“TidyTowns is not just a competition. It demonstrates everything good about our people – volunteerism, positivity, working together, community spirit, protecting our environment, that sense of pride in looking after the place you call home.” So said Minister Humphreys at the Launch of the 2021 National Competition in Glaslough. It may surprise many of us to learn that a staggering 987 Tidy Towns groups around Ireland are active making their communities better places to live in. And furthermore, Tidy Towns is the second biggest voluntary organisation in the country after the GAA!! But what do the groups do and how can you join in? Read on.
Some think that “Tidy Towners” spend most of their time on “Litter picks” but there’s much more than that. Litter and Tidiness is one category however applicants are judged under a range of headings: Community – Your Planning and Involvement. Streetscapes and Public Places. Green Spaces and Landscaping. Nature and Biodiversity in your Community. Sustainability – Doing more with Less. Residential Streets and Housing Areas. Approach Roads, Streets and Lanes. The work of Glaslough Tidy Towns covers all of these categories and is one of the reasons they were able to win back the Overall Tidy Town award in 2019, 41 years later after first winning it.
Glaslough Tidy Towns
Glaslough Tidy Towns have a varied (and growing) list of achievements: the community allotments were constructed in 2016 and completed in 2017. The land is provided by Castle Leslie to Glaslough Development and Tidy Towns. The allotments were designed and constructed by Barry Kavanagh together with members of the local community employment scheme as part of a plant care and maintenance course.
Glaslough TT have created Biodiversity Gardens at St. Marys NS & The Oakland Park. Also at the school is a Can Mill made from recycled aluminium cans that the school children collected from households. It’s made of 15000 cans. The school is a regular winner of the Green Flag initiative which proves that Tidy Towns is a truly intergenerational effort. Glaslough have also worked to create a community library of donated books (located at the Oakland Centre) and recently commissioned a fantastic sculpture (named Percy the Horse) made from repurposed horse shoes.
Renewal of the Built Heritage
In olden days the horses would drink from an open pond near the Railway line and this pond as well as the train junction have now been renovated. Industrious members of the community have also created an audio tour of the village for those interested in the history of the locality (which goes to show the variety of skills involved in successful Tidy Towns Groups!) A strong theme noticeable is that Glaslough Tidy Towns work closely with other community organisations to achieve maximum success: Glaslough Harriers got involved by encouraging the use of reusable drinks bottles to stop the waste caused by “single use plastic.” Water Butts and tanks are located throughout the village to store rainwater and to enable it to be used for gardening saving treated tap water. Poster competitions, training workshops (on composting, vegetable growing etc) all form part of the many strands of activity Glaslough are involved in. It’s hard not to be impressed and we wish Glaslough well in their upcoming effort to win the international Communities in Bloom Competition in 2021 / 2022. Anyone interested in learning more can visit their regularly updated facebook page, their website (www.glasloughtidytowns.com), or to get involved call 083 8740702 or email email@example.com
Monaghan Tidy Towns
Monaghan Tidy Towns are also hugely active, ranking third in the County behind Glaslough and Carrick. Monaghan have been recognised as pioneers in pushing the idea of a Biodiversity Town, something which National Adjudicators noted as highly innovative. The Dispersed Urban Orchard stands out as original and brilliant: the eagle eyed among us will have seen a range of fruit trees in public (for instance along the Greenway) and private locations. The trees were provided by Monaghan Tidy Towns with assistance from the County Council. Little wonder then that Monaghan Tidy Towns has won 3 national awards for biodiversity projects over the last 5 years. No other town in the competition can claim this.
A Biodiversity Town
As well as encouraging a low mow cycle for public areas, the Group is also encouraging locals to sign up to the national pollination platform: it’s vital that we allow wild spaces and natural flowering shrubs and wildflowers to bloom – this gives ample opportunity for pollinators such as bees and hoverflies to access vital food at critical times of the year! Surveys of bats and trees also give baseline data which is useful to monitor progress of these critical species.
The group never rest on their laurels and have recently updated their Biodiversity and Development Plan for 2021 to 2023 (see www.monaghantidytowns.com) to reflect this passion for nature. Actions detailed include the renewal of a Monaghan Tree Trail, working with Bus Eireann to enhance biodiversity features at the Bus Station, an award scheme for local estates (to encourage them to get on board the Tidy Towns effort) and a range of training (on compost making, invasive plant recognition etc).
Ambition and Education
What is most ambitious is that Monaghan Tidy Towns are always pushing the boundaries on what we understand as “tidy” and what is actually “sustainable”. Instead the group are phasing out less environmentally friendly actions such as use of annual flowers in their planting plans, resource intensive hanging baskets, encouraging low mow areas (which are loved by pollinators but frowned upon by some traditional gardeners who prioritise “neat and tidy” over helping nature). Simple but effective actions such as “nasturtiums not weeds” (planting the simple flower in neglected areas) prove that not every “uplift” needs to be expensive. The groups actions are helping to reeducate the public as well as elected representatives which is inspiring. Emer is available at 086 390 8504 for more information but you can keep an eye on their facebook page (or webiste) to find out about the next event or litter pick!
Castleblayney Tidy Towns
There’s lots happening in Blayney too. Lamp post painting, adding colour and panache to Mindszenty Park, painting forlorn street benches and weeding and tidying the peace dove on the Monaghan Road. Back in March local businessman Peter Cairns made Barn Owl Boxes and they’ve been carefully located to encourage these iconic but threatened birds to nest. A special feature of Barn Owl nest boxes is the exercise platform. The platform reduces the risk of the baby owls falling to the ground prematurely. The nest box needs to be at least 3 metres above ground level. It is also important that the site is at least 1 kilometre away from a busy road, the reason being that many Barn Owls are killed by cars as they forage on roadsides. Barn Owls mostly feed upon small mammals, such as mice and rats and so farmers can benefit from the presence of Barn Owls as long no rat poison is being used in the local area. The group has 25 members and is always looking for more. Pete McMahon at Centra has been a massive supporter by making tea and biscuits available to volunteers after their meet ups! More information on their regularly updated facebook page.
Doohamlet Tidy Towns
Lastly we turn to Doohamlet where the District Community Development Association, Doohamlet Tidy Towns and Doohamlet GFC have been working in partnership to improve biodiversity in the stream along the new football pitch. The stream bed did not support insects and invertebrates, which in turn could not allow fish and other animals to thrive along this section of river. With thanks to funding from LAWPRO in 2020 & 2021 (Local Authority Waters Programme), a new willow hedge has been planted along the stream. This native hedge is ideally suited to this location, and will support up to 200 species alone. Then, with expert advice from RIVUS ecological engineering, specially chosen gravel and stone was laid along the bed of the river to improve river flow and create habitat for insects, invertebrates and spawning fish. It will take some time for nature to re-establish, but is a great start to developing a new linear park as part of their plans for a Leader funded walking track around the football pitch.
Each of our local Tidy Towns initiatives deserves a full article of its own so we encourage anyone in these organisations to get in touch if you’d like to submit an article. Similarly if you have notices which you’d like us to advertise please get in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written for the Sustainability Matters Column which is an initiative of Transition Monaghan. The Column is published in the Northern Standard newspaper which circulates in Monaghan and surrounding counties.