RTE’s Nationwide to focus on Offaly heritage projects
RTE’s Nationwide will shine a spotlight on three unique heritage projects in Offaly in a programme which is due to air in early March.
A team from the popular RTE 1 programme spent the day in Offaly on Wednesday of last week visiting Acres Folly in Tullamore, Kinnitty Suspension Bridge, Glosters Arch in Birr and the ‘God in a Bottle’ project.
Coordinator of the projects and senior executive architect with Offaly County Council, Rachel McKenna, said Offaly is “very fortunate to have a remarkable range of folly types” and the visit of the Nationwide Team came about as a result of the close collaboration of the Council with Creative Ireland.
“Gloster Arch dates back to the 1700’s and it is remarkable to even consider that we could have something dating back so far in county Offaly,” says Rachel, who is keen to acknowledge the wide range of financial, and other supports, that have been provided by organisations like the Follies Trust; Creative Ireland, Apollo Foundation; Historical Structures Fund and the Urban Regeneration Development Fund, among others, to the various restoration projects. She also points out that “owner funding” has been a feature of a number of the restoration projects which were located in private houses.
Acres Folly, which is located in a one-acre garden to the rear of Acres’ Hall in Tullamore was “completely derelict” according to Rachel McKenna, before restoration work began, with the roof completely gone and just a few rotten floor joists remaining.
Among the repair works carried out were the installation of a new internal staircase and major works to consolidate the building structurally and bring it back into use as a managed attraction in the ownership of the Council.
Kinnitty Suspension Bridge, which was also visited by the Nationwide team, is one of only two such structures in Offaly and dates from around 1840. It was overgrown with dense laurels and vegetation before it was cleared by Coillte for restoration. The route of the bridge is interlinked with the new Slieve Bloom Mountain Bike Trail and is a key visual attraction in the area.
Rachel McKenna says the projects visited by the Nationwide team are “very important” from the perspective of keeping many traditional skills and craft techniques alive “which would otherwise be lost” and are also provide key employment opportunities in rural areas.