Cloughjordan: Fantastic Ecovillage & Where to Find It

Published by Eric Maher on

29th March 2017

Easter Rising patriot and Cloughjordan native, Thomas MacDonagh, once referred to his home town as “the calm of middle country.” The village does indeed hold that noble air of an enchanted gem of a rural backwater, hidden away in unspoilt tranquility and apathetic towards the trials and tribulations of all the vices of modern times.

That is not to say a boisterous and involved community spirit isn’t active in these parts. Yearly art, sport, music and food festivals are held each summer in various venues around the village. Cultivate’s annual Feeding Ourselves festival (which takes place on April 8th and 9th. Click here to find out more) has continued to grow in popularity and, up until recently, Cloughtoberfest celebrated gypsy jazz and Irish craft brewing in October – A hipster’s paradise! The village also won the green community award over three consecutive years.

It shouldn’t be any wonder that Cloughjordan has become something of an Environmental Mecca with Ireland’s first eco-village stretching its roots into the Tipperary countryside.

Labyrinth at Cloughjordan

Ahead of it’s time and going against the grain in an Irish context, the village and project has a touch of magic and charm about it with many of the visitors and new residence feel like entering a new world, devoid of the stresses and complications of modern life. A quick hop on a train at Dublin Heuston’s 9 and 3/4 Platform and you are transported to Tipperary’s Hogwarts.

Build it and they will come.

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overview of eco-village

Having purchased land in 2005, community members set about building a community with a low impact way of life. Their efforts entered a tangible reality in 2009 when work began on the project. An area was designated for growing trees and producing fruit and vegetables for the village. An education and enterprise centre was to be set and a car sharing scheme along with a local train station ensured the carbon footprint would remain low. The houses built were to be of the highest standard and remarkably energy efficient. Almost 10% of all Ireland’s A-Rated energy efficient houses are based here.

The community boasts:

  • More than 100 residents in high performance green homes
  • 129 energy efficient homes
  • A solar- and wood-powered community heating system
  • 50 acres of land for allotments, farming and woodland
  • A green enterprise centre and hi-spec broadband with a commitment to education and training
  • An eco-hostel for visitors and an openness to external researchers
  • A community farm

Founding member Iva Pocock stated what they aimed to do. “The inspiration behind the idea of the eco-village was that we would have access to land for growing food. By growing your own food and eating locally, you can reduce your ecological footprint significantly. We are the future developers. Rather than money going to a private developer, it will be pumped back into the community.” The owners are entrusted with the responsibility of being eco-developers and own a share of the land-bank.

The founding members’ plan and ethos has been clear from the very beginning and, over the past 8 years, Cloughjordan has moved from strength to strength. But what has stopped this wondrous eco-village collapsing into the same category as a failed hippy commune of 1960s Britain?

Moving from Ownership to Guardianship

Image result for cloughjordan picturesThe project maintained its substance, responsibility and integrity since the idea was conceived all the way back in the last millenium-1999. They see themselves as responsible for their environment and its future. Members adopted the idea of shared purposes and principles: shared out responsibilities. Since then, members have adopted a revolutionary organisational system which gives maximum autonomy to all participants. It represents a shift towards the new paradigm of self-organising adaptive systems instead of command-and-control ways of organising. It is similar- and this analogy may sound crude but commends the community’s efforts- the effective workings of an ant colony. Everybody is independent but all play their part in progressing the village further.

The decision making process is not just a simple democratic show of hands where those in the minority are excluded. A consensus decision making policy works to include all views and opinions. As a result the community spirit and environment has grown into something we might have seen in the idyllic village in Midsomer Murder or Sandford in Hot Fuzz– just without an unusually high murder rate or a villainous tidy towns committee.

Every weekend there is a donation-based tour of the village and an action packed event guide you can find by clicking here. See below for key milestones and a short video on a day in Cloughjordan.

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locals working the land

Key milestones

  • 1999 Formation of Sustainable Projects Ireland. Prospectus launched to attract members
  • 2002 Identification of Cloughjordan as the possible location of the Ecovillage
  • May 2003 First in a series of town hall meetings with residents of Cloughjordan
  • 2003 Ecological Charter completed and agreed by membership
  • 2003-2004 Drafting of the Master Plan and other key documents
  • June 2004 Submission of application for planning
  • 2005 Grant of Outline Planning Permission
  • 2005 Purchase of the 67 acre site
  • 2006 Securing of loan finance for infrastructure works
  • 2007 Commencement of infrastructure works
  • 2007 EU Concerto Grant for Energy Centre
  • 2008 Completion of infrastructure works
  • Spring 2009 Launch of the house build phase
  • Christmas 2009 First residents move in
  • 2010 Fibre optic cabling installed for telecommunicatons and broadband
  • Early 2011 Planting of 17,000 trees in the community woodland
  • May 2011 Eco-hostel opens to public
  • June 2011 Construction begins on Eco-Enterprise Centre
  • July 2012 50 homes built or under construction
  • December 2013 Winner of International Award for Liveable Communities, the Green Oscars, hosted in China
  • 2014 Selected by Milesecure academic project for the European Commission as one of Europe’s 23 most successful ‘anticipatory experiences’ of the transition to a low-energy society

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Eric Maher

Eric Maher is a contributor to the Green News. He has a Masters in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama from UCD.