Series 2, Episode 1
At long last, we return to one of Europe’s largest city parks for an inside look at the magic of the Phoenix Park, and the larger-than-life characters who inhabit it. A constantly buzzing hive of activity, there really is something for everyone. In this new season of the highly successful It’s A Park’s Life, revisit a day in the lives of gardeners, Brian and Meeda, and our favourite park rangers, Kieron and James, among an array of fresh new faces.
It’s the President’s Day Competition at the All-Ireland Polo Club, one of the oldest in the world, and we follow club legend, Lar, as he soaks up the atmosphere and commentates on the action. The club’s history and significance to Irish culture is unveiled and we discover Ireland’s influence in the world of Polo.
Over in the Walled Garden, Brian and Meeda are never short of work. Now that it’s springtime, the garden is beginning to come alive, and they are out to harvest the first rhubarb of the year and prepare the greenhouse for the busy summer months ahead. However, a tiny adversary is proving to be quite a problem for the pumpkins…
82 year old, John Ryan, has arthritis in his hands and legs. But he also has 3 dogs that he needs to walk in the park. How does he do it? Well, seeing as he can no longer take the dogs for a walk himself, he instead drives his car around the car park, with the dogs’ leads outside attached to the door!
The Garda band was established shortly after the foundation of An Garda Síochána in 1922 and they practise in the Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park. Now, 29 of the finest musicians in An Garda Síochána are busy practising for one of their biggest performances of the year – Ireland v Scotland in the Aviva Stadium. It will be an emotional occasion for all as Martin Doyle, their bus driver of 20 years, is retiring, and this will be his final trip with the band.
Throughout the series we follow the Garda band, almost 100 years old, and their journey to the Aviva Stadium to perform at a 6-Nations game, or Tony the tree surgeon as he cleans up Storm Ophelia’s mess. Reluctantly, Tony must remove a dead tree which is posing a safety concern. But don’t worry, it doesn’t go to waste, we’ll see the tree go to a workshop to be turned into commemorative benches by award winning designers.
Speaking of award-winning designers, go behind the scenes of Bloom, Ireland’s largest gardening festival, with landscape designer John Durston as he prepares his debut garden for the week ahead and, most importantly, the judges!
Bloom is just one of several large public events held in the park down through the years, such as concerts, homecomings and Papal masses. One of the biggest yet is the Ed Sheeran concert. We follow the hilarious park rangers Kieron and James as they survey the purpose-built arena, ensure the safety of concert goers and avoid the burger stands!
Opened to the public in 1747, the park has an abundance of historical significance. Discover the secrets of the Magazine Fort. Once abandoned and boarded up, the OPW are now renovating it into a visitor centre. We also see Ordnance Survey Ireland, with its HQ in the Phoenix Park, map the Magazine Fort using an aerial digital sensor to complete the job. Witness the transferral of the expansive Hearsum Collection, which gathers and preserves artefacts and materials relating to Richmond Park in London, to Farmleigh for exhibition.
The park is home to the All-Ireland Polo Club, one of the oldest in the world, and a vital player in the establishment of the British system.
Farmleigh also needs its iconic clock repaired. Erected in 1880 and standing at over 200ft tall, the clock tower was designed by Sir Howard Brubb. Now it’s up to the services of Stokes Clocks & Watches of Cork to restore the clock to its former glory.
Sprinkled throughout are a variety of charming vignettes, ranging from the Phoenix Park Forestry school, which educates young and old about the diverse nature and wildlife that is to be found in the Phoenix Park and beyond, to a couple getting married in the zoo! You won’t want to miss the Irish Defence Forces open day where the army’s parachute team, The Black Knights, perform a jaw-dropping sky dive from the army helicopter! Then there’s the Flanagan’s, the family who have been maintaining the gas lamps of the park since 1890, and are continuing to pass the torch down. Unfortunately, the park is not all fun and games. See Farmeleigh’s heart-breaking Missing Persons Day, an annual commemoration that allows families of missing people to meet up, share stories and find some comfort in their mutual trauma.
We end the season on an enchanting note, with the most snow the park has seen in decades. From sledding to snowman competitions, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. However, these magical times prove more difficult for the park rangers, as the dropping temperatures result in blocked roads, hungry deer’s and the threat of flooding.
Narrated by Emmy winner Baz Ashmawy, ‘It’s A Park’s Life’ is the perfect show for the whole family to sit down and enjoy together, and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.
Series Producer & Director: Shane Brennan
Moondance Productions for RTE