A Castlecomer native, Nichola is the Education Officer in Castlecomer Discovery Park and is a Trustee of the Irish Forest School Association.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend out in Kilkenny?
I love strolling through the city streets, popping into some of the unique shops that give the place character, rounding it off with some lunch. It’s no surprise Kilkenny was awarded Food Destination of the Year, a good bite to eat is always guaranteed with so many great places to choose from. Then out of the city for a lovely woodland walk, maybe Jenkinstown.
Who has made the greatest contribution to Kilkenny in your lifetime - and why?
For me, in Castlecomer, the Discovery Park has given such a lease of life to the town after decades of industrial decline. It gives young people hope there is a job for them in their locality. I never imagined after all my years in college that I’d actually find a job in my local area doing something I love. As a social enterprise, it’s easy to work there when you see the efforts are contributing to the wider development and regeneration of the area. We see it with the restoration of Creamery House and the new Avalon House Hotel development for example - Castlecomer is growing and is becoming a must visit destination when in Kilkenny.
What’s your first Kilkenny memory?
It’s probably instilled in most children growing up in Kilkenny but the pride, passion and excitement around hurling championship season is special. I have great memories of decorating our house with the black and amber flags and bunting, waving on cars on the morning of All-Ireland’s with my neighbours and cheering them home again in the evening.
What’s your favourite part of the county - and why?
Growing up, I remember getting the Buggy’s bus into Kilkenny with my mother and seeing that iconic view of Kilkenny Castle as we passed over John’s Bridge.
What do you think gives Kilkenny its unique identity?
We have such a rich history and strong sense of place and community spirit. Combined with the many fantastic festivals city and county-wide, Kilkenny is a special place throughout the year.
Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
I make an effort to buy local books, they are important records of our past. My mother recently managed to get me my very own copy of ‘Castlecomer Connections’ (Tom Lyng) and it’s now a treasured possession. Seamus Walsh is another great local author, recalling the coal mining heritage in North Kilkenny. Next on my list is Tom Burnell’s ‘The Kilkenny War Dead’ - two of my grand-uncles, John and Michael Nolan, who died in WW1 are remembered in it.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the county today?
Environmentally, we have a lot more work to do. Climate change is and will continue to present great challenges. We’ve seen it this year with the extreme heat in the summer or with the intense storm systems. Through the education programme in Castlecomer Discovery Park, we try to communicate these challenges to students and encourage them to think about their own impacts on the environment.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Kilkenny, what would it be?
Two things - I would love to see young people and teenagers spend more time outdoors, especially in their local areas. I also wish we had greater public transport links to the towns and villages across the entire county.