750,000 sunflowers in boost for two charities

750,000 sunflowers in boost for two charities

8 September 2021

A FIELD of beautiful blooming sunflowers is continuing to brighten up Downpatrick in aid of two charities.

The All Lives are Precious (ALPS) sunflower field has enjoyed a successful launch after the public flocked to its previously undisclosed location on the Strangford Road after months of planning and prepping finally came to fruition.

Entry to the field is free, with the option to purchase some of the flowers for a small fee, with any  proceeds donated to the essential work carried out by both ALPS and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Over the previous six months ALPS, a community-based mental health and suicide prevention charity, alongside the McVeigh family, have quietly been creating a scenic landscape in the heart of the county.

Volunteers spent their evenings planting countless amounts of the eye-catching flowers, with the field now in full blossom.

“We planted just under a million sunflowers, which we started to plant back in May 16. It’s taken around three and a half months but we have a field now with about 750,000 sunflowers,” said ALPS representative Ronan Gilchrist.

“The whole purpose of why we wanted to do this was to create an environment to put a smile on people’s faces. In our business, everything we do at work is to try and give people positive activities to do in their lives and bring a bit of joy and happiness as well,” he continued.

“Judging by what we’ve seen, everyone who has visited us has left with a smile.”

Remaining tight lipped on future plans, Mr Gilchrist did hint at using other spaces of land which ALPS currently has have for further initiatives.

And the colourful initiative has received numerous support from locals, councillors and notably ITV’s Love Island star Matthew MacNabb.

The Downpatrick native and television personality said he was happy to have supported such a great cause, adding: “If you are in the area, please go and buy some sunflowers and support these amazing charities.”

The field is open every weekend from 11am to 7pm to the public until the flowers naturally die out.

ALPS did welcome the public to the field during last week’s bank holiday and were overwhelmed at the number of people who showed their support.

Upwards of 2,000 people from the surrounding area visited the field over a nine hour period, in what marked a significant success for the organisers.

Due to the high volume of people wanting to see the flowers in all of their natural beauty, ALPS has confirmed that the field will be open on Thursdays and Fridays via an appointment-based time slot between 5pm and 8pm.

However, the sunflower field is also open during the week for the likes of community groups and nursing homes. The field is located at 103 Strangford Road.