Farmland covers around 60 acres of Ards Friary. Historically this land was farmed by the friars themselves providing food for the community. More recently the land has been leased to local farmers for grazing.

  • Our long term aim is to move towards organic certificated farming.

  • The community is now in control of the land suitable for farming.

  • Short term leases have been put in place with local farmers to manage the grass without the use of machines.

  • Re-fencing work has begun.

  • An Organic Farm Advisor has been employed to aide us in this venture.


As part of the designed landscape there is much parkland at Ards Friary.This is enjoyed by a huge number of visitors each year. This includes several habitats - Marsh, beach, coastal walks.

  • New trails will be established to make access easier for all and to open up previously inaccessible areas.

  • A Laudato Si prayer garden.

  • Updated signs and information boards (educational and inspirational) are at the design stage – these will be in Irish and English.

  • Renovation of our coachyard for future educational and community projects.

  • Master John’s Marsh Trail is a new walking trail that we have recently opened. It offers easy access to all and opens up a part of the friary parklands that has been inaccessible for years. Our plan is to “stack” a further trail on this one and to offer visitors to Ards further opportunity to enjoy up-close encounter with the trees of Ards.


Woodland is the most abundant ecosystem at Ards Friary. It covers over half of the land. What was once an abundant native Oak forest was displaced by planting of non-native species. There are several very old and significant trees at Ards, for instance a champion Wych Elm, and centurion Oak and Beech trees.

  • Currently the woodlands at Ards Friary are suffering from neglect, however there are many positive signs of potential for regeneration of the ancient Oak, Holly, Hard Fern woodlands that would have once stood here.

  • Clearance of invasive species and increasing protection for ground flora and young trees from deer are the first priorities. The Invasive species rhododendron Ponticum is particularly prevalent. It not only diminishes the amount of flora able to flourish, but also has a detrimental effect on fauna biodiversity.

  • In collaboration with a Woodland Ecology specialist we now have a plan for returning our woodland to its native structure. This will involve fencing, some thinning of non-native species, and planting Oak, Rowan, Ash, Birch and Hazel.

  • A Tree nursery is being established.

  • Care of existing specimen and champion trees is ongoing.

  • This part of the regeneration of Ards Friary is the most long term, as establishing and nurturing woodlands takes time.

  • Climate Change mitigation through Carbon sequestration, increased biodiversity, economic sustainability, and woodland resilience are all key impacts of our management strategy.


The Walled-Garden - Fr Matthew Memorial Garden - is an almost 5 acre garden divided into 3 sections. The walls provide an almost Mediterranean climate and it is a fabulous place for growing. There are also a mature apple tree orchard.

  • A local Community garden group currently uses around an acre of the garden, this group has strong links with the Friary and has an educational and social program of its own which we fully endorse and support.


  • There are two main areas of growth in relation to this space:


  • Organic Horticulture – the aim is for Ards Friary to become self-sufficient by growing our own food.

    Social Therapy – there is increasing evidence and support for the provision of therapeutic activity involving gardening and forestry for those recovering from addiction and those needing support in relation to their mental well-being.


  • The Garden will be used to offer a space for people to come to involve themselves in these kinds of activities.


  • Renovation – the walls require some care and a traditional stonemason has been employed to assess and renovate the walls. This also provides opportunity for the revival of traditional stonemasonry through workshops and for engaging the groups mentioned above.

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...through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste...

Energy -

We have been searching for a solution to our energy needs that also fits our ethos. Moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable sustainable energy. The initial stages of installing a geothermic heat pump and solar energy system are underway. This has also included a thorough assessment of the building in relation to insulation.


Waste Management -

it has also been necessarily for us to seek a ‘green’ solution to our sewage needs. Our current system is not fit for purpose and this has created the opportunity to do something a little different. We now have a Reed Bed Sewage system designed for us by Alvin Morrow, a local environmental sewage engineer. This will utilise the natural processes of microbial action and evaporation to treat our waste water. With an engineered Reed Bed and Wetland comprising the treatment stages. This is an innovative move for a retreat centre like ours.

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