Wonderful legacy of a 'domestic goddess'
The Green Barn, the brainchild of the late Margaret Browne, is a joy to visit, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan
IN the last three years of her life, Margaret Browne was absorbed, with her usual incredible determination and fighting spirit, in the setting up of her Green Barn garden centre, lifestyle store and cafe bistro on the N25 between Youghal and Killeagh in east Cork. It opened in autumn 2007.
Margaret was never one to take things easy. She worked incredibly hard throughout her life, achieving tremendous success in anything she touched.
She first came to prominence about 20 years ago when she won the Calor Gas Housewife of the Year competition whilst running her Ballymakeigh Country House guesthouse and farm along with her husband Michael. Tourists from all over the world went home from there with happy memories of a real Irish experience.
Margaret had a smile that lit up a room and she was always a presence. A former nurse and Euro-toque chef, she would have been best known in recent years through her eloquent, humorous and nostalgic contributions on RTE's Mooney Show, as 'Mooney's domestic goddess'.
With her lyrical and distinctive voice, she shared recipes from Ballymakeigh House, stories and lore from her childhood days in Kanturk, tales of her visit to the Hope Foundation's orphanage and hospital in Calcutta, as well as details of her final battle with ovarian cancer. Her last broadcast, just days before she died on St Patrick's Day this year, made compulsive listening.
The Green Barn, located in what had been Margaret and Michael's equestrian centre, has 20,000sq ft of glorious shopping and gardening opportunities.
The lifestyle store is 10,000sq ft in size. To the side is another 10,000sq ft of four-star garden centre, with a large cafe bistro adjacent on the grounds.
Not only has it added a new dimension to shopping in Youghal, but it is a truly excellent place to combine shopping with a relaxed lunch followed by a stroll around the garden centre.
Margaret, of course, is greatly missed, but the Green Barn is in the capable hands of her husband Michael, son Michael Junior and his wife Nessa, who now does all the buying.
The lifestyle store is a virtual Aladdin's cave of colourful goodies and gifts in an extensive kitchen section full of baking and cooking gadgets, Foxford throws, giant willow baskets, lamps, gorgeous French and Irish artisan soaps, and a huge range of products by a great selection of top designers. And that's not to mention Margaret Browne's recipe range of jams and marmalades, made with only natural fruit and sugar, as well, of course, as Margaret's cookery book Through My Kitchen Window with lots of lovely old-style recipes
It also has dining and occasional furniture and pretty furniture and toys for children. There is a full range of Port West clothing, Mad 4 hats, and hand-crafted knitted and felt hats and scarves by Patsy Flood O'Connor, made in Ireland. It has a great range of greeting cards, including those from the Glen Gallery in Sligo.
The covered garden centre achieved four-star status this year from Bord Bia and is Cork's only four-star garden centre. Here during the autumn, the Green Barn will be holding lectures and seminars on gardening each Saturday and Sunday at 3pm, covering coastal gardening, autumn hedging and trees, lawn care, spring bulbs, composting and soil preparation.
Each Saturday morning, enthusiastic gardeners of the future assemble at the kids' Mucky Fingers Club -- you can't start them too young-- where they get the opportunity to see for themselves how things grow and develop.
Mucky Fingers this year will be covering potato-print T-shirts, making a scarecrow, decorating a pot for spring bulbs, halloween pumpkin decorating and making Christmas decorations.
As well as a huge range of trees, shrubs, plants and perennials, the garden centre stocks a big range of herbs.
The latest excitement at Green Barn is the new farmers' market, which kicked off recently with great success, drawing a big crowd. The market will run weekly each Friday from 10am to 2pm. It is a covered outdoor market and there is loads of free parking.
Stalls include Declan Ryan's arbutus artisan breads, Dan Ahern's organic chicken, beef, lamb, eggs and turkeys; Noreen Conroy's Woodside Farm free-range pork and bacon products, Thomas Baldwin's ice cream from Knockanore, locally grown fruit, vegetables and honey from Ballycurraginny Farm and Magpie Cottage Dairy's goat's cheese and jams.
There will be fresh fish from Yawl Bay Seafood; Oonagh Poynton's coffee trailer with preserves, pate and cakes; fresh country flowers and apple juice from the Little Apple Company; Simon Mould's Volcano woodfired pizzas; Irish and European cheeses from Mark; the Crepe Man's crepes; Belgian waffles and O'Flynn's gourmet sausage sandwiches; Maura Seward's cupcakes; Mary Delaney's hen and duck eggs and much, much more.
After checking out all the stalls, you can then take yourself over to the cafe and bistro. Tadgh Foley, who is very well known on the Cork hospitality scene, is the new manager here. You can either kick start the day anytime with an all-day breakfast, have morning coffee or a full lunch, with dishes such as lamb chops with garlic and herbs, served with a red wine jus, or maybe fresh fish of the day or a smoked salmon sandwich.
In the autumn too, there will be a series of cookery demonstrations. They also have a kiddies' colouring area to keep children entertained.
The Green Barn is perfect for group outings. It has a private function room for groups and special occasions with lovely views out over the lawns -- and they also do a really great Sunday lunch.
Green Barn Garden Centre, Lifestyle Store & Cafe Bistro, Inchiquin, Killeagh,
Tel: (024) 90166