Mud Island reveals a hidden gem bursting with beauty in the city

by Juliana Reyes
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After rushing off the main road full of cars, buses and people into rows of houses, there is a hidden gem that is one of the best kept secrets in Dublin.

Mud Island Community Garden is situated between Nottingham Street and Newcomen Bridge on Dublin’s North Strand near Croke Park, and is one of the finest examples of community spirit in the capital.

It is full of wildflowers, fruits and veggies, but most importantly the kind-hearted people that take care of the area.

Residents Fionnuala Haplin, John Hannigan and Maeve Foreman began to campaign for a community garden in the area in 2009. Then, the recession hit and finding an area for the campaign slowed down a bit.

“I have a feeling the area was bombed by the Germans in the 1941 North Strand bombing and it’s been zoned for housing. It was supposed to be affordable housing, but then the recession happened. They didn’t have money to build, so we continued to campaign,” said Fionnuala Haplin, committee chairperson of Mud Island Community Garden. 

Then in 2011, they gained on-site access to the area known as the garden today.

“Dublin City Council levelled the area for us, but we had to clean it up. The centre of the garden is the first footprint of the garden and the council liked what we did and they gave us the wrap around all the way up to the polytunnel,” said Maeve Foreman, committee secretary.

The entire garden has always been a team effort aimed at giving back to the community. The thoughtful design of the garden is another reason it is so unique, from the wheelchair accessible aisles to a cafe in the rear.

“First, we all drew our plans for what way we saw the garden. Everyone had an idea for a central meeting area, and we didn’t want it to be organised. We planned on raised beds which are accessible for everyone,” said Haplin.

Throughout the eight years of being open to the public, they have hosted various events for families such as gardening workshops, concerts and ukulele festivals.

One of their main events is open day when the garden is officially opens for the summer season. In June, about 200 to 300 visitors walked through the community garden and got to learn more about the area.

The Mud Island Community Garden is open to everyone in the area and anyone can join the committee by just showing up and participating. By having members of the community join and bringing in support, the garden has flourished as an important part of this area.

The area forms part of reclaimed land from the sea, hence the name ‘Mud Island’.

The area even featured in James Joyce’s Ulysses: “At Newcomen Bridge Father Conmee stepped into an outward-bound tram for he disliked to traverse on foot the dingy way past Mud Island.”

The community garden has been a positive change in the community by establishing outreach projects and events for everyone.

In 2017, the Mud Island Community Garden were recipients of the Dublin Bus Community Spirit award for their work in planting flower beds throughout the area. This was a way for people to get involved with changing the community.

Since it is a free garden for the neighbourhood, funding comes from institutions around Dublin including An Taisce’s Green Communities, Croke Park Community Fund, Community Growers Fund and Agenda 21 for the upkeep of the garden.

Without doubt, the imagination and hard work of the committee has gone a long way to ensuring that North Strand has a community project that locals can be very proud of, and a visit to this hidden gem – a fine example of community spirit and endeavour at its best, comes highly recommended.

For more information on events and ways to get involved with the beautiful Mud Island Community Garden, you can join their Facebook group, ‘Mud Island Community Garden.’

The garden is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 2pm and 5pm during the summer season.

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