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Digging for victory... Castlecaulfield is growing in community spirit during coronavirus lockdown


Vegetable grower Victor Western

Vegetable grower Victor Western

Ciaran, Patrick and Gearoid McDonnell

Ciaran, Patrick and Gearoid McDonnell

Victor’s back garden

Victor’s back garden

Jean Reid, secretary of the Castlecaulfied Horticultural Society

Jean Reid, secretary of the Castlecaulfied Horticultural Society

Vegetable grower Victor Western

At this time of the year everything in one Co Tyrone village should be coming up roses.

Instead, Castlecaulfield will have everything coming up vegetables as the local horticultural society turn their green-fingered attentions away from winning an Ulster in Bloom crown towards providing a bumper crop of home grown produce to be shared by the community.

The society has a big reputation to maintain and even though success with floral displays won't be happening this year, the members are still determined to give the community something to enjoy.

Last year Castlecaulfield Horticultural Society picked up a gold Champion of Champions award at the Royal Horticultural Society's Britain in Bloom ceremony in London. The villagers have also been honoured with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in the past.

Jean Reid is secretary of the society and she said all the members are proud of their efforts so far.

"We're naturally disappointed not to be having a go at winning the Ulster in Bloom title this year as all that has been cancelled, but we didn't want to waste the year completely.

"Our own show which was scheduled for August has also been cancelled. That's why, as a group, we've decided to go a different route.

"We would obviously struggle to get the village looking as good as it did last year with all the issues over social distancing. Instead all of the members are working away on their own to do what they can," she said.

"This year was going to be a very big one for us as a community. The Twelfth of July parade was due in the village and it was scheduled to be televised so we had planned to make sure everything was going to look as good as it could.

"That's not going to happen now which is a shame, but we're still going to be keeping busy.

"We're all so proud of the efforts we've put in to trying to make this happen," she said.

Volunteers are making it as easy as possible for residents to enjoy a little greenery while staying home by sowing microgreens in pots and dropping them off on doorsteps. They are also filling the village hanging baskets with herbs and tumbling tomatoes.

While there's not much to show for the efforts of the members just yet, Jean's partner and society volunteer Victor Western said that by the end of the summer there should be plenty to harvest.

"We're a horticultural society so we've always tried to grow vegetables alongside the flowers and preparing for competitions," he said.

"But this year everything has ground to a halt. There will be no Ulster in Bloom competitions or Britain in Bloom titles.

"Instead we've decided to harness the skills we have as a group to try something different. The society is locked down for now, but everyone is working away on their own to grow as much as possible now that the floral displays have had to take a back seat.

"Instead we're looking at growing carrots, peas, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and potatoes - basically anything edible we can get the seeds for.

"We'd expect the potatoes to be ready in July with the rest to follow at the end of the summer," he said. "There's a real community spirit even though we're not together.

"We have allotments and a walled garden to look after so a couple of members are tending to that, but the rest of us are just working on our own, growing what we can. When it's all ready it'll be there to share around the community."

While they may not win any prizes this year, the past success of the talented residents should ensure there'll plenty to feast on come August.

Belfast Telegraph