Inspired by a local resident Mid Ulster District Council has experimented with growing fibre flax in a raised planters in Moneymore Manor Park and at the A29 Loughry roundabout in Cookstown this year, as part of a sustainability project to raise awareness of this elusive traditional, beautiful plant.
The project also aims to get local residents, schools and groups involved in growing small patches of the plant as a means of reconnecting with our history, local environment and almost forgotten skills. The project is only at its start, and will be further developed as part of Council’s Sustainability Programme.
The idea was brought to the Council by Sebastian Graham, a local resident, who has set up the “Mills of Northern Ireland” website and has a strong interest in bringing back the growing of flax to the area, because of its legacy and history with our district.
Admiring the flowering plant, he said,
“Flax was once a country wide crop at a time and in the 1860's/70's Cookstown had possibly the largest flax market in the UK selling roughly 60-100 tons a week. The market was roughly where Coagh Street and Union Street are today. Magherafelt also had a market for flax in King Street.
I give talks to groups about local mills and also talk with some locals who can remember when flax was grown in the surrounding fields. There is now very little grown in Northern Ireland at all. Bringing back this plant to Mid Ulster on a wider scale would be a positive move which would bring back memories for the older generation who could remember pulling it and also steeping it in the water so it would be a great talking point.”
As can be seen from the examples in Manor Park and at Loughry Roundabout it is easy to grow up a small planter or patch of flax in your own garden or on the allotment. For further information or advice on how you can get involved please contact Council’s Sustainability Officer at 03000 132 132 or email: [email protected]