The Office of Public Works (OPW) recently welcomed the news that eight OPW parks will receive the Green Flag Award for 2018. The Green Flag Awards, administered by An Taisce in the Republic of Ireland, recognise and encourage the provision of good quality parks and green spaces that are managed in environmentally sustainable ways. The awards are marked on eight criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability and community involvement.

St. Stephen’s Green Park, Castletown Demesne, Derrynane Historic Park, Garinish Island, Grangegorman Military Cemetery, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, the Iveagh Gardens and the Phoenix Park will be awarded the Green Flag at a ceremony in Castletown House today.

In addition to the Green Flag award, the Irish National War Memorial Gardens have been awarded Green Heritage Site Accreditation. This accreditation is only awarded to green spaces that are managed to Green Flag Award standards and that also actively understand, identify, manage and promote the elements of their heritage that make that site unique. Attaining Green Heritage Site Accreditation is an excellent attraction for tourists as research indicates that people will make special trips to award-winning sites. Furthermore, the Green Flag Award and Green Heritage Site Accreditation is a great catalyst for delivering improvement and engaging with the needs and expectations of visitors.

Maurice Buckley, Chairman, Office of Public Works said “I am delighted that the Office of Public Works has been awarded these flags for such wonderfully diverse parks. Particular congratulations are due to the Irish National War Memorial Gardens which have also attained Green Heritage Site Accreditation. The OPW places great importance on the sustainable management and conservation of the State’s Heritage sites, and the Green Flag Awards scheme is a wonderful way of recognising and celebrating these high standards.  These Green Flag Awards come on top of the recent win by the Phoenix Park of the prestigious Gold Award in the inaugural International Large Urban Parks Awards organised by World Urban Parks based in Canada. These awards recognise the quality of Parks across the globe, the skills of the people who manage them and the value they bring to the cities they serve”.

This year also marks the initial introduction of the Green Flag Community Award Scheme into Ireland, allowing sites managed by volunteers and community groups to participate for the first time. By providing community green spaces with access to Green Flag Award best practice this will empower community groups to improve their local community and environment.

The Green Flag Award Scheme supports best practice management of parks and green spaces across England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, and has been running in Ireland since its pilot in 2015.

Notes on the Individual Parks:

St. Stephen’s Green
Located in the heart of Dublin City, St. Stephen’s Green Park is Ireland’s premier Victorian Square.  At just under 10 hectares in size, the ‘Green’, as it known to all Dubliners, is enjoyed by millions of visitors annually, yet it is also valued for its sense of peace and tranquillity in the centre of an urban metropolis.

Today’s layout is credited to Lord Ardilaun, of the Guinness Brewery Family, who introduced the St Stephen’s Green Act 1877 and set about its re-design to include lakes, fountains, waterfall, lodge, walks and plantations.

The Office of Public Works has been responsible for the conservation and management of the Green for the last 135 years and continues to conserve and present this wonderful Victorian park for today’s citizens. The children’s play park, ‘Garden for the Blind’, floral displays, herbaceous borders, lime walk and extensive tree and shrub plantings make for a pleasuring of the senses.

Seasonal events such as historical re-enactments, family and tree days, and lunchtime musical performances in the bandstand not only show off the site’s flora and fauna but the strong, cohesive force of an urban landscape bringing together a local community and visitors from further afield. The Green has truly national and international appeal.

Castletown Demesne
Castletown Demesne is the designed landscape that surrounds Castletown House. It is an area of approximately 90 hectares consisting largely of a mixture of grassland and woodland on the outskirts of Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

Castletown House was built for the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, between 1722 and 1729. Castletown House was Ireland’s first house built in the Palladian style.

The eighteenth century Castletown landscape has survived remarkably well and it is still possible to stroll along Lady Louisa’s river Liffey walks and see the Temple and the remains of the Bathing House. The Meadow in front of the house is a semi-natural meadow and flowers from February – October, which hosts many wildflowers including pyramidal orchid and lady’s bedstraw and provides an important habitat for butterflies and bees from very early spring to autumn. The parklands and river walks are open every day throughout the year.

Many events take place in Castletown Demesne every year, including National Dawn Chorus Day, National Drawing Day, Farmers’ Market and the host of cultural and musical events which are held in Castletown House.

Derrynane House and Historic Park
Derrynane House, situated on the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula at Caherdaniel in County Kerry, is the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), lawyer, politician, statesman, and one of the great figures in modern Irish history.

Derrynane was transferred to the state in 1964 and most of the old demesne is now included in Derrynane National Historic Park, an area of approximately 120 hectares managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). The lands are rich in natural and cultural heritage, with a unique combination of archaeological, architectural, horticultural, botanical and ecological features.

Derrynane National Historic Park has 1.5km of shoreline with sand dunes and beaches, including a Blue Flag beach. The dunes contain rare animal and plant species including Natterjack Toads and the Kerry Lily, as well as a suite of native orchid species.

There are a variety of trails throughout the grounds, including a section of the Kerry Way, a Seashore Nature Trail and a Mass Path.

The gardens have a plant collection of great significance and endangered plants from South America have been established as part of the National Botanical Collection in partnership with the Royal Edinburgh Botanic Garden.

The surrounding area is rich in archaeological sites and the park itself contains an Ogham stone, a small ring fort, souterrains, a Mass Rock and the ruins of Ahamore Abbey, on Abbey Island (dating to 10th Century).

The property is very family friendly and has great tourism value and potential. Derrynane House and National Historic Park are a Discovery Point on Failte Ireland’s highly successful Wild Atlantic Way route.

Garinish Island
Located in the sheltered harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, Ilnacullin/Garinish Island is a small island (15 hectares) known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden of rare beauty. The gardens of Ilnacullin (Island of the Holly) owe their existence to the creative partnership of John Annan Bryce and Harold Ainsworth Peto over a century ago.

Bequeathed to the Irish people in 1953 and managed by the OPW, Garinish Island (Ilnacullin) is a designed historic garden of international significance, with a world-renowned plant collection and unique architectural heritage. Much of the plant collection post-dates the original creation of the gardens and can be attributed to Murdo McKenzie and Roland Bryce.

The property is a destination for local, national and international visitors. In excess of 65,000 people visit Garinish Island annually and enjoy its gardens and also Bryce House, which was fully restored and opened to the public in 2015.

The gardens are extensive, incorporating a range of features e.g. annual bedding, herbaceous borders, heather banks, hedging, shrubberies, tree plantations, bog garden, fern garden, ponds, glades, lawn and walled gardens.

Grangegorman Military Cemetery
Ireland’s largest Military Cemetery, Grangegorman Military Cemetery, was opened in 1876 to serve as a graveyard for the soldiers and their families, of what was then Marlborough Barracks (now McKee Barracks).

Grangegorman Military Cemetery is an oasis of peace and tranquillity, a near picture perfect Victorian garden cemetery. The mature tree collection of over twenty-six species in this small site adds to its solemn and reflective atmosphere. From mature copper beech to coastal redwoods, the trees stand like guardians throughout the grounds.

Grangegorman Military Cemetery contains the graves of soldiers who served in the Crimean War 1854-1856, World War I 1914-1918, World War II 1937-1945, War of Independence 1919-1921 and the Easter Rising 1916. The Graveyard contains six hundred military burials, including a memorial to the Unknown Soldier and 140 servicemen that lost their lives with the sinking of the R.M.S Leinster mail boat off the coast of Dublin.

Irish National War Memorial Gardens
These gardens are one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe. They are dedicated to the memory of 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the 1914 – 1918 war. The names of all the soldiers are contained in the beautifully illustrated Harry Clarke manuscripts in the granite book rooms in the gardens.

The gardens are not only a place of remembrance but are also of great architectural interest and beauty. They are one of four gardens in this country designed by the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) (the others being Heywood Gardens, Lambay Island, and those in Howth Castle).

Sunken rose gardens, herbaceous borders and extensive tree planting make for an enjoyable visit to the gardens in any season.

The Iveagh Gardens
The Iveagh Gardens are among the finest and least known of Dublin’s parks and gardens. They were designed by Ninian Niven, in 1865, as an intermediate design between the ‘French Formal’ and the ‘English Landscape’ styles. They demonstrated the artistic skills of the Landscape Architect of the mid 19th century and display a unique collection of landscape features which include Rustic Grotto’s and Cascade, sunken formal panels of lawn with Fountain Centre Pieces, Wilderness, Woodlands, Maze, Rosarium, American Garden, Archery Grounds, Rockeries and Rooteries.

The conservation and restoration of the Gardens commenced in 1995 and to date, most of the features have been restored, for example, the Maze in Box hedging with a Sundial as a centrer piece. The recently restored Cascade and exotic tree ferns all help to create a sense of wonder in the ‘Secret Garden’. The pre-1860s rose varieties add an extra dimension to the Victorian Rosarium.

Phoenix Park
The Phoenix Park at 707 hectares is one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European capital city. The Park was established in 1662 as a Royal Deer Park by James Butler, Duke of Ormond, on behalf of King Charles II. The Park is located 2.5km west of Dublin City, is bounded by a stonewall 11km in length and has 22kms of roads.

The Park represents a unique natural and cultural landscape that is both a historic park and a city park and which provides a setting for a range of activities and amenities and acts as a location for a number of important public institutions and residences. As a natural and built historic park, enclosed over 300 years ago by a demesne wall, The Phoenix Park is unique in Ireland.

The Park has been managed by the OPW as a National Historic Park since it was so designated in 1986. The conservation and management of the park are guided by the Florence Charter on historic gardens as set out by ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites).