch, seeing as the razor fence came down last year, the ground is not the best as it is reclaimed land.

Sites outside the spine:
Landsdowne Valley (some spare land by the Dodder)
Drimnagh Castle.
Also, some of the allotments by Sally’s bridge are unallocated.

Development plans for the Dolphins Barn and Rialto area
Planning consultants from the UK came over late last year to carry out a consultation exercise with the local community in relation to the redevelopment of the area. Although the emphasis was on a large triangle of land north of the South Circular Road including the former John Players factory, there will be some attention given to the canal bank area. A harbour and footbridge are currently planned for the area where our garden now is. However, seeing as a community garden is undeniably good for any area, bringing as it does considerable social, educational, ecological and health benefits, we ought to be included in the plan and given our own patch. ( )

The bigger picture
Although on the global scale the garden has not changed the world, it has been an attempt to turn a simple idea into a reality. For 12 months now our garden has existed, grown and taken on a life of its own, from a small number of rain soaked beginners clambering around a fence to stick a few hazel trees into the ground there are now a large and ever widening crew who have shared their workload, stories, food, skills, jokes, dreams, time together. For many it has already been a beautiful experience. In today’s age we are fast approaching a peak oil crisis, resource wars are already happening as our demand for consumption escalates with the result of ruthless pirating for oil like we have seen in Iraq for the last few years. One major pull on oil reserves is the energy needed to transport the food you eat on your table from where it was grown; food miles.

Botanis Spine, a greenway and CPUL for Dublin City
A recent idea has emerged to remedy this, the CPUL, continuous productive urban landscape, which are local food production threads in cities. Dolphins Barn garden was the first node in what we hope will become a CPUL for Dublin city; the botanic spine, so named as it is a circular feedback loop which connects with the botanic gardens in Glasnevin, which we hope will act as the brain of the network as ecology becomes more of a critical matter in cities. After dolphins barn a second community garden node was created in Phibsboro and there are a series of other spots along the route, which could be turned into local community gardens. Perhaps the city council might embrace this idea and become a leader in sustainable city development. We submitted these proposals to both the head city architect and the head city planner and were twice scheduled to meet the planner, Dick Gleeson, but on both occasions he was pulled away at the last minute.
We also envisage this thread being a greenway, a non motorised transport route, a bikeway or walkway, which would act as a connecter of the communities that the spine threads through. Last year we organised a forum in the community centre in Sheriff Street to discuss all these ideas with one community, but unfortunately that was cancelled, plans are underway for another one. We organise bike rides along the route the last Sunday of the month and there is one scheduled for the end of this month.( )
Heritage council – what are greenways

So what next?
(taken from gardener email)

a) I have tried to contact Willie Morrough but so far was just able to leave a message. I would like to get a more formal stance from DCC –

As DCC have established the 60 feet set back for buildings along that part of the canal perhaps we can use that to our advantage. If (long shot) someone in the council is supportive of community gardening initiatives like ours they could consider asking White Heather to allow us to stay as a more active, productive, positive way of landscaping the canal edge. White Heather would be under no obligation to do this probably but if it was suggested to them by DCC who knows?

b) The whole planning process can take ages so possibly we could keep gardening for months if White Heather were agreeable. They may just be using it as an excuse to get us out though.

c) If we are definitely out on our ear I’d be interested to know how many people in the Dolphins Barn area would be willing to campaign for a new space. I think we could find spaces in other parts of the city but it would be a shame to look like we were turning our back on Dolphins Barn at the first obstacle – that is if there is truly local interest. Time for people to show their true colours. We could circulate a flyer in all letterboxes telling people the situation and asking for support.

d) Be it Dolphins Barn or some other part of the city, we have formed a large and ever expanding group of people who are willing to put lots of energy into making their environment into a better place. It has been wonderful to watch people just turn up and ask what they can do – and get stuck in! If all that energy gets funnelled into a more
legitimate, secure place so much the better. We have the pictures to prove how great it can be!

e) I think we should think about putting together a submission to DCC highlighting the need for collectively run ‘productive urban landscapes’ – places which yield food at a local level but also as places which are social centres and points of interaction between people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. If the Dolphins Barn garden is no longer an option we can use the opportunity to find a properly accessible space without two walls to be climbed!

I know I, and a lot of other people, have left that strip of ground beside the canal behind after a days activity there, fingernails dirtied and totally energised by the experience.

It can only be good.

Related links:
Bringing Nature To Mans Domain –
Its gardening Jim, but not as we know it (Ireland from below, November 2005, page 5) –
new community garden up and running in Phibsboro –
CPULS – continuous productive urban landscapes –…68643
That eco idea is beginning to kick off in china –
Greening the city Dublin –
City farmer’s urban agricultural forum –
What will we eat as the oil runs out? –
Convergence 7- feedback :building healthy communities, inspiring culture, redefining progress –…gence

-Ruth gives a history of the garden 8mins –
-Mixing the muck 7.5 mins –

Related Link:

(This article was first published on Indymedia Ireland )


One Response to Dolphin’s Barn community garden under threat

  1. noactive says:

    Dolphin's Barn community garden under threat .Thanks for nice post.I added to my twitter.

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