Description of Druidschool's setup
We have made a new setup for Ireland's Druidschool at our 16 acre (6 hectares) farm near Castlerea in North Roscommon, Ireland. This remote farm is at 500 ft (150m) above sea level and is facing south, the slope of the land falls about 80ft. We have pine forests all around us and two neighbors keep horses and one neighbor keeps cattle. We are less than 30 minutes from Knock and from our hill you can see Croagh Patrick, which in Pagan times was called Cnoc Lugh. We have achieved much but there is always more to do as we plant flowers, set out the vegetable and fruit garden and begin to plant trees. The ground in our farm is poor, having been let go derelict for 20 years so it grows rushes in abundance - black heavy earth over a clay or daub with quartz in sandstone underneath. All the hand-dug drains have collapsed or are silted up and some fields are simply un-walkable. 14 acres are let to a neighbor in exchange for restoration of the rush fields into grassland and he tops the rushes and keeps horses on the land for 10 months of the year, he is highly experienced with a 7 ton digger and many neighbors have told us that it was a great move to have him helping us. The main building is a 200 year old 3 room stone cottage with an extension at back and on top. The walls of the old house are 2ft thick and they are made of stone with earth packing - a pre-famine cottage (there was plenty of food in Ireland at the time of the so called famine). Accommodation for Drui Daltai (student druids) is in six beds set out as three bunks in two rooms with a shower, toilet and wash hand basin. The main room is called the Hemp Hall and was two rooms in the old cottage, this is where we present some of the teachings of Sli an Drui. Our 20sq mt kitchen is also where we eat and it is bright and roomy with hemp/lime putty on the inside of the outside walls. The large upstairs is yet to be converted into a gym, office, hotpress and en-suite bedroom and is currently used as a store... We have lined the walls of the house with hemp/lime putty as it is the best insulator that also allows the walls to breathe. We have underfloor heating throughout the house and this has even been extended to the main workshop. We have no mains electricity supplied to the house as we are off grid with a wind turbine supplying 3Kw through a battery store, controller and inverter. All white goods are A rated and all lighting is low wattage, we do not have a tv or an electric shower or an electric cooker so our demand for electricity is low and so we only need small supply. We have installed a reed bed tertiary waste water treatment that grows Sedge, Reeds, Comfrey, Yellow flag Irises and Willow. We have built a circular high banked ceremonial enclosure of approx 35ft diameter with a 9ft bank that we call the Torc. It is open to the Sunrise at the Equinoxes and we have a central stone-ringed fire. The floor of the Torc is naturally covered in Shamrock or more correctly - red and white clover and even some black medic - these are the three native plants that have three round leaves each. In the next field we have built the first stage of a conjectural reconstruction of a bi-vallate medieval rath based on Cloonfree - the 1270ad Aodh O' Connor Royal Gaelic Palace near Strokestown. Here we hold live weapons tournaments such as archery, javelin, axe and dagger target practice and we pitch our five medieval tents each year for the Lughnasa Warrior Games - 08 winner Peter, 09 winner Tommy, 10 winner Meercat. We have also built a practical compromise bronze age replica Irish sweat house or Teach Allais. This design style is taken from archaeological excavations of a prehistoric sweat house on the N25 at Rathpatrick, Silveroe, Co Kilkenny. The Irish bronze age sweat house is similar to Native American sweat lodges except it has the hot stone pit just to one side of the entrance as opposed to in the middle. We have lined the inside with sheeps wool felt and covered the structure with tarpaulin. Instead of a stone lined plunge pool I have built a stand up shower with privacy in mind. Next to be added is a high earthen bank to surround and enclose the entire setup of sweat house, shower, fire, wood store, stone pile and of course a shelter for shoes, clothing etc. Currently out of action since Dec 2010. Outhouses include my workshop and a drystone un-roofed shed or manger. My workshop is where I make and teach leathercraft as well as maintaining our medieval hard kit. Things I make include one-piece leather shoes such as the Gaelic slipper, hard leather helms, arm, leg and chest armour, bags and belts for Roman, Dark Age, Viking, Norman and or course Irish / Gaelic medieval re-enactors. I have displayed my leather craft work at the National Museum and at Heritage and Interpretive centers throughout Ireland. The old drystone shed was home for up to six cows when this farm was working. It has no roof and the neighbours tell me that it is over 200 years old. It has begun to lean out of shape as the earth between the rocks gets washed out but I am re-pointing the joints with sand and cement and will re-roof it to turn the old cow shed into a Pagan Temple. It is usually very quiet and peaceful at Ireland's Druidschool but nature can sometimes be very loud - especially when the birds declare their territories so loudly. The absence of light pollution allows us incredible views of the night sky and on occasion the amount of stars visible is overwhelming. We do not have the sound of traffic to annoy us but instead we are blessed with regular sightings of wild animals in our fields. Wild deer, badgers, stoat, mink, fox, hare, pheasants, hawks, every type of finch add opportunities for the appreciation of the richness of nature right up to the doors of our home. Con and Niamh Ireland's Druidschool Beltine 2009 updated Dec 2010