Chip in for a great local day out

What was the first price you can remember for a packet of Tayto Cheese And Onion? For me, it was an old 10p. Back then, they were considered a major treat – usually during or after a Meath match or if some of the clan happened to be in the local watering hole it was generally a Monday treat. Until, that is, yours truly began to roll to the hostelries myself and then it became every other night.

Until, as anyone who has been a fairly regular frequenter of this space in the last half decade or so can attest, my world as it had been up to that point was thrown into a tailspin when my mother fell ill. Of course, it has been even more so since, but that’s a tale for another day. Back then, the one constant solace keeping me afloat was farming and, more specifically, my own few heifers. Before it too was cut from under me suddenly and without as much as a murmur before or since.

Through whatever means necessary in the interim, one has endeavored to keep the farming eye in wherever possible. Whether that meant my usual run of watching the local lads at the hay, silage or the harvest – mercifully the breadth of viewing spots actually expanded this year thanks to the amazing Susie’s help – or my own albeit small-scale vegetable growing operation.

That didn’t turn out anything near the job I wished it to be but there is extreme pride in the fact an exceptional crop of salad potatoes were produced. Yielding enough to cater for ourselves and immediate and extended family. Which was especially poignantly fitting this year with the boss gone to the big allotment above. After all it was he who planted the seed in the head here once cattle were off the agenda. Having kept a varied and high-yielding veg plot years beforehand.

However, if you want to talk spuds in Meath, Ray Coyle’s name will be near the top of any such list, along with those of Pat Reynolds and Ivan Curran and the Meade and Finnegan families.

Ray, whose daughter Natalya is of course a two-time Olympian, has, as well as producing a gargantuan amount of crisps, made major contributions to life both locally and on a much broader scale.

Regarding the former, through his sponsorship of various local sports teams and events, but, as for the bigger picture, his investment and ingenuity has not only afforded people of the locality a phenomenal amenity on their doorstep, but one of the finest tourist attractions in Europe, Tayto Park.

American Bisen: Just one of the many exotic residents at Tayto Park

At this point, it must be admitted that initially enthusiasm in this seat for the trip to Curraha was luke warm at best. Primarily out of a (mis) understanding that it was, largely, aimed at kids and, with the rides and attractions of what was basically a funfare.

Mea Culpa to a very large degree. Yes all of the above are indeed present, but they are but a fraction of what this hidden oasis in a world of chaos.

Now, herself has been trying to persuade me to give Dublin Zoo a go. Reluctance regarding the latter centred on a thought stream the similar to doubts expressed above. Regarding same, any such reservations were dispelled almost immediately on arrival.

At the outset, having been left bitterly disappointed regarding disabled access the day beforehand, it’s only right to point out that were absolutely no such concerns this time around. Something underlined by the sight of two bus loads of disabled patrons disembarking and going in just ahead of us. Us being myself and herself, her mam, dad and brother.

Facilities and stewarding were highly commendable and while I might have thought having seen the herd of buffalo and goats and sheep on the way in my inkling that it could hardly get much better was readily and wonderfully disproved. Having not been at Dublin Zoo in decades, a fair comparison isn’t really possible but I couldn’t see it being any better than the Meath one!

The first thing which struck me as I rolled around the spacious and immaculately surfaced trails was the vast variety of animal life in the place. Yes of course there is that adjacent to the Phoenix Park, but, in the humble opinion of this observer, the demographic of Tayto Park renders it closer to a safari park than the zoo – only my view.

Tony would give you a fairly frosty reception!

One thing that is certain is that patrons can certainly get closer to the animals than in most other places – whilst obviously maintaining safe distances between them and onlookers. Again, staff and management have done an excellent job on fencing and warning signage so the only way anybody could end up in trouble would be if they acted the fool themselves.

If there was one slight disappointment about the day it was that there didn’t appear to be any disabled viewing provision for where the American Bisen are located. Hope would be, though, that at some point in the future that can be rectified as – and this applies across the board when it comes to persons with a disability – something very simple could make a incalculable difference.

Other than that, I couldn’t glowingly enough recommend that you chip in to the local economy for a great day out!

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