- 21 April 2021
Averdant woodland corner of Donnybrook, close to the centre of Dublin, is destined to stay like that for ever: it can never be built on.
The Grove occupies a fifth of a hectare of land at the corner of Morehampton Road and Wellington Place, close to the underground Swan river.
Thousands of motorists drive past it every day, yet few know what an oasis of natural tranquility and wildlife lies behind the gate and the high walls.
The Grove is owned in perpetuity by An Taisce.
Together with the Upper Leeson Street Residents' Association, it is responsible for maintaining the area, with its many trees, plants, birds, other wildlife and pond.
Open days are held from time to time and schools also pay visits there; by its very nature, the Grove cannot be opened to the public on a regular basis, but anyone who is really interested can borrow a key to the gates of Donnybrook's little paradise.
How and why The Grove came to be bequeathed to An Taisce by a local resident, Kathleen Goodfellow, is a fascinating story.
Kathleen painted by Estella Solomons
Her father George was a builder, who constructed and owned six properties in adjoining Morehampton Road in the late 19th century.
Kathleen herself, who was known to her friends as either "Goodfellow" or "Michael", was born at Number 4, Morehampton Road.
A student at Alexandra College in the days when it stood in Earlsfort Terrace, she went on to gain an Arts degree from Trinity College.
She was in the fortunate position of never having had to go to work, so she was able to devote her time to developing her interests in literature and writing stories and poems.
Translating into French had a particular appeal.
During the 1916 Easter Rising, a chance meeting with another young woman, Estella Solomons, who was sheltering from snipers' bullets, led to a lifelong friendship.
Together, they enlisted in Cumann na mBán, where they were taught first aid, drilling and signalling by Phyllis Ryan, later to become the wife of President Sean T. O'Kelly.
Kathleen also became friends with Seumas O'Sullivan, the Abbey actor, writer and publisher, and the man behind the Dublin Magazine, a noted literary publication of its time.
Seumas later married Estella and Kathleen played a substantial financial and editorial role in the Dublin Magazine, from its foundation founded in 1923 until it ceased publication with the death of Seumas in 1958.
Seumas painted by Estella Solomons
Estella became an outstanding portrait and landscape painter; she and Kathleen loved painting The Grove.
Three at Table by Estella Solomons
The two of them were often described as Bohemian characters.
Goodfellow, a Quaker, Estella, a Jew, and Seumas, a Methodist, were all well-known in Dublin artistic and literary circles.
After they married, Seumas and Estella lived in Rathfarnham, until damp threatened to overwhelm Seumas' collection of 10,000 books.
Kathleen, who continued to live at 4, Morehampton Road, offered No 2 to Estella and Seumas at a modest rent.
Weekend hospitality at No 2 was enjoyed by many in Dublin's artistic community.
In 1939, when she was 48, Kathleen fell off a tram and broke her leg.
The resultant lameness meant she had to give up her great love of gardening, but she never lost her enthusiasm for nature.
Eventually, she decided to leave the woodland area of The Grove in perpetuity, so that it couldn't be touched.
She had been concerned that the then Dublin Corporation wanted to place a compulsory purchase order on the place to build a fire station.
Kathleen talked with the Upper Leeson Street Residents' Association; then The Grove came into the ownership of An Taisce, one of around a dozen properties it owns in the State.
Kathleen died in 1980, the year after her bequest, and is buried in the family grave at Mount Jerome.
In the years after it was handed over, this little patch of woodland became quite derelict and overgrown, a place of refuge for urban foxes.
In the past few years, a substantial management programme has been put in place, so that these days, the woodland area is maintained in an excellent state.
Bird nesting boxes have been built and new trees and wild flowers planted. Once again, the flora and fauna have flourished; birdlife has increased.
The Upper Leeson Street Residents' Association has paid for some of the maintenance.
Bodies such as Conservation Volunteers Ireland and Birdwatch Ireland have helped in the work of looking after The Grove.
Such areas of urban conservation are rare in Ireland, although more common in other European countries.
Kathleen Goodfellow may have got her idea for preserving The Grove from similar schemes elsewhere in Europe.
For Dublin, The Grove is a unique area that is destined to remain for ever green, a priceless oasis, almost in the city centre, on which developers can never lay their hands.
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