A Farm In The City: Airfield Re-Opens For Business


Much to the delight of South Dubliners (especially the littlest ones) the news of the phased reopening of Airfield Farm and Gardens in Dundrum has recently been announced. As regulars will know, Airfield has been closed for extensive renovations for the last two years, though it has seemed like much longer to us locals. The phased post-renovation opening is because all of the necessary work isn’t yet complete. At the moment part of the estate is open for business, approached from Overend Way, along with the new ergonomically designed restaurant. Airfield House, no longer used as a cafe, now contains a Heritage Experience, taking full advantage of the extensive archive left to Airfield Trust by the Overend sisters, Naomi and Letitia. The charitable trust was set up by the sisters in 1974 to benefit the local area in perpetuity.

The house was open for the first time on Wednesday 30th October for self-guided tours, just in time for a holiday activity. The house had been decorated with pumpkins (although whether the Overend sisters ever had pumpkin decorations is another matter) and looked rather jolly and inviting. Only the ground floor is open but it has been restored and furnished to display artefacts illustrating Overend family, community and social life. There is a fascinating collection of photographs, letters and documents showing how Trevor and Lily Overend developed the farm from an existing house and began to supply produce to the local area. Their daughters Naomi and Letitia continued and developed the farming tradition. The exhibition brings Airfield history up to date (and aptly demonstrates the Overend legacy) with an interactive display where visitors can view footage put together from the farm’s many schools activities. You’ll probably find as I did that you spot people you know, showing just how much a part of the community Airfield remains.  

The farm area is closed for the moment although sheep (bred from the old Airfield stock) can now been seen in the front field which is an optimistic sign. A new flock of hens has also now taken up residence, including some very adorably fluffy specimens.  I took a walk through the gardens (Airfield are charging half-price entrance for now) to see what was going on. Unfortunately I picked the wrong moment and the heavens opened yet again; despite that wetting I had a pleasant walk exploring the changes that the developments have wrought. It was reassuring however to find much still the same; the historic charm of the Walled Garden and Tot’s Garden offset the starkness of the new buildings. I was disappointed though, to see that ornamental pond in the Walled Garden has vanished. According to the publicity, big plans for the farm are underway, including a cookery demonstration kitchen; now you can have the ‘fork to the plate’ experience to inspire you to grow your own.  Visitors will also be able to watch morning milking in the new parlour as well as butter and cheese making.     

All in all I was agreeably surprised at the alterations made, though I also felt relief that the changes weren’t even more extensive so that the Airfield I knew and loved had vanished. I do think however, that the Airfield estate has lost some if its innocent, cosy appeal and taken on a rather generic, corporate aspect but it remains to be seen whether a more individual character asserts itself given time. I was reminded of the first time I went up to Malahide Castle after the developments around the old castle courtyard which added an Avoca restaurant and shop to the new visitor centre. A sense of sameness and familiarity (but not in a good way), tends to take away precious individuality from ‘improved’ tourist venues such as Malahide and Airfield.

Naturally after all of the garden walking, I needed a tea break. I found the members of staff in the light and airy new cafe (and the ticket office) to be a very welcoming and friendly team. I must say that I will miss having tea in the old house, feeling elegant as I overlooked the terrace. But, you can also still see the gardens (albeit from a different angle) while munching your scone. On one side of the cafe you can look out over a new rectangular pond which runs alongside the large windows. Lovely when the sun’s shining and still lovely when you can watch the rain plopping on the smooth surface of the water.  And in a rainy country you can’t say better than that…

Image courtesy of

  1. Looking forward to seeing how it all settles down and matures.

    • Chris Mills
    • November 7th, 2013

    Yes, I’ll be popping up again soon to see how things are going! Thanks for commenting.

    • Mary
    • November 24th, 2013

    So happy Airfield open again. A jewel! Fabulous job.

      • Mary
      • February 9th, 2014

      Breakfast just delicious this morning, followed by a walk down to the barn to see the new lambs.

    • Mary
    • March 4th, 2014

    Yummy pancakes in Airfield today! Gardens are beginning to wake up, they are going to be fabulous.

  1. March 27th, 2014

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