010 Awaken the Land - with Mary Reynolds
Thin Places Travel Podcast · 59 minutes ·

010 Awaken the Land - with Mary Reynolds

Segment 1- Mindie


I am so delighted to have Mary Reynolds on the podcast today. Mary is quite an extraordinary person. She’s a garden designer, a philosopher – a writer.  She is the youngest woman to win a Gold Medal for garden design at the Chelsea Flower Show – since its inception over 100 years ago.

Mary grew up on a small mixed farm in Wexford, in the south of Ireland. 20 years ago she set up her own company designing gardens in Dublin. A few years later, having lost the will to live from constantly creating modern gardens, she realized that she could no longer continue shaping land in the same way and re-imagined her work to become nature rather than human centered.

Mary brought her new, still relatively unformed ideas to be showcased at the Chelsea flower show in London where she achieved a gold medal, unusual at the time for a first-time effort. Since that time, she has built up quite a cult following in the world of garden design and is considered unique in her field.

Another U-turn came a few years ago when Mary realized we had to rethink the whole relationship we had with the land and re-examine what it means to truly design in harmony with nature. Those latest revelations lead to ‘The Garden Awakening – Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves’ being born, which imparts so much wisdom to people who are fashioning their own gardens and wild places.

The book was written at night, over four years, when her two young kids were asleep… and Mary was almost awake. It was published in 2016. The book was given a video accolade by British anthropologist, Jane Goodall.

Mary has appeared on numerous television programs, podcasts. She offers talks and workshops about her work she does and her core beliefs. and she likes to campaign against evil multinational efforts to cull us all off with pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s. Her views are wonderfully articulated in a TEDx Talk that we’ve posted in the show notes.

Mary is trained as a Reiki master, and … in her own words -  is not a bad cook (to her mother’s eternal surprise)  Mary states that she spends a lot of time growing and guiding her own land into a place where people can come and stay and learn, but most of her time is spent being a harassed single mum, trying to grow two cheeky but wonderful boy and girl monsters and a crazy golden-doodle with as much grace and love as possible.

The Irish writer and director Vivienne De Courcy made a movie about a journey in Mary’s life – Dare to be Wild, released in 2014 - now available on Netflix. In the final credits of that film there is statement that Mary Reynolds is listed as one of the 10 best garden designers of all time.

segment 2 – Mary Reynolds interview


 Mary Reynolds website marymary.ie

Skype maryreynoldsireland

The Garden Awakening – book by Mary Reynolds

Dare to Be Wild – Movie on Netflix

Meet the Makers – YouTube video by Irish National Heritage Park

Mary Reynolds TED Talk

Mary Reynolds YouTube Channel

The Chelsea Flower Show - website


SEGMENT 3 – Wicklow sites


Tomnafinnoge Wood – Ancient woodland


Last remaining native oak woodland in Ireland.


Last surviving fragment of the Great Oak forests in South Wicklow – believe to have  covered 1000 acres in the 15th century.  Widely exploited during the 16th century when the British were building war ships.


Today it has about 2000 trees and covers about 165 acres. 3 different marked trails. The Oak Walk and the Hazel Walk are both looped and easy to navigate.


Though it sits along the old rail bed and there is signage marking the trails, the woodland has a strong energy about it. It feels more wild as you move into it and away from the river and railbed.


It’s not easy to find.  From Tinahely head south on the R749. Pass the Tinahely Farm and at the next crossroad make a left.. The signage says to Coolboy and Tomnafinnoge Wood. Down that road about a mile is the car park for the wood entrance.



Tinahely Farm is a great stopping place for lunch. Great shop, good food and farm activities for kids.


Shillelagh – Old Shillelagh Stick Makers. 

  • Shillelaghs still being handcrafted today.
  • Run by Liam Kealy
  • Great Grandfather Denis passed the skill to Liam’s father, and he on to Liam. Family has a long history of craftsmen.
  • Making a shillelagh from blackthorn is a three year process. Great storyteller. Interesting craftsman. Sticks and wands of various sizes mostly made of blackthorn or oak.




Tomnafinnoge Wood


Tinahely Farm Shop


Old Shillelagh Stick Maker


Shillelagh Stick Maker, Liam O’ Caidhla

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