Avondale - Cradle of Irish Forestry



Avondale, once home of Charles Stewart Parnell, is now a forestry school operated by the Forest and Wildlife Service. This information is extracted from their brochure on the house and lands.
The Forest Park (click for map - about 65kb) is some 530 acres in extent and lies mainly on the west bank of the Avonmore River. In its miles of roads and woodland paths it offers endless variety to the walker free from the tyranny of the motor car, and its scenic variety ranges from the magnificent openness of the Great Ride to the towering impressiveness of the massed conifers on the banks of the Avonmore. There are planned walks in the form of nature trails but if you are one of those people who prefers to wander at will you may be happier to ramble through the Park as your fancy dictates in a personal voyage of discovery.

Indeed you could have the best of both worlds by taking the four-mile River Walk which is sign-posted throughout by a series of green arrows. Avondale is a beautiful place and visitors are asked to co-operate in keeping it free from litter or damage and to avoid lighting fires.

The name Avondale appears for the first time in 1777 in Taylor and Skinners Maps of the Roads of Ireland. That same year Samuel Hayes built Avondale House on a site adjoining his existing residence which he had named Hayesville, a name which did not survive. From the coincidence of the dates it would seem that Hayes gave the name Avon dale (derived from the Avonmore River -Abhann Mor) to the whole area. The old Irish name of the property may well have been "Craoibheach" (wooded land) as the Calendar of the Fiants records the name 'Krewaugh' for the locality as far back as 1582. Hayes, a barrister, represented Wicklow in the Irish House of Commons and in 1788 presented a Bill to the Parliament entitled "An Act for encouraging the cultivation and better preservation of trees". His love of trees and enthusiasm for afforestation found further practical expression when in 1794 he wrote the first book on planting in Ireland. This book, "A Practical Treatise on Planting and the Management of Woods and Coppices" was first published in 1794. All the oldest trees still surviving on the estate were planted by Hayes and are most prominently represented by the beeches, oaks, larches and two gigantic silver firs by the river.

When Samuel Hayes died in 1795 Avondale passed to the Parnell family and remained in its possession until the heavily encumbered estate was sold by John Howard Parnell, brother of Charles Stewart, following the death of the latter in 1891. The entire property was eventually acquired by the State in 1904 from William Boylan of Phibsboro, Dublin, and a plan for the planting of a wide range of tree species, mostly exotic, was made by the then Director of Forestry in Ireland, A. C. Forbes, in co-operation with the late Professor Augustine Henry.The plots of trees, generally one acre in extent, were for the most part laid out on the lines of a continental forest garden. You can see them today, flanking the magnificent Great Ride, which provides possibly the most beautiful of Avondale's many walks.

Avondale House itself was used as a training school for foresters and some repairs to the decaying building were carried out in 1935. in 1991 a much more extensive job of adaptation of the house as a Forestry School was undertaken bv the Office of Public Works.

Because of its use as a Forestry School public admission to the building is restricted but several rooms are open year round (except for a week at Christmas). A curator is always in attendance to conduct visitors around the high-ceilinged hallway, the sitting-room and the beautiful Blue room with its ornamental plasterwork. These rooms contain furniture and other articles associated with Parnell and his period. There is no charge for admission to the House.

Budget accommodation is available in the adjoining lodge. For details contact Avondale House at (0404) 46111


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AK10th February 1998