What is Tidy Times About?

The following article appeared in the ‘Tidy Times’ column of the Letterkenny Leader at the start of August.

Hello and welcome to the new regular feature, which I will be writing on behalf of Letterkenny Tidy Towns. Each month I’ll cover some of the things which the Tidy Towns volunteers do, and how you can help out.

This month I will try to answer the question “What exactly do Letterkenny Tidy Towns do?” You may be surprised at the breadth of our initiatives – it’s not just about litter – and I will go into more detail on some of these in future editions of the Letterkenny Leader.

The Letterkenny Tidy Towns team is a group of volunteers whose goal is to greatly improve our sense of community, quality of people’s lives and our local environment.

We believe environmental improvement is a vital part of economic generation. We work hard to make Letterkenny look great – a place where people want to live and visit. So how do we go about it?

Firstly, we represent Letterkenny in the national Tidy Towns Competition. This is not happening this year, but the efforts involved in preparing the town for the competition are all about improving the local environment, and will thus continue.

In a normal year, there would be regular Sunday litter picks, including the ‘adopt a road’ scheme. These are on hold for now, but people all over the town are taking it upon themselves to clean up their own areas, and we help to facilitate this by providing litter grabbers, High Vis jackets, gloves, bags and so on, as well as getting involved ourselves, of course. The Council, with help from Glenard Plant, do a great job of keeping the town clean but they can’t be everywhere, so every piece of litter lifted by a member of the public helps to keep our town beautiful.

{NOTE – since the article went to press, we did get the Sunday litter picks going again, and were delighted by the number of new volunteers who came along (a 7-fold increase of participants compared to this time last year! Thanks so much to all of you). The litter picks are now wound down for the winter and for the level 5 lockdown, however several of us will continue to do individual litter picks, and bags, gloves etc can be provided to anyone else who wishes to clean their local area.}

A fine turn out for a recent Sunday litter pick

The Tidy Towns Committee helps to co-ordinate the work done by the Community Employment Scheme, typically involving weeding, hedge trimming, planting flowerbeds and placing flower boxes.

The Tidy Towns committee is working to encourage biodiversity. See next month’s article for more on this!

The Tidy Towns committee liaises with residents associations, community groups such as Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter, local businesses and the council to highlight the work that needs to be done and to determine the best way to do it. A part of this is the annual Cleaner Community Campaign, where Tidy Towns works with residents associations to facilitate local clean-ups, and local environmental initiatives.

Flower boxes are placed around the town by Tidy Towns

As you will have gathered from the above, some of our ‘normal’ work has been put on hold due to the strange times we’re living in, but we are still very much involved in smaller scale projects, and in encouraging members of the public to get going with their own projects. As an added incentive, we are currently running a garden competition with three categories – small garden, large garden and wildlife encouraging garden. For more details, see our website or our Facebook page.

There are several other ongoing projects, such as cleaning up the Sentry Hill area and looking into improving the murals in Lower Main Street, along with informal litter picks being done by individuals.

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Weekly Litter Picks

For the last few weeks, our Sunday litter picks have been back up and running. It’s difficult to predict what will happen in future as we go through the various levels of Covid 19 restrictions, but as long as we are able to do so, we will carry on meeting up at 10.30am at Market Square each week. The number of volunteers tends to range between 4 and 10. Neil, the coordinator, then designates areas for people to take care of, and typically it will be 2 people working a particular area, with 1 on each side of the road. So even in the strictest of lockdown conditions, we hope to be able to keep going, but we shall have to see what the future brings!

Neil organises the volunteers

But enough of this Covid talk, what do the Sunday volunteers get out of it? Annalisa joined us shortly after the Sunday picks restarted, and has become a regular, focusing mostly on Ballyraine and Kiltoy. “I first joined the Letterkenny Tidy Town’s Sunday Litter Pick about six weeks ago after I spotted one of their volunteers out one day and it made me think, what can I do to help? I enjoy walking about the town but it’s always disappointing at times to see so much litter.” Annalisa mentioned a certain energy drink which shall remain nameless, and how she wished it would give the drinkers the energy to find a bin. Couldn’t have put it better myself!

“So, for the hour of your time when you join the Sunday litter picks, you get a great feeling of accomplishment knowing you’re helping the environment and contributing to the community we are fortunate enough to be a part of. I would recommend anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer to just do it! Everyone is lovely, there’s no pressure, and if it’s one hour a year or one hour a week you’re able to give, every little bit helps.”

A typical scene which greets the volunteers. This lot was picked on a short stretch of Lisnennan Hill.

Neil, the coordinator, has been delighted with the growing attendance over the last few weeks, and has been busy planning areas to be covered. In short, there are more areas needing to be cleaned than we currently have volunteers, but we do the best we can with the people available to us, and in the longer term we hope to get estate residents to adopt their own neighbourhoods. Meantime, the areas being covered include Ballyraine, Kiltoy, Lisnennan, Mountain Top, Gortlee, Glencar, Old Town and of course the town centre. Most of these areas are places which the council’s contractors, Glenard Plant, can’t get to very often due to time/resource cconstraints. I hope you have noticed improvements in at least some of these areas, and if you’re looking at an area and thinking ‘hmm that could do with a bit of clean’, then please do get involved. All are welcome!

We also realise that there may be people who would very much like to get involved, but for whom Sunday morning just doesn’t work – maybe you have other commitments or maybe you’d just rather be relaxing on a Sunday morning! We totally understand, and several of our committee members are in total agreement with you. If that sounds like you, but you would still like to get involved, then we can offer help with bags, gloves, high vis jackets and litter grabbers. Either call in on Neil at the Market Square on a Sunday morning, get your stuff and be on your way, or you can get in touch with Gerard McCormick at Magees Pharmacy. Full details are on our website – https://www.letterkennytidytowns.com/volunteer, or message us on our Facebook page.

The above article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on Oct 1st 2020.

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Garden Competition Winners

Our 2020 Tidy Towns Garden Competition had a very high standard of entry, and it was a very tough decision to pick winners for the three categories. But decisions had to be made nonetheless, and I hope you will agree that all 3 were very worthy winners! Thanks again to all who entered, you are all doing the town, and yourselves, proud.

The May McClintock Wildlife Friendly Category

This went to Bronwyn of Foxhills. The judge was glowing in his praise of Bronwyn’s garden, pointing out how much thought had gone into the design, and into encouraging a variety of wildlife for all seasons.


The Sean Higgins Memorial Award for Large Garden

This goes to Anne and Charlie, for their beautifully kept garden.


The Charles and Rose Devlin Memorial Award  for Small Garden.

The prize goes to Breege at Wolfe Tone Place. This garden attracted a lot of praise from Facebook followers and committee members and is a very worthy winner.

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Garden Competition Entries

Here is a sample of the entries we’ve had in our garden competition. We’ve been overwhelmed with the quality of the entries, and it’s going to be really tough making a decision!

Large Garden – Sean Higgins Memorial Award


Wildlife Friendly Garden – May McClintock Memorial Award


Small Garden – Charles and Rose Devlin Memorial Award


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Garden Competition – Best Large, Small and Wildlife Friendly Categories

We at Letterkenny Tidy Towns are running a garden competition from 20th of July to 31st August with three categories.

Because the Cleaner Community Campaign had to be cancelled this year due to Covid 19 restrictions Letterkenny Tidy Towns are delighted to run a garden competition for the Best Large Garden, Best Small Garden and Best Wildlife Friendly Garden categories. Each category is dedicated to previous Tidy Town members.  See below for details of the categories.

The competition will run from 20th July to 31st of August where the entries will be judged and each category winner will receive a trophy and an Alcorns Gift Voucher. Please note that we can only accept entries from Letterkenny and the surrounding townlands.

If you would like to showcase your garden this summer and be in with a chance of winning one of these great prizes, please send a maximum of 5 photos per garden category via email including your name and contact number to lktidy@gmail.com or via post to
The Secretary,
Letterkenny Tidy Towns,
Magees Pharmacy,
Co Donegal.

Closing date for entries is August 31st.

The Large Garden competition is known as the Sean Higgins Memorial Award. Adjudication will cover planting, colour including shrubs, grassy areas and flower borders encouraging wild life.

Your garden doesn’t need to be as large or as elaborate as this one at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam! It just needs to be an average or larger sized Letterkenny garden to qualify.

The Small Garden competition is known as the Charles and Rose Devlin Memorial Award. Adjudication will cover planting, colour including shrubs, grassy areas, and flower borders encouraging wild life.

The Wildlife-friendly Garden competition is known as the May McClintock Memorial Award, sponsored by An Taisce. For examples of what we might be looking for in this category, see the biodiversity section of our website.

This category is all about encouraging natural growth to help out the pollinators and give wildlife a home.

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Keep It Local, Keep It Beautiful Competition Winners – Best Clean Up Category

We asked members of the public to send us photos of an area they had helped to keep beautiful.

It was a very close-run thing, but we picked Lewis as the winner of this category, for his efforts with his daughter to clean up a stretch of beach at Crohy Head near Dungloe. The reason we picked this particular photograph was because it shows a young volunteer getting stuck in to what is clearly a very demanding task.

Lewis’ other pictures show a job well done.

Congratulations and well done to the other entrants.

Elaine did a clean up of a beach on Arranmore, removing 15 bags of rubbish and filling half a trailer. She believes some of that litter had been there for years, particularly the plastic, and now brings down a bag every time she visits so that it never gets that bad again.

Debdeep regularly walks through LYIT campus, and will often pick up any cans, bottles and cups that have been discarded, as ‘a gesture of respect that I can give back to mother nature, my university, and maybe to the incredible city of Letterkenny’.

Aoife and her friend regularly pick up litter on their walking route in the woodlands between Gortnacorrib and Kirkstown, clearing up discarded takeaway wrappers, drink cans and whatever else people have discarded.

Muckish from Kirkstown

Karen spent two hours cleaning up her neighbourhood, then went for a well deserved swim.

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Keep It Local, Keep It Beautiful competition – Best photo showcasing local beauty

We asked members of the public to send us their best photograph showcasing local beauty. We had 140 entries, and it was very difficult to narrow it down to an overall winner. So much so that some truly great photos had to be ruled out, so well done to all who entered!

We picked this photo titled ‘Stop and smell the leaves’ by Yvonne O’Brien as the overall winner. IT was the expression on the cow which won us over – totally living for the moment.

Stop and smell the leaves

The runner up was this fantastic shot of St Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny by Peter Blake.


For the under 16s, we have joint winners with these beautiful shots.



The following are a selection of some of the other photos we were most impressed by. Well done to all.


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Win a €100 ShopLK voucher! Keep it local. Keep it beautiful. Entries now CLOSED.

Keep it local. Keep it beautiful!

How to win a 100 euro ShopLK voucher.

We are running a campaign called ‘Keep it local. Keep it beautiful’, in which we encourage people to pick up a few items of litter while out enjoying your local area.  Whether you pick up a couple of cans or do a full scale neighbourhood litter pick, it all makes a big difference.  Just be sure to keep to social distancing guidelines (see below for further details).

As an added incentive, we are offering two 100 EURO ShopLK vouchers (sponsored by Magees Pharmacy).

The first category is ‘Best Clean Up’, which will include photographs of areas which have been improved thanks to your litter picking efforts. If you can include ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos, that would be ideal, but don’t worry if you don’t have a ‘Before’ picture, just tell us about your clean up and you’ll be entered in this category. See below for an example, surely you can do better than this!

The second category is for the photo which best showcases the beauty of your local area.  Could  be a view, could be animals (domestic, farm or wildlife), could be the people you love, could be a building or a piece of outdoor artwork – the choice is yours!

Please note that if you already entered before the introduction of separate categories, there is no need to enter again, as your photos are already entered in the appropriate category.

Once you have taken your photo(s), just post it on our Facebook page or email to lktidy@gmail.com and include a short description of the photo(s), your name and contact phone number in the email.  If you prefer to post your photo(s) then please send to Gerard McCormick, Magees Pharmacy, 27 Upper Main Street, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, F92 E30F also providing a short description of each photo, your name and contact phone number. The competition closes at 12 midnight on July 5th.

Keeping your area beautiful!

If you would like to make a contribution to keeping your area beautiful, you can get grabbers, bags and gloves by contacting Gerard or Eileen in Magees Pharmacy on (074) 9121409.  Or you can just pick up a few items as you spot them and place them in your own bin.  Please be sure to follow the government guidelines below.

Government Guidelines

As of phase 2 of the Government’s roadmap to easing the COVID-19 restrictions, the official advice from the National Spring Clean campaign is as follows:-

• Only small groups to take part (up to 15 people, provided all activity is outdoors)
• Strict 2m social distance maintained
• Stay within your allowable distance
• Hand sanitising essential before and after the clean-up
• Use your own gloves, and don’t share your litter picker if you’re using one
• Make sure gloves/ litter pickers are clean before/ after clean up
• Do not collect any discarded PPE or tissue paper

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The Flowering Of Church Lane – by Donnan Harvey


The mission statement of Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter is to regenerate the historic Church Lane street and surrounding areas to create a vibrant Historic Cultural Quarter in the heart of Letterkenny. Our Cathedral Quarter committee is only small in number and we would not have been able to achieve our goals without the support and assistance of other groups in the town.

Letterkenny Tidy Towns have played a substantial role in assisting us to make the Church Lane street as attractive as possible. One way we have done this is through installing flower boxes all along with Lane and this is an excellent example of how different Community groups can work together on the one project. The Tidy Towns have sponsored the flowers while Letterkenny’s Men Shed made the wooden boxes, which we put the flowers into.

No. 2 Church Lane

It is a really big day when the flowers land in the Cathedral Quarter and it is a true sign that summer is with us. The flowers are expertly prepared in the greenhouses of Alcorns Garden Centre and were really blooming when they arrived with us. It takes us a few days to put all the flowers out on the Lane, first putting the boxes on the window sills at ground level and on the second day, we erected the boxes on the first floor level.


As part of the historic towns Initiative, hooks were installed on the window ravels and so when the flower boxes were installed, we tied wire across them so they were secured. With each year, the flower arrangement gets brighter and bigger and Charlie Grant from Tidy Towns has been absolutely brilliant in arranging this transition. Charlie has planned that we will grow wild flowers on the coping of the stone walls that surrounds Grieve fields so the Church Lane will continue to be very colourful over the next few years.


To ensure the flowers remain vibrant all summer long, they must be continuously watered and here again, tidy towns have really helped out the Cathedral Quarter so this can be done. A watering machine was purchased so I didn’t have to go up a ladder to water the flowers that were up on a height. Similarly, they installed a Water Harvesting System at the back of No.3 Church Lane so the rainwater is collected and is used for watering the flowers.

It was really unfortunate that the National Tidy Competition is not happening this summer because no doubt the judges would be very impressed by the flower arrangement and all the work done under the Historic Towns Initiative. What is more impressive that the flowers themselves is the co-operation between Cathedral Quarter and the Tidy Towns in making this happen. It illustrates what happen when two organisations come together work on a project and the leadership shown by Letterkenny Tidy Towns is an example to all other Tidy Towns organisations across the country.

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Tidying Our Own Neighbourhood

My wife Morag and I moved to Letterkenny in spring of 2019, and love living in Lisnennan, on the edge of Letterkenny. As the winter began to fade away and the undergrowth pared itself back, we began to notice that our road was getting increasingly littered. In part, this was new litter being dropped, whether out of car windows, blown from bins on windy days or maybe just blown from elsewhere in town. It was particularly bad around the bottom end of the Lisnennan hill, around the Educate Together School and up the steep part of the hill. Therefore, we decided to do something about it. With the help of Gerard Mc Cormick of Tidy Towns, and also with the support of the council’s litter warden, we received our litter picking kits, namely gloves, bags, and a few of these nifty litter grabbers.

Litter on the verge and hanging from the fence beforehand.
Lisnennan After
Spick and span afterwards.

By the time we had worked our way home, we had collected 13 bags. The council litter warden turned up the next morning to remove the bags.

Lisnenan Bags

We put the word out on our local residents’ WhatsApp group, letting them know what we were planning, and several of them agreed to help out. This was pre social distancing, but even now, it could still be done as a community effort if everyone keeps apart and picks their own patch to concentrate on. Anyway, one morning in early March we were ready to go. In typical Donegal style, the weather was sunny, rainy and windy, cold and warm, often all 5 at the same time. We decided to start from the bottom of the hill and work our way up. Because it had not been done for a while, there was a lot to pick up, but we worked our way up the hill, getting lots of friendly waves from motorists along the way, and one new friend who turned up with bags and a picker of his own and joined in.

Because there had been quite a lot of litter, we hadn’t completed the job on the first day, so we went back a week later to complete the area around the Educate Together School. We gathered another 5 bags, which the litter warden kindly took away for us.

In the 2 months since then we have monitored the area, and have done 3 more litter picks. However, thanks to the initial clean-up, a litter pick now doesn’t take much longer than it would take to do a normal walk up and down the hill, and we would only need to take 1 or 2 bags. It’s heartening to see that the area, while certainly not spotless, is not getting anything like as untidy as it was initially, and it gives us great satisfaction to know that we’re doing our bit to keep the area beautiful.

So what changes have we noticed over the last 2 months? Well at the start of March, the main litter items were cans (particularly Red Bull), takeaway containers, water bottles and coffee cups. Now that we’re into lockdown, there are still plenty of cans but the coffee cups and water bottles have been replaced by disposable gloves and disinfectant wipes!  However, the main thing is there is a lot less litter there now, and long may it remain so.

To find out how you can help to keep your area tidy, see Do your own litter patrol

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