Dunmore Gardens is a little-known gem of tranquility on the outskirts of Derry.
The historic house’s picture-perfect, two-acre walled gardens - nestled amid ancient woodland on the Donegal-Derry border at Carrigans – hosts its annual charity Open Day this Sunday.
The impressive gardens are the life’s work of local man Andy Donnell and his father and uncle before him.
Andy, however, is modest when asked about his skills: “Sure, there’s nothing to gardening,” he laughs while standing in the shadow of the magnificent period home.
At 79-years-old, Andy, who lives at Braehead Road in Derry, has been tending the grounds around Dunmore for more than fifty years.
Luckily, his friend Noel Burke is on-hand to recognise his labour of love.
“It’s all hand weeded - between every slate and stone. Take a walk around the grounds. There’s some work in that,” Noel points out.
Andy has just undergone a hip replacement and says he can now work unhindered in the gardens.
“I get help from a young man whose on a gap year from university and passes the time with me in the garden.
“He’s a great worker. He knows what to do without telling him.” enthuses Andy. “I used to work with his grandfather years ago,” he adds.
Andy took up the mantle of tending to Dunmore Gardens in 1968 when his father, Sam, died suddenly. His father had been working at Dunmore since Andy was born in 1940.
“It was in 1968 that Sir John McFarland asked me if I could pop up in my spare time. I’ve been here ever since,” says Andy.
Dunmore House and Gardens is now a popular countryside wedding and events venue. Located just five miles from the city of Derry, the entrance to Dunmore is marked by two large stones on the Derry side of Carrigans village. The gardens are part of the Donegal Garden Trail.
Dunmore Gardens Charity Open Day is this Sunday, June 23, from 2pm. Admission is €3 and all donations will go to Killea Parish Church. Tea, coffee and home-baked treats will be served in the pavilion.
For more information, visit dunmoregardens.ie