Thankyou To Our Volunteers

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on 3rd November 2021.

As we come to the end of the year, it will soon be time for the Tidy Towns Results to be announced. However highly Letterkenny scores in the results, we are proud of the improvements that have been made to the town both this year and in previous years. None of which could have been done without our volunteers, who turn out in all weathers to pick litter, tidy up green areas, paint fences, mend fences, plant flower beds and everything else that is done to improve the look of the town.

The volunteers gather at the Brewery

Recently, we held a coffee morning at the Brewery, where co-chair Gerard McCormick and co-ordinator Neil Blockley both spoke to the volunteers to give thanks for all their work. The following is an excerpt from an open letter to volunteers, penned by Gerard.

Open Letter

To all the Tidy Towns Volunteers:

On behalf of the Letterkenny Tidy Towns Committee, I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you for all your work and efforts that you have given to your town this year.

When Neil came to us with his idea of starting a structured volunteering plan which is based on the famous “table” at the Market Square on Sunday mornings along with promoting the good work done on Social Media, we never thought that it would be such a success.

On reflection, it has been successful for two reasons, firstly, the selfless spirit of all you volunteers who reached out to us and gave your time freely to improve the fabric of the town by making it clean and tidy, secondly the hard work and organisation that Neil has put into this initiative from the very start. These two reasons have been instrumental in the success of the initiative, we salute you all.

We are told by the National Tidy Towns Unit that the Tidy Town results will be released sometime in November and we are excited about this, after the cancelled competition last year.

You never know what will happen in this competition, but we do know one thing, we have all worked extremely hard to have Letterkenny in the best shape possible and we should all be very proud of that as the Tidy Town year winds down.

I would just like to conclude that we hope that you have enjoyed volunteering with Tidy Towns as it is in the giving that we receive the most in life. We look forward to continue working with you all as we strive to improve our beautiful town.

Gerard addresses the volunteers while Neil looks on.

Charlie Grant, organiser of many of Letterkenny Tidy Towns’ projects

Pollinating Trees

In order to promote the planting of pollinating trees, we are working with Alcorns Garden Centre in Kiltoy. Members of the public can go into Alcorns and select 2 pollinator friendly trees. Letterkenny Tidy Towns will pay for whichever is the cheaper of the two. Nine tree varieties are on offer, including rowans, ashes, weeping willows, cherry blossom and many more. To find out more, contact Craig on 074 9121541 or visit www.alcorns.ie.

 

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Pollinator Friendly Areas Register – Buy a Pollinator Friendly Tree & Get Another Free Campaign – NOW CLOSED

This offer is now closed, thank you to all who participated.

As part of our Biodiversity initiatives we are building a register of pollinator friendly areas in Letterkenny!

We are delighted to be partnering with local garden centre Alcorns on this great biodiversity initiative. For every pollinator friendly tree(s) purchase we will provide one pollinator tree completely free of charge (that tree being of lesser or equal value).  Please note, this offer is while stocks last and one free tree per customer only.

If you can please complete a register form at the time of purchase in Alcorn so that we can add your Eircode and tree details to the pollinator friendly area register.  NOTE – your personal information will NOT be displayed in any way or provided to a third party.

The trees on offer are:

  • Prunus Kanzan (Cherry Blossom)
  • Prunus Fugenzo (flowering cherry)
  • Sorbus Nigra (purple leaf plum, pink flower)
  • Sorbus Vilmorini (pink berry ash)
  • Sorbus scalaris (Chinese Ash –  white flower pink berry)
  • Sorbus Comixta (Japanese Rowan)
  • Sorbus Acuparia (sheer water seedling)
  • Pyrus Pendula (weeping pear, white flower)
  • Salix Kilmarnock (weeping willow)
  • Cotoneaster coral beauty
  • Ceonthus Victoria
  • Cotoneaster Cornubia
  • Cotoneaster Pendula
  • Pyrus Chanticleer (celery pear)
  • Malus hyshop ( blue tinged crab apple )
  • Malus Red Sentinel (crab apple)

There will be more tree types available in spring for any more information on these trees please contact Craig at Alcorns on 074 – 9121541.

Happy planting!

The Letterkenny Tidy Towns team

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Tidy Times – August 2021

The following article appeared in the ‘Tidy Times’ article in the Letterkenny Leader in August 2021.

There’s plenty going on this month. Here are a few of the highlights.

Junior Litter Warrior.

During the summer, we have invited our Facebook followers to send in photos of their children helping to keep Letterkenny tidy. We’re firm believers that getting children involved will set up good habits for life, and it also gives them some quality time with the family. Each month we enter the photos in a draw and award a lucky winner a ShopLK voucher. The photos proved very popular with the public – great to see such community spirit! – so thanks to all who have entered so far. Entries close at the end of August so do send in your photos.  

Thiago (4), the Junior Litter Warrior for June

Tommy (9), Lottie (5) and Molly(4), the Junior Litter Warriors for July

Biodiversity.

In recent months we have been focussing on encouraging pollinators via biodiversity. Pollinators are vital because without bees and other insects pollinating wild plants, the plants wouldn’t produce the fruits and seeds that animals and birds need to eat, leading to a downward spiral in wildlife and plantlife population which would ultimately impact us all.

We have a 2-pronged approach to this. Firstly, we are developing various sites around the town which will be designated as biodiversity areas, for example at Ballyboe Park and at both of the town parks. In addition, there will be various spots, such as Sentry Hill, where the grass will be left unmowed, allowing wild flowers to grow in certain areas, all of which encourages our pollinators to do their work. You can also help out by leaving a section of your garden to grow wild.

Secondly, in conjunction with Byrnes Mobile Zoo we have installed a ‘Polly Bug’ caravan at a vacant site on Ramelton Road. The caravan is home to more than 100,000 bees who will be diligently working the plants of Letterkenny. As I look out of the window I can see a gang of them working away on our flowering trees, so they haven’t taken long to settle in.

Our ‘Flight of the Bee’ mural trail, celebrating pollinators, also continues. The trail will consist of 5 murals, from Port Road to the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden by the Century Cinema, which takes the walker on a journey with the bees. The aim is to promote awareness of biodiversity while providing an attraction which will appeal to visitors to the town along with the murals produced by such people as the A-rt Team and the Cathedral Quarter.

Garden Competition.

During the summer months, we are running our annual Garden Competition. If you are proud of your garden, why not send us a few photographs to enter the competition? We have 3 categories – small, large and wildlife friendly, so please indicate which category you wish to be considered for. Judging will be at the end of August, and winners will receive a voucher for Alcorns Garden Centre. Entries can be sent to lktidy@gmail.com, or you can drop printed photos in at Magees Pharmacy on Main Street. We look forward to seeing your pictures.

Last year’s winner of the ‘Wildlife Friendly’ category.

Keeping the town clean.

Since the restrictions on outdoor gatherings were eased, we have been getting back into meeting up on a Sunday morning for litter picks. Everyone is welcome, just turn up at Market Square at 10.30am on any Sunday, and Neil, our coordinator, will show you the ropes. We also encourage Community Clean-Ups, where groups of residents arrange to clean up their local area. Such events are great for community spirit, and for getting to know the neighbours, all while improving the neighbourhood. Tidy Towns and/or the Council can help with providing equipment and bags, as well as clearing the litter away afterwards. Contact us at lktidy@gmail.com for more details.

If you would like to know how you can get involved in helping with the Tidy Towns efforts, please visit our website https://www.letterkennytidytowns.com/volunteer.

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Tidy Times – June edition

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on June 3rd.

It’s great to see the Leader back after these months of lockdown, and here’s hoping that the gradual opening up of society continues onwards and upwards without any major setbacks! Not surprisingly, the lockdown has impacted Tidy Towns in a number of ways, but we have still been active as much as possible. So what have we been up to?

Perhaps the most visible activity is the litter picks. We haven’t been able to meet up, but Neil, our coordinator, has done a sterling job of keeping all our volunteers (who now number more than 50!) equipped to go out in their own family groups / bubbles and clear litter from their local areas. Looking around the town, there’s a real visible improvement, with special kudos going to John Wilkie who almost single-handedly cleaned up the dual carriageway. Quite the mammoth task, and it’s looking so much better! In the coming months, we hope to be able to get back to the Sunday morning meet-ups in the Market Square, and will also be encouraging community groups to “Adopt a road”. That is, a residents’ association would organise a litter pick of their own area with equipment provided by the council, along with assistance to remove bin bags afterwards. Get in touch with us if you would like to know more about this, at lktidy@gmail.com.

Our new volunteers from Writer’s Square set out on a litter pick.

In addition, there have been a number of local projects, mostly co-ordinated by Tidy Towns stalwart Charlie Grant. For example, there was a clean-up of an overgrown area on Long Lane, and there were also clean-ups at the Famine garden and by the Mart. One project which gained a lot of attention was at Roger’s Burn, which is a very fondly remembered site by many people from their Letterkenny childhoods. Here, our volunteers repaired a wooden handrail to make the site more easily accessible. Having visited there myself for the first time recently, I can say it’s a beautiful spot and anything which makes it easier to visit is to be welcomed.

Janus and Neily work on the handrail at Roger’s Burn.

Charlie has also been working with Transition Year students at Errigal college to set up a polytunnel, for use as a resource for both students and the community. In addition, he worked with the TY students to provide flower boxes for the Cathedral Quarter.

In the coming months we will be focussing on sustainability, with emphasis on biodiversity. There are numerous biodiversity sites around the town (Roger’s Burn being a prime example), and we will be working to keep these in good condition and provide information on how people can keep their own areas biodiverse. Other areas of focus will be on cutting down household waste, and in particular food waste, in which areas we will be providing information in the coming months.

Finally for this month, our “Flight of the bee” Mural trail continues to develop. After delays due to Covid restrictions, Karl Porter has been back in action in recent weeks, with the mural at the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden taking shape. The idea of the mural trail is to create a walking route which highlights the importance of bees in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. It is hoped that an app will be created to highlight the trail and to link in with other local attractions such as the Cathedral Quarter and the other murals around the town, thus providing another good reason for people to come and visit our town.

The new mural at the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden.

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Biodiversity

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on September 3rd.

One of the focuses for Letterkenny Tidy Towns, and for the national Tidy Towns organisation, is biodiversity. The aim is to encourage pollinators by protecting native hedgerows, encouraging wild flowers to grow, and planting pollen-rich flowers. This is because a third of Ireland’s 99 native bee species are facing extinction, and the knock-on effect of that on our wildlife and plantlife could be devastating. Last year the Tidy Towns National Pollinator Award for Large Town went to Buncrana, so we’re in good company!

There are a number of public sites where we are focussing on biodiversity, but we can all do our bit to help out in our own gardens. Something as simple as letting a small patch of grass grow long, or going easy on the hedge cutting can make a big difference, without necessarily having to look too untidy. As committee member Charlie Grant likes to say ‘There’s no such things as weeds, just plants in the wrong place’. To promote this, we included a ‘Wildlife friendly’ category in our recent garden competition, also known as the May McClintock Memorial Award, kindly sponsored by An Taisce.

Around the town, there are numerous places where biodiversity is being encouraged. On our website, we have a Biodiversity Map, which we are continuously updating – see above. Sites include the Town Park and Ballyboe Park, both of which have small areas which have been set aside to encourage pollinators, along with Sentry Hill where a section of grass is being allowed to grow long.

Another site of interest is the Butterfly Garden beside the tourist office. I for one drove past it for years without even knowing it was there, but it’s a fascinating spot to call in on if you’re passing by. Diverse pollinator-friendly flowers have been planted there, and there is also an insect hotel. There’s certainly plenty of insect activity going on down there!

The butterfly garden

My personal favourite is Ballymacool Town Park. Above the play area, the Nature’s Valley garden has a great variety of pollinator-friendly plants, and up in the woods in the top corner there is a beautiful wildflower meadow, neatly showing that Biodiversity can be either planned or spontaneous. Just take your pick.

Ballymacool Woods

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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,
Letterkenny
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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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.

Helpers
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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.

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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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