Cruising down the river

My dream holiday would be a world tour of all the great gardens known to mankind. A heavenly but lonesome trip because none of my nearest and dearest would be there to share the experience. The compromise is the family holiday that tries to please everyone a little bit. This year a Shannon River Cruise was considered a good contender to satisfy both broody teenagers and their pesky parents.

Cruising down the scenic river past grazing horses and cows with a cool breeze on a warm day was certainly very relaxing. With great restaurants and bars, run by friendly locals, along the way. No electricity when the boat was stationery meant balmy evenings spent playing noisy quizzes that everyone enjoyed. The nearest I got to a Garden Centre was the rear view of one that hugged the bank of the river Suck, probably called Riverside but I’ll never know. Several of the various villages and towns mentioned a garden worth visiting but the mooring sites were just too busy for our inexperience to brave. Picture bumper cars but with boats and that was us trying to tie up our modest cruiser.

In the absence of a garden to lose myself in, I always turn to public places for solace. My tidy towns hat is always in the suitcase and seeing what other communities have done is very enlightening. The town of Mountshannon in County Clare was my holiday garden highlight. It was very clean and well kept, beautifully planted with lots of strategically placed seating showing off all its wonderful river scenes. It rightly skimped on the planted anchors and nautical relics, leaving the colourful boats in the harbour to speak for themselves.

The keystone of the arch leading into the public park was a heart felt dedication to a deceased local councillor with the words “It symbolises his unwavering belief in Community Spirit”. This little town oozed just that. Yes the people were friendly but it was the feel of the place that said it all. The park was imaginative and obviously designed for a community to use. A large paved area in the middle of a grassy knoll, a living willow circle containing a picnic area and bark chips with wooden play equipment. If that wasn’t enough a unique maze made of stone-walling incorporating lots of planting, several sculptures and plaques giving historical information. Seating areas and vibrant flower-beds. Even that old chestnut, farm machinery, looked the part lined up against a wall as if ready for use. It was all very impressive.

On the day we were there remnants of Happy Birthday bunting fluttered in the wind from the entry gates and you could almost picture a group of laughing children, having fun while Mammy’s, Aunties and Grannies looked on. My lot played hide and seek, although they would be extremely embarrassed to admit it, maybe it was cabin fever or perhaps the community spirit in Mountshannon is just infectious.

Written 19th June 2005

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