The Hedge School Cottage opens into a typical welcoming kitchen with an open fire
THE Shannon Estuary Way is a new 207km loop drive off the Wild Atlantic Way. Along this route there are many attractions and important sites where you can step into history and experience another world. Jim O’Farrell of Clarina, who is chairperson of the Newtown Cottage Association talks about his local place which boasts a fascinating story made possible by a strong and active community.
The Sailor’s Haggard monument was unveiled at Newtown, Clarina in 2015. This was dedicated to the memory of all those who fished the waters of the lower Shannon until this activity was no longer permitted by an EU directive in 2006.
In 2006, a ban was placed on drift and draft-net fishing in the lower River Shannon.
“The development of the monument was carried out by a group of local volunteers,” Jim explains.
“When The Sailor’s Haggard was completed, the group, which subsequently became the Newtown Cottage Association, was gifted a derelict site on the opposite side of the road. On this site were the ruins of a building that had formerly been a hedge school, built circa 1750.
Over a two-year period, the site was cleared and the building was restored, once again totally by voluntary effort. It houses a museum and is the venue for a variety of community events.”
The site includes a number of interesting artefacts, including a replica of a river tower with a genuine beacon, an anchor that was dislodged from a ship in a storm, two beautiful stainless steel salmon, crafted locally, and a block of limestone on which is carved a section of the estuary with the most important islands outlined.
“The Hedge School Cottage opens into a typical welcoming kitchen with an open fire, skillets on the crane and a working bellows,” Jim explains.
“The furnishings and utensils, including Willow Pattern crockery, give the visitor a genuine sense of what it was like to live in a cottage like this. The second room houses a museum, which contains artefacts from fishing, farming and schoolroom activities. This section is lovingly curated by two local men. Outside there are many interesting features, such as a boat house, a paved area for dancing, and a beautiful carved garden seat and a bird table, both crafted by local men. There is an old cart with milk churns and a defibrillator housed in a replica telephone kiosk. The lawns are maintained in good order and the flowerbeds are full of colour.”
Speaking about how the cottage will benefit from the development of the Shannon Estuary Way, Jim is confident that it will boost the cottage’s visibility.
“The creation of the Shannon Estuary Way will help to put The Sailor’s Haggard and The Hedge School Cottage on the map and will give them a higher profile. The inclusion of these sites in the itinerary should enhance the enjoyment for tourists in the area. We have already got very positive feedback from visitors. For the discerning tourist travelling on the N69, The Sailor’s Haggard and The Hedge School Cottage could be one of the first places to visit on the Shannon Estuary Way.
"The cottage offers a glimpse into the past of simple country life in the area. Nearby are the ruins Carrigogunnell Castle. Approaching the actual site from Limerick, there is a stunning view of the lower Shannon from the top of Newtown Hill. At the cottage, there is a sense of local pride in a project that grew organically from the community, through great commitment, dedication and hard work.
"There is an ongoing sense of ownership, with members of the Newtown Cottage Association committed to maintaining the cottage and its surroundings and constantly on the alert for ways to enhance the site.”
Speaking about the future of the Hedge School Cottage, Jim is looking forward to bringing people back and returning to the regular pre-pandemic visits.
“Before the Covid restrictions, there were many happy gatherings in the Hedge School Cottage, such as Christmas morning get-togethers, several visits by nursing home residents, educational outings by local schoolchildren, afternoon teas and a rambling house evening. At The Sailor’s Haggard, there was an annual Mass in memory of the fishermen and their families. We look forward to being able to resume this celebration. We took great pride in representing Limerick in the national Pride of Place competition in 2019. We also appreciate the opportunity to be part of the Shannon Estuary Way programme. Networking and sharing of ideas and experience are very valuable.”
The Shannon Estuary Way Destination Development Programme is funded by West Limerick Resources and Clare Local Development Company. The training is led by renowned tourism consultant The Tourism Space.
If you would like to get involved in the programme please visit thetourismspace.com/sew.
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