“If I had to go to work, it would be a problem”

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Arigna in County Roscommon may still be associated with its long-closed coal mines, but some of its new residents are doing their best to avoid fossil fuels and be as self-sufficient as possible.

Fynn and Holly Hopper are the proud owners of eight goats, five sheep, four now fattened for Christmas turkeys, three special breed pigs and an electric car.

But Holly’s primary form of transportation is a cargo bike, a three-wheeled bicycle that she rides the valley with her three children, ages three to seven, stored in a box at the front. Because their home is so secluded that the school bus ride ends nearly 2 miles from their door, much to the astonishment of truck drivers heading to the nearby forest or quarry, Holly and her family are a regular sight. , in all weathers, negotiating the roads of Arigna. .

Holly, a weaver, who helps Fynn run Heathbank Farm and doesn’t drive, doesn’t mind the lack of public transport options where she has lived for over a year. “Cycling makes me independent,” she said. “Access to the bus is mainly downhill, so it’s a snap. If Fynn is busy milking the goats, I can drop off the kids. And I have a rain cover for the kids.

Iduna, the youngest, has yet to start school, but she usually joins her siblings in the bicycle garage on the first leg of their journey to school. “It’s a great bike, lighter than it looks,” Holly said of her Danish-designed non-electric model. “We sometimes have glances. One day, one of the truck drivers stopped and asked if he could take a picture.

For longer trips, the family has an electric car which Fynn says is in keeping with their philosophy of doing as little damage to the planet as possible, but since it’s an older model, car trips can be nerve-racking.

“Because it’s older and because the battery degrades over time, we can probably cover a distance of 100 km,” said Fynn, who moved with his family to Roscommon from his native Hull in 2020. He discovered that slower speeds and smoother braking help it extend the load so it tends to stay at 40-50 km / h, always calculating how far it is from the nearest load point .

“I do an agriculture course in Ballymote with Teagasc one day a week, and there’s no charging point there, so I can just go back and forth if I’m driving slowly. I often park to let others pass, ”he explained.

Cycling makes me independent: “Holly Hopper and her three children.  Photography: James Connolly

“Cycling makes me independent”: Holly Hopper and her three children. Photography: James Connolly

Fynn knows that a more modern electric car would give him peace of mind, but at the moment it’s over budget. “Some people get a fast charger for their home as well, but you can literally run a cable through the kitchen window and plug it in next to your toaster,” he explained. The couple say if they had to drive to work it wouldn’t be feasible with such an old electric vehicle. But Holly has a home-based weaving business called Gubbarudda, named after the nearby town, and when Fynn isn’t busy with his own animals, he gets occasional work from local farmers, so travel is kept to a minimum.

“If I had to go to work it would be a problem,” he said.

Like many people, Paul Conlon, a native of Roscommon, saw his travel reduced to zero when the pandemic hit in March 2020. He was part of a wave of people who abruptly moved west when apartment buildings fell. offices closed in the capital, and he realized that living and working within the four walls of his Dublin apartment was not for him.

The computer scientist who was based at Garda’s headquarters in Phoenix Park moved to Tulsk and spent six months working “at the kitchen table.” He thinks his mother may have been even more relieved than he was when he secured a place at a remote work center in Castlerea, a 20-minute drive away.

“I don’t miss the heavy traffic in Dublin,” said the 36-year-old who used to check in at 8am to avoid the worst of the traffic jam. After six months he gave up his city apartment and is considering buying property in Roscommon even though he may have to return to the office a day or two a week.

“I was thinking of buying a house but it is proving difficult. Everything that is available goes very quickly. But I don’t miss Dublin. I help on the farm here. We breed horses. It’s a better work-life balance and I don’t spend two hours a day stuck in the car.


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