Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Behind the Scenes at the Incredible Airfield Estate (PLUS A Chance for Your Family to Join in the Summer Fun!)

Last week I was thrilled to receive a call from Fun.ie to say they’d like to bring us to Airfield Co Dublin, Ireland’s largest working urban farm & gardens to film us for a slot on TV3’s Ireland:AM. It was very easy to find, just off the M50, very near to Dundrum Shopping Centre & about a 10 minute walk from Balally Luas stop. Airfield Estate re-opened its doors in 2014 after an impressive €11m redevelopment and I have a feeling it's somewhere you'd like to have on your radar for the long school holidays ahead. 

I managed a little research online before we went so as I would know what to expect, I was blown away by the history of Airfield Estate. The house was originally bought by Mr Trevor Overend, a Dublin Solicitor, as a summer house in 1894 but when his two daughters, Letitia & Naomi saw it they refused to leave so they sold their city house & moved in permanently. As soon as I saw the house I could see why, it’s magnificent. The Overend sisters were way ahead of their time, they wore trousers, drove cars & even attended the Rolls Royce factory in London where they learned how to maintain their cars. It was unheard of for a woman to do those things back then. I liked them instantly. 

The Overends were a philanthropic family, often giving their time & vast amounts of money to charity. They were instrumental in the setting up of the Children’s Sunshine Home in Dublin, now the LauraLynn Children’s Hospice. 

They also volunteered with the St Johns Ambulance & even made bandages during the war. This work saw one of the sisters awarded an OBE, but she refused to accept it as it was a group effort. (See? Sound!). Information on all of this & several of other charitable activities are on display in the main house. Airfield Estate was registered as a charitable organisation by the Overend sisters in 1974. Today it’s Dublin’s only large working farm open to the public.

Airfield Estate is so engaging for little ones - so much to see & do (& jump off of)

When we arrived at the Estate the car park was full because it was a glorious sunny day. I thought it would be jam packed inside but I was wrong, as it’s over 38 acres there was plenty of room for everyone. We started off with some cold drinks & chats with the lovely Damian from Fun.ie in Market shop & café. You can choose to sit outside or in a wonderfully kitsch greenhouse. CEO Gráinne Kelliher was on hand to greet us at the gates; it was so refreshing to meet someone who is so incredibly passionate about their job. 

We could easily see the great love she has for the Estate as she regaled us with stories, facts & figures on our tour. We started off at the beehives surrounded by fragrant lavender plants to attract the bees; Seamus & Cillian even caught some in jars for a closer look before releasing them.

Airfield Estate - Behind the Scenes filming with Ireland AM

Next it was off to help collect the eggs from the brood of varying breeds of hens, the children had a great laugh. These eggs were then sent to the Restaurant where they are used to create delicious dishes. Right next door to the chickens are some crazy goats, my daughter Aoife’s favourite. Our little ones had a great time running up then rolling down the fairy ring & mound. My son Seamus was so happy to get to not only see the vintage cars in the garage but to actually sit in the Rolls Royce, he was in heaven. There are fab interactive screens with sounds & visuals for children to play with, telling them all about the cars.

Airfield cultivates fruit & vegetable gardens year round; they have a wonderful area for children to learn to pot seeds, inside there’s a toy kitchen & shop to teach children that they can grow their own to use or sell. I thought this was a great idea to get children into that way of thinking from an early age.

My favourite part was the house itself, lovingly restored to its former glory. It’s a very much hands on experience for children who can play on the replica vintage rocking horse or even dress up in the costumes from yesteryear. Again here there are lots of state of the art interactive screens for children to get up close with the history & heritage of the house & the Overend sisters. The sisters were well travelled & done so in style, travelling everywhere first class, women after my own heart. 

Orla was smitten with Blanch the cow - 
giving her neck scratches was probably her favourite part of the day!
A wonderful interactive globe is on display detailing all of the Countries the sisters visited. The views from the house of the immaculate walled garden are stunning. While chatting to the lovely Shauna Morton, Sales, Marketing & Events Manager she advised that they actually use the walled gardens for private events & functions, I know where I want my next birthday party!

At this stage we weren’t even half way on our tour, that’s how much there is to see & do. Oodles to keep children & adults entertained all day. Our children loved the latest addition of the zip wire & the tractor tyres. Then we were off to the pond to see some ducklings, they didn’t want to see us though & hid in the rushes. It was feeding & milking time so we headed to the farm passing by the herd Jersey cows & stopping to have a chat with the donkeys on the way.  It was hilarious to see one very clever pigs stick by the farmer’s side as he fetched a bucket of fresh milk, he knew well he’d get the lion’s share if he stayed at the farmer’s hip.

The farmyard was pristine complete with a milking parlour & dairy kitchen.  There are benches in the milking parlour so visitors can sit & watch, Grainne gave a great talk to the children all about the milking process, my daughter Orla was enthralled. 

We finished our tour with dinner in Overends Restaurant.  The setting was beautiful with ripples from the pond outside reflecting on the wooden ceiling. The children all had pasta with a freshly homemade tomato sauce & I’ve never seen plates of food disappear quite so fast. My husband had the chicken & I had the lamb which was cooked to perfection. Both of our dishes came with vegetables grown in the gardens right outside the window, you can’t get fresher than that! To complete our meal we were brought a selection of desserts; let’s just say I very nearly didn’t get a photo of them.

A Summer Medley is taking place in Airfield on July 12th with a host of activities like, lawn games, fairy trail, print works, and beekeeping talks to name a few, there’ll even be a big brass band. All this for the normal admission price of Adults €10, Children €5, under 3’s are free. Discounted rates are available for families. Our tour was complimentary as it was organised by Fun.ie.  Parking is free on site. You'll find more info on their website HERE. 

Airfield Estate gets big thumbs up from our family & we most definitely will be back as they hold events for Halloween & Christmas; we will attend one of these & let you know all about it. If you & your family would like to get the chance to film a summer family fun day at a mystery location somewhere in Ireland then register your interest HERE, go on do it!

Our Airfield Estate segment will be aired on Ireland:AM in the coming week, keep an eye on my twitter @stonetravel4 or Facebook: Stone Travel for updates. I just pray to God I don’t look a state!

The girls gorgeous vintage party dresses 
were supplied by rockfrocks.com 
available online or in store in Athy.

No comments: