The Ripple Effect of Altruism for Nature.
We are delighted that the Ripple project in Ballina has won the 2023 New European Bauhaus Award in its category Reconnecting with Nature. Well done to all! The project is celebrated as a hugely collaborative process of working together for sustainability and beauty.
‘This isn’t for us, this is for the generation behind us. Unfortunately, many of the generations before us had it though, it wasn’t their priority to be thinking of nature or the environment. We have the opportunity now, so we are sowing the seeds for the future.’ Mark McAndrew on RTE interview
‘Basically its an unfolding dream, constantly changing with the seasons. I believe every housing estate in Ireland should have a nice garden like this.’ Sean O’Cleirign RTE Interview
The Ripple Project’s aim was to create a process where we could co-create place projects with communities in ways that look at our relationships, our perceptions and narratives around our shared space in relation to climate change and biodiversity loss.
Over the course of a year, in 2022, the Ripple Project Team looked in particular at the role of water in our communities.
In a way we are
building on the work of the strategy document ‘Ballina Irelands Greenest Town’
and the work of the Greenhills Estate community group and biodiversity group.
In this context, with a modest design and build budget from Creative Ireland, Climate Action Fund, the Ripple Project Team created a consultation process to develop ideas with the community for co-design place project in Green Hills Estate, Ballina, Mayo.
For the first half of the process, a robust consultation process delivered sixteen place ideas co-created with the communities on site. A round of voting was had to filter a shortlist to two ideas – an Eco Bus stop and ‘Paradise Garden’.
Once these two ideas were shortlisted, the Ripple Team tendered the project for a landscape architecture practice to develop. The brief included designs to detail concepts for final agreements and from there to tender and project manage the build of the chosen intervention. I was delighted to be appointed as the landscape architect for this project.
The community and biodiversity group of Greenhills Estate have given nature space to go on its own journey of healing and diversification. And it’s clear that there has been a great gain for nature. The riparian edge has also been allowed to rewild along the Brosna River which flows into the Moy River. The community are recording what species are returning to the habitat over time.
So, in parallel with co-facilitating the community developing detailed ideas for ‘Paradise Garden’
I wanted the concept to ripple out from this beautiful altruism for nature the community engages in. Since the Ripple project aim was looking primarily at community perspectives and interaction with water in relation to climate change, I wanted water to be the source point of the design.
The community had chosen the location of where the new ‘Paradise Garden’ should go and I was curious as to what was going on with the water on here at this chosen site, in Greenhills Estate, were there well source points? What was the water table? How was the water behaving? Since we had no funding for a practicing engineer, I appointed water diviner Paddy Murphy to share his wisdom with me. He found two well sources, one in particular for which he said ‘a farmer would give his left arm for’ because of the volume of water there. This strongest source point I chose as the location for the ‘Wishing Well’ of the garden. All the other elements would ripple out from this source point.
As a nature-based landscape architect, I am becoming increasingly aware of the UN’s acknowledgement of the wisdom of indigenous cultures understanding the importance of the land, as sacred, along with the sun and of course, water. We were no exception in Eire, our wells and springs were understood as sacred and life-giving. So for this garden, water subtly flows to the ‘wishing well’ and from it to the ‘bog/rain’ garden area. We didn’t have any engineering work here. We carefully set out the levels and worked with the earth we had on-site, artistically creating subtle mounds and drops to the existing levels to raise awareness of the movement and presence of water and changing water patterns. In this, the contractor Tony Munnelly, Kilcross Construction and his team did excellent and precise levelling work, making the beautiful limestone ‘well’ water feature connect perfectly with the lay of the land around it. We planted a two-year-old hawthorn tree beside the ‘well’. Declan Shaw, who did the planting, hand-picked a tree with perfect character for this site.
Images are from Oldhead Wood, a rare and precious Atlantic temperate rainforest in Mayo. + The community planting acorns on our handover day. On a visit in July 2023 we see 62 out of 100 acorns have germinated. Images © Roisin Byrne Nature-Based Landscape Architecture + The Ripple Team
The community were keen on food sovereignty and benefits for nature, we developed designs where we would create a place to gather, hang out, enjoy nature, and sometimes work with nature to grow food. Martin Connor, ABC of Gardening, built the gorgeous raised beds and tree nursery. With the community in December 2022, we handed over the garden and planted acorns with the children of the community. These are acorns from Oldhead temperate rainforest, Mayo.  The Ripple Team & I had gathered these precious acorns when they fell earlier in the year. Oldhead is a living example of the type of temperate woodlands which once covered much of Eire. Such habitats are said to be among our richest in terms of diversity, with an abundance of lichen, mosses, liverworts, and fungi.
We had also planted an orchard of eight apples from the Irish Seed Savers Association These circled the garden area, with multiple species of fruit bushes forming the edge between the ‘outside and inside’.
To offer places which are beautiful as places to stop and sit, I created indicative designs for Oak wood sculptural interactive elements to the garden. The first of these is a mancala ‘seat’, the second a set of three pieces to observe water movement, and the third is a seat to relate to the ‘well’ the words ‘3 Wishes, One wish for me, one for my community & one for nature’ is carved into this seat.
These oak elements are a bow to the community’s action for nature. They offer places of pause, gathering, celebration and connection.
Images + details of wooden sculpture by Alan Meredith Studio. Original indicative design © Roisin Byrne Nature Based Landscape Architecture images © Victoria Mitryakova + Roisin Byrne Nature Based Landscape Architecture
Alan Meredith Studio, did a superb artistic interpretation of these ideas. Alan came out to the site and we discussed the ideas and site constraints. Alan decided to work with the levels on the ground, which were very sloped towards the ‘well’. He hand-picked the oak, finding a perfectly naturally curved piece to precisely respond to the ‘well’. His is outstanding work.
Since handing over the garden area the community have planted more apple trees, sown more wildflowers and food.
This is a public open space, so Mayo County Council have been supportive from the outset. We can think of these gardens as open spaces for everyone living and visiting the Greenhills Estate. We wish the community and Mayo County Council a long and co-beneficial relationship of stewardship for this very special place. I know for the community, this is a continuum of many altruistic acts for nature, just what our world needs right now.
Much gratitude to the Creative Ireland Climate Action Fund, and the Ripple Team for appointing me on the project.
The community of Greenhills Estate are strongly active and indeed has gathered over 300 signatures for new street trees to be planted to reinstate removed street trees. In addition, the biodiversity group, on Greenhills Estate are very proactive and has provided interventions such as bat boxes and changes in land management, where significant areas of Greenspace are allowed to rewild. The biodiversity data centre has stated we do not need to sow new seeds but rather let the existing seed bank emerge.  The community have planted many native Irish trees, in the rewilding areas and along the riparian edge of the Brosna River.
These changes in land management have resulted in a rich diversity of naturally occurring wild Flora such as ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) and knapweed (Centaurea nigra).
Knapweed was found to be abundant during on-site visits during the late summer of 2022. The plant was enjoyed by several species of Bumblebees.
Knapweed is said to be very important for the Great Yellow Bumblebee, Ireland’s rarest Bumblebee, which is said to be in its most stable population on The Mullet Peninsula in Mayo. 
Outline of Team and Key Participants, The core team involved in Ripple are:
UCD Centre for Irish Towns:
Orla Murphy, Assistant Professor, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, Ripple Lead, Investigator, and co-director of UCD Centre for Irish Towns
Dr Sarah Cotterill, Assistant Professor, UCD School of Civil Engineering
Dr Philip Crowe, Assistant Professor, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy & School of Civil Engineering and co-director of UCD Centre for Irish Towns
Rebecca O’Malley, Ripple Project Coordinator, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy.
Ballina Green Towns
Mark Duffy, Mayo County Council, and co-founder of Ballina Green Town.
Kevin Loftus, architect and co-founder of ACT Studio, co-founder of Ballina Green Town.
Ríonach Ní Néill, artist and creative practitioner with over 20-years of experience in socially engaged arts practice and community education.
Key Partners and Participants:
Residents of Greenhills Estate Ballina, especially the Residents Association and Biodiversity Group
Mayo County Council
Roisin Byrne, Nature-Based Landscape Architect
Martin McGarrigle, Ecologist, and educator
ABC of Gardening
Alan Meredith Studio
 The Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) is in decline across Europe, with populations falling by more than 30% over the past 10 years. In Ireland, the Great Yellow Bumblebee was never common, but it was found across the island prior to 1960. With the large-scale replacement of hay meadows by silage, the flower-rich areas this bee needs have largely disappeared from the Irish landscape. It is now found only on the west coast, primarily on floral-rich coastal grasslands, such as machair. It is listed as Endangered in the Irish Regional Red List of Bees (2006) and as Vulnerable in the European Red List of Bees (2014). Source https://pollinators.ie/helping-endangered-pollinators/great-yellow-bumblebee/