In West Limerick Born and Grazed! By Helen Broderick

Springfield covered in glorious Virginia Creeper

I’m a big fan of Channel Four’s ‘Escape to the Chateau’ that records Dick Strawbridge and his family’s journey of trying to restore and maintain a chateau they purchased in France. Never an easy task, but infinitely rewarding.
Closer to home is the wonderful Springfield Castle, which lies between the villages of Broadford and Dromcollogher. It’s a full-time job trying to maintain the grounds and the beautiful buildings. However, the Sykes family, who are custodians of the place, are constantly looking at ways to improve and expand the family business.
Last Saturday saw the opening of their latest venture, ‘The Green Room’. This is a partially glass-walled restaurant that sits in the courtyard of the main house. The view from the large windows is spectacular, looking out on the central water fountain and the hundreds of big, fragrant roses that grow all round. In fact Jonathan himself told me that he and his wife Betty went to a rose farm in Midleton to source these very specific roses. They were chosen for their scent, which resembles luscious Turkish delight; equally, the large, colourful blooms are very pleasing to the eye.
On this beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon the gardens, trees, and buildings could only be described as magnificent. I asked Jonathan about the amount of work involved in keeping the place looking so well. “It’s a lot of hard work,” he says. “but we’ve some terrific local workers who do amazing work here.” He proudly told me that all the doors and beams in the restaurant were made by Barry Hamilton and Padraig O’Shea, two local craftsmen. “They’ve done some really beautiful work here down through the years, and in fact are multi taskers, as they can do just about anything.”
I was fascinated by the eclectic but tasteful décor of the room itself. It seems that the decorating was very much a joint effort by all the family. Hanging on a back wall is a row of old organ pipes. They’re decorative and a talking point all at once. “They came from Castle Oliver,” Jonathan explained. “Our friend, who was the owner of the place at the time, had them made into a chandelier. When he finally sold the place, we bought them because they were so decorative. Now we finally have a good use for them.”
There is also a beautiful piano-like champagne bar. This piano had a history. The Limerick band ‘Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters’ had recorded a music video in Springfield; as part of the video the piano was set alight as a special effect. [The band] left the remains of the piano, but Alison, Daniel’s partner, is a true refurbisher and repurposed the shell of the piano into this beautiful piece. Painted wood pallets hang on the walls, adorned by fresh flowers and greenery. The pendant lights that hang from the ceiling are made from tin dustbin lids. There’s a comfortable couch next to a table that has been painted with black chalk paint, upon which are several pieces of coloured chalks for children to use on the table. The tables are big, with colourful cloth covers. Standing proudly in the upper part is a huge custom made asado (barbecue to me). It’s a beautiful roaster with a huge chimney that disappears through the roof, ideal for barbecues, slow cooking and catering for large numbers. It was made in the local forge in Broadford by blacksmith Paddy Duggan. At the far side of the room stands a table with an array of home produce like tomato and pepper plants, chutneys and jams, jars of kimchi and peppers and chillies preserved in herbed oils. These are a by-product of the gardens and of Daniel’s skills as a chef. They are very reasonably priced and are for sale.
The place will comfortably seat eighty people. They intend to host many different events like afternoon teas or cater for special events for people. When I asked Daniel what the eventual plan for the place was, he said that on the first day it was a sort of “soft” opening. They intend to extend the menu and his hope is to cook mostly what’s grown in the gardens. All the meats come from Connolly’s in Dromcollogher, so everything is kept local.The people working in Springfield are also local, so there’s no doubt that the success of this venture can only be of great benefit to the community at large. He also plans to eventually open the garden to the public, so people can make the connection between field and fork. The garden produces all sorts of vegetables, salad ingredients like herbs and leaves, as well as peppers, chillies, tomatoes and an array of fruits and berries, even figs and kiwis.
As I sat drinking my cool home-made elderflower cordial, I remembered my last visit to Springfield during the month of November. The Virginia creeper that grows on the front walls of the house lay dormant, but still added a certain charm. But today it was in full flourish, and the vibrancy of every growing thing was evident wherever I looked.
Springfield House and Castle is a credit to the community of Broadford, a treasure for all who visit, and especially for the Sykes family who not only support and promote the local community but embrace all who visit their little bit of heaven.
I left for home with two jars, one with preserved chillies and another filled with delicious peppadews, a very tasty small type of pepper. Happy days!