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Connacht Tribune

Gardening break that puts a sprint in step

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Lifestyle – Growing healthy fruit, vegetables and flowers in an organic environment was the focus of a gardening weekend at Renvyle House Hotel led by experts Klaus Laitenberger and Fionnuala Fallon. JUDY MURPHY went along to learn more.

Tai Chi hadn’t been on the itinerary when we signed up for a weekend in Renvyle House Hotel that was designed for gardening enthusiasts.  But unexpected and lovely things happen when gardeners get together, so there we were at 7.30 on a Sunday morning, embarking on a slow intricate series of movements designed to create stability of body and mind.

This session was courtesy of Hong Kong woman Cissy Chui who had travelled to Ireland especially for this weekend which was being led by organic gardener Klaus Laitenberger and Irish Times gardening columnist Fionnuala Fallon, who also runs a sustainably managed flower farm in County Wicklow.

Businesswoman Cissy wasn’t a Tai Chi teacher, she stressed, but was happy to share her knowledge of the ancient Chinese practice.

Generosity was the theme of the weekend which was the result of a friendship that formed when German-born Klaus, an expert in organic horticulture, came to stay in the historic Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara several years ago.

Hotel manager Ronnie Counihan is a keen gardener who has established herb beds and a polytunnel on the grounds of the building once owned by writer and surgeon Oliver St John Gogarty (1878- 1957).

He and Klaus began chatting and have since developed a strong friendship and working relationship, based on sustainable horticulture.

The presence of horticulturalist Fionnuala Fallon, who with her husband Richard Johnston, has restored an old walled garden in West Wicklow where their flower enterprise is based, ensured this weekend appealed to a broad spectrum of gardeners.

This was designed to be a practical weekend and, so couple of hours after our impromptu Tai Chi session, we were in the gardens of Renvyle House, learning how to make ‘Lazy Beds’ in which to grow potatoes.

This low-maintenance method of tillage must be the easiest way ever to grow potatoes – all that’s required for a seriously high yield is a bit of legwork at the beginning of the process.

Klaus, who lives in Leitrim and is a fount of knowledge about growing vegetables in West of Ireland conditions, is a rare creature. As a teacher he imparts knowledge and instils enthusiasm in equal measure.

So, when he says that while human beings needed to evolve over millions of years to adapt our surroundings, the same isn’t true of slugs. They have been the same forever, because “slugs are perfect”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Fuel for thought as we try and energise our wheels

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A good few years back . . . well probably even decades . . . I remember asking quite a knowledgeable motoring correspondent, long gone to his eternal reward, about the pros and cons of staying with petrol or switching to diesel. By the time his reply had finished, nearly 20 minutes had elapsed, and I was avalanched with so much data that I was no wiser at the end of the conversation than I was at the start.

I thought of that a few weeks before Christmas when I happened to tune in to a programme on Channel 4 – Dispatches – which examined the practicalities of owning and driving an electric car across the roads of the United Kingdom.

There is a wish amongst all of us to pursue a more environmentally friendly way of life. At this stage, we all probably know someone who has purchased a fully electric car and certainly many more who have dipped their toes into the waters of the hybrid models.

Anyway, the main theme of the Dispatches programme was that after 10-years of investment by the UK authorities in the infrastructure needed to support electric cars, quite a shocking number of charging points were either out of action or were not working to their full efficiency.

Nearly 10% of the ‘rapid chargers’ sampled across the UK were found not to be working properly, while 30 new ultra-rapid charges were also found to be dysfunctional to varying degrees. Some of the charging points had been out of action for six years and a percentage of those were unrepairable as their technology base was now obsolete.

Apart from their significant extra cost – even if one qualifies for the maximum €5,000 Government grant – the great fear I would have with the electric cars is that I’d find myself marooned in a corner of Kerry or Antrim, out of ‘juice’, and unable to access a charging point.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Farm buildings can be used as business hubs in rural areas

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Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind)

RURAL farm buildings should be utilised for small business enterprises which would supplement the income of landowners as well as creating some local employment in the process.

This was the view of the vast majority of Galway councillors who passed a motion that buildings directly relating to farming be considered for other purposes that would be financially advantageous to the owners.

The matter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Galway County Development Plan when it was suggested that the farming community needed to be allowed develop small business opportunities.

A motion from Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind) – deviating slightly from Galway County Council policy – proposed that they be allowed carry out businesses such as the servicing and repair of machinery, land reclamation, drainage works, and agricultural contracting was carried.

The motion added that this be allowed where it is financially advantageous to locate in a given area and where it would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

The Williamstown councillor said that it could result in hundreds of small business enterprises being developed out of farm buildings.

“At the moment they cannot get planning permission for such enterprises given that they are located in a rural area,” he argued.

He was supported by Cllr. Pete Roche (FG) who went further by saying that even the establishment of pet farms or animal farms that could be opened up to the public were also options that could be considered.

“There are farm families at the moment who cannot earn a decent living out of agriculture alone and would relish the opportunity to diversify,” he added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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