When you live in certain counties colours take on a special significance. Our own beloved Wexford is particularly noted for its county colours of purple and gold.
During my school days the colour purple had a special meaning during Lent and advent when statues in churches were draped in purple cloth.
In the American army soldiers are sometimes presented with purple heart medals because of their exceptional courage or bravery.
When I think of the colour purple, I think of lavender which stands for royalty, spirituality, creativity, perfectionism.
The word lavender derives from the old French word lavandre or the Latin word lavare [to wash]. The Romans used lavender in their famous baths.
I had all the above information tossing around in my head as I was going on a visit to Wexford Lavender Farm in Coolnagloose, Kilanerin, Co Wexford to meet Moira Hart and her husband Cary. They moved into the farm in 2007 and opened the Lavender farm in 2014.When I arrived, they were both very busy getting the farm ready for the new season.
We sat down for coffee in the old courtyard, and I was given a snapshot history of this lovely place by Cary. The area which now houses The Purple Haze Café was a small charitable school from 1840 to 1870. Another part of it was a stable for horses, a smithy for shoeing horses and stores for potatoes. The old Dublin to Wexford stagecoach went by their home, Coolnagloose House, which dates to the 1700s with a large Victorian extension added approx. 1850. This has now been converted into an audio-visual room with a 20-minute video dealing with all things Lavender and the making of lavender oil. Visitors can buy tickets for this on the day of their visit with no need to prebook.
I loved the fact that in the conversion work they retained the old corner feeding trough from the time the room was used as stables. There is one facet of this commercial lavender farm I really like and that is the total lack of garishness or gaudiness. Here we have a genuine historical building retaining all its antiquity and majesty. I just adore the authenticity of the place.
The courtyard, surrounded by the original brick buildings, has a lovely open seating area with tables painted the colour purple where you can sip your Americanos, Cappuccinos, Flat Whites or Mochas and other like beverages. They have a very nice Kids menu where children can nibble their spaghetti Bolognaise, Chicken Goujons, Sausage and chips or cheese toastie among other niceties. There is a very strategically located children under 5 indoor play area to keep them happy and safe. Breakfast is served in The Purple Sage Café from 10.30 to 12.30 and lunch from 12.00 to 3.30 pm.
I noted the lavender Still in a shed adjoining the courtyard. This was an interesting apparatus where approximately 20 Kgs of cut lavender flowers are placed in a mesh basket in the 100 litre Still with two 9Kw heating elements covered in water and brought up to 100 degrees and left to steam for 40-60 minutes. The mixture cools slowly in the attached Condenser and the lavender oil separates from the steam, the hydrosol or lavender water drips down and the lavender oil is collected from the top. As we were leaving this area Moira brought me to the craft room where she takes wreath making classes out of season while other artists use the area for classes as well. It is in the kitchen of the old house which retains all its aged character with stove and wood logs.
Before we went out to the farm, I noted the strategically located craft display room where local crafts people display and sell their jewellery, wood turning, porcelain, pottery, and wooden plaques.
I loved reading their very informative outdoor information boards giving a lot of history and interesting facts. I read on one of the panels that lavender was brought out from the garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. It also states that the Egyptians used Lavender. We know this because when the tomb of King Tutankhamun was opened in 1922 there was a distinct scent of lavender because it contained jars of lavender infused ointments.
Next, we were in the great outdoors, and we had an invigorating walk in unpolluted Kilanerin country air through the original lavender field planted in 2013. It was full of mature lavender plants waiting to shoot forth their perfumed purple flowers for the delectation and pleasure of visitors for the 2022 lavender season. We continued our stroll into the second field through the purple and gold Wexford door which is a popular location for photos. Their favourite lavender is Hidcote which is dark purple in colour and is excellent for dried flower arrangements.
At the bottom of this field are two lovely family play areas. Firstly, you have the big snakes and ladders game, and this year’s new addition of the balancing beams which are painted in bright blue and pink colours with lots of bark underneath making for very safe play areas. This all leads into the woodland walk in the `Curragh Woods’ which is very much part of the Wexford Walking Trails. We did not go on that trail because we wanted to visit the wheelchair friendly wooden maze which only came on stream in 2021. I think it is the only one of its kind in Ireland with a wishing well built from bricks as the centrepiece. I liked the maze, and I loved the safety features of two viewing towers so parents can see their children in addition to giving you lovely views of the countryside. It measures 24 metres by 19 metres with entry by turnstile. Entry tokens can be bought in the café.
As we exit here, we note the Woodland Warriors Trail added in 2019, this is a 1km looped walk, suitable for children, with rustic playground equipment.
As we head back towards the entry barriers, we visited the Kiddies playground with its digger, tractor, Jacob’s ladder, tyre tower, tree house and a caterpillar for crawling through among some of the play facilities available. We must also mention Billy the Bull Quad Train which is a firm favourite as it rumbles along through the fields in its own inimitable way with children securely belted in.
Wexford Lavender Farm sell their lavender products on site in season. They also sell a selection of lavender plants during the Summer. There is extensive car parking here and I love their idea of having entry through barriers which gives order and control to this area. People exit by buying their token in the café and pop it into the slot and off you go home after a day spent in this lovely rural idyllic setting of Wexford Lavender Farm. You can also pre-book parking in advance (with minimum 24 hours notice) of your visit via the website www.wexfordlavenderfarm.com to guarantee a parking spot parking spot when you arrive.
I found Moira Hart to be a very welcoming host who works hard to make sure the lavender farm is in top class shape for her visitors. I really admired her initiative and enthusiasm for innovation and change to make Wexford Lavender farm an attractive interesting and stimulating enterprise which is constantly evolving and changing .
For myself the place was relaxation supreme with the rolling fields of lavender backing on to beautiful woodlands in the purest cleanest lavender perfumed air you are likely to experience in Ireland or abroad.
They can be contacted for opening times, bookings etc at 0870686774. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is https://wexfordlavenderfarm.com or you can follow them on facebook or Instagram.