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Creative Healing Winter Walks at Kilruddery House 

kilruddery ccn

As part of our Compassionate Culture Network (CCN), this winter Killruddery House and Gardens in Wicklow joined forces with us to host creative explorations of loss. 

In 2016, we carried out a national survey where people said they’d like more places to talk about dying, death, and bereavement. After two years of a pandemic, and while closed for the winter, the uniquely beautiful gardens and woods of Killruddery House provided the perfect backdrop for this.  

CEO Fionnuala Ardee says:  

“It was our pleasure to open the gardens for this small group, intent on prioritising communication and companionship, to exchange life stories, including that epic of life; death. More poignant is being winter, it allowed us all to look towards the light.” 

Led by performance maker Andrea Scott, for three months groups walked and talked their way through the sensations of winter each week as they debated what might be created after loss. Scott says: 

“When poet Lawrence Illsley’s mother died, he confessed to using nature to soothe his grief by living actively in the woods. It was this that inspired our weekly explorations in loss as we wandered through Kilruddery’s stunning gardens and woodland. Being closed to the general public for the winter, they provided a safe, quiet haven for us to discuss experiences of grief, bereavement, and healing.” 

Each session began with an opening circle after which the group walked across the gardens into the woodlands. Scott says: 

“Our numbers grew slowly week by week. Ultimately, we were a small, solid community expressing loss together creatively, offering a space of empathy and compassion. It was a wonderful time to lean into that special, contemplative time winter offers, particularly in such a private space where there was no need to make the effort to be ‘normal’.”  

While traversing Killruddery’s magnificant woodlands, participants were invited to choose one particular tree they would visit each week for the duration of the programme. Everyone was then invited to build a personal ritual at their tree to be performed during the penultimate session. In the weeks leading up to this, the group ‘rehearsed’ their rituals discovering what they would finally include. At the end of each session, everyone came together back at to the stables to finish with tea and a creative exercise such as writing, drawing, or making.  

Dominic Campbell of Irish Hospice Foundation says:  

“Over the last two years Irish people came together in many different ways. Killruddery House’s collaboration with IHF, along with the support of The Creative Ireland programme, created a beautiful space for those in need this winter.” 

For more info on our Compassionate Culture Network, aiming to explore how creativity helps establish places where people can talk openly about loss, visit the Compassionate Culture Network page.   

Since 1618 Killruddery House has been home to Earl and Countess of Meath, Lord and Lady Ardee and the Brabazon Family. Today three generations live there. For more info visit