The Monk's Garden, Ferns, Co. Wexford.

The Ancient Connections project is a rich mix of heritage, art and community development. In today's blog, we're shining a light on one of our fantastic arts projects. Here's artist David Begley to tell us all about his wonderfully nurturing artist residency in Ferns.

The Monk’s Garden at St Edan’s National School, Ferns, is a twelve week art, heritage and garden project. The children are sowing an eight by five metre plot inspired by medieval monastic gardens in order to learn about soil, seeds, germination, the importance of water, the history of farming and current farming practice; nurturing plants to grow food, the beauty and activities of insects, and much more. We are sourcing locally to make art materials to respond to the garden – oak gall ink, reed pens, turkey feather quills, and learning how colours were once found and ground to illuminate goat skin parchments. Our bestiary is beginning to bleat and wriggle. Robins, rooks and sparrows. We are experimenting with fleece to lay mulch, retain moisture and prevent erosion. Our archaeological dig has unearthed finds from 300,000 BC. Using homemade charcoal, we drew the school secretary in her Covid-19 mask; we wove a wattle fence and tiny nests with willow and hazel and we are coming to know the names and uses of herbs.


Image courtesy of David Begley, 2021.


Each week I bring a gift from the sea, a small find, to connect us to our Welsh neighbours. Clam shells for palettes. Scallops for bed borders. Sea coal. Vertebrae. Wrack (‘Ewww!’).


We discuss drought, and the cost of shearing versus the price of wool, have learned what daggings are, have made compost, and heard that a cow can drink a bathtub of water per day.



Image courtesy of David Begley, 2021.


Masterpieces are being made by squeal and giggle or cross legged quiet upon the lawn. The children’s hands are dirty. Their classroom is an open field, a wattled rectangle, the feel of a lamb’s ear, the light of the sky and freedom of their imaginations. It’s a wonder to see the children enjoy this ‘work’ through play and experiment.


As we move into summer, our seedlings will soon become flowers, herbs, colours, fruit and tubers, our beans will sprout leaves and gargantuan stalks. So come July, the fantastic beasts the children are painting will have a place to call home.


David Begley 2021


The Monk’s Garden is part of David Begley’s Ancient Connections artist residency in Ferns. Follow the project at www.davidbegley.com and https://www.facebook.com/themonksgarden

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