Plans for 2022

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on April 7th

At our recent AGM, plans for Letterkenny Tidy Towns initiatives for 2022 were discussed. This month’s column will go over some of the highlights.

Murals

We have 3 Flight of the Bee Murals at Lower Main Street, at the Jim McCormick Memorial Garden and at the old ESB site on Port Road. These were done by Karl Porter of UV Arts. Due largely to Covid restrictions, there was a delay in completing the remaining 2 murals at the Quiet Moment and at Insomnia, however Ciaran Dunlevy has been commissioned to complete the last 2 murals. Judging by his work at Church Lane, these two final pieces should be perfect to complete the mural trail!

In conjunction with the murals, we are working on an app which will guide visitors around the trail, and would hopefully take in other trails around the town. It’s in early stages of development, but could be a real asset to the town’s tourist industry once it’s up and running.

Keeping the Town Clean and Tidy

A core part of our remit is to keep the town looking clean and tidy, and this year as usual we will have a number of schemes in place to help achieve this.

Firstly, as per usual we will have our Sunday litter picks, where a group of volunteers meets up at Market Square at 10.30 on Sundays, and Neil, our coordinator, keeps everyone stocked with gloves, bags, high vis jackets and litter grabbers. All are welcome, and you can just turn up and join us any time. A warm welcome is assured!

The Paint the Town initiative will continue, where we provide assistance to businesses to design colour schemes and spruce up the outside of their premises.

The Spring Clean week and the Clean Sweep initiative are to be launched in April.

The Clean Sweep is an initiative where we encourage business owners to look after their own area

The Spring Clean Week is a national campaign, organised by An Taisce, in which residents who sign up to organise a spring clean of their local area, whether it be an estate or a local road, are provided with advice and equipment. Last year , volunteers collected an estimated 2800 tonnes of litter. If your community would like to join in, you can register at http://nationalspringclean.org.

Cleaner Community Campaign is to be launched in April with all the competitions attached to it. This is our annual competition, with such categories as ‘Best small/large/wildlife friendly garden’, ‘Best kept estate’, ‘Best kept shop front’ and so on. This leads to our awards night in the autumn. We are hopeful that this year the awards night will be in person, as we have missed meeting and thanking our volunteers in person the last couple of years, thanks to Covid.

Pipeline Projects

There are also a couple of schemes in the pipeline, which still have to be worked out. More details will follow. These include a Sustainability Survey and a possible Streets and derelict buildings seminar with Church Lane.

In Addition to these initiatives, we have a number of plans based around improving biodiversity, and I’ll cover those in a future column.

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Gold!

The following article appeared in the Letterkenny Leader on December 2nd 2021.

Gold!

We were delighted to hear that in the results of the National Tidy Towns competition, Letterkenny was awarded a gold medal, and was announced as tidiest town in Donegal. Well done also to runners up Buncrana and Glenties, and to national winners Ennis. Special praise was given to the transformation of Church Lane and the success of our volunteer programme. So thanks very much to our 70-plus volunteers who made that happen!

Our volunteers have been involved in litter picking, tidying up green areas, developing biodiversity areas, sprucing up the paths and fences at spots such as Roger’s Burn and the Famine Garden, helping to deliver and install flower boxes around the town, and much much more, and all of this continues to make the town a more liveable and pleasant place. As many people commented on our Facebook page, you’re all a credit to the town. Below I will single out 3 of the volunteers who made huge contributions this year, but every single one of our volunteers and committee members deserves a big pat on the back.

Charlie’s Angels

One volunteer who is behind a lot of the Tidy Towns initiatives is Charlie Grant. A true Tidy Towns stalwart, Charlie is often seen out and about with his crews of volunteers, tidying up green areas, mending and painting fences, planting flowers and much more. His crew have been referred to as Charlie’s Angels, or the Ninja Gardeners, and if you see them out and about, do give them a ‘Hello’ or a toot of the car horn, as they all do great work for the town.

Charlie Grant

Neil Blockley

Another key committee member is Neil Blockley. Not only is Neil often seen out and about with Charlie’s Angels, but he is also the coordinator of the Sunday litter picks. Neil took it upon himself to increase the number of volunteers picking litter around the town, and organised a map of the town showing picking routes. Each Sunday from around March to November Neil is down at the Market Square handing out bags, gloves and hi vis jackets and discussing with the volunteers which areas most need picking.

Neil (right) with Tidy Towns co-Chair Gerard McCormick

The Phantom Litter Picker

Last but not least, there was one volunteer who put in a herculean effort on behalf of Tidy Towns. None other than the Phantom Litter Picker himself, John Wilkie. John took it on himself to clean up the dual carriageway. That 5km stretch of road was in quite a bad state at the start of the summer, with months (or even years in some spots) of accumulated litter. Everything from drink cans, coffee cups and takeaway wrappers to bits of household furniture and chunks of cars. Over the course of several weeks/months, John chipped away at it, and 260 bags later, most of the litter was gone. As with most litter hotspots, litter will often reappear almost as soon as it is picked, but John kept chipping away and now the dual carriageway is looking a lot better.

John Wilkie with bespoke head gear

Calendar

To mark the work done by our volunteers this year (and every year, really!) , we are launching the Tidy Towns calendar for 2022. It will be available at Magees Pharmacy and Brian McCormick Sports & Leisure for just 5 Euros, and features photos of the work done by our volunteers during 2021.

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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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Litter Picking – Tidy Times 7th October 2021

Our litter picking group continue to do great work in keeping Letterkenny clean. In recent weeks we have had a few first timers, which is always great to see, and our regulars continue to do great work. Many of our volunteers meet at the Market Square on Sunday mornings from 10.30, where Neil, our coordinator, directs them towards the areas which most need cleaning up, and provides any bags, gloves etc that might be needed. Other volunteers go out at whatever time it suits them, some on a weekly basis and others on a more occasional basis. However often each person goes out litter picking, it is all much appreciated, and we always stress to our volunteers that it is entirely up to them how often they get involved. We are always looking for new volunteers, and all are welcome to join us.

Some of our volunteers recently told us how infuriating it was to see that Kiltoy, which they had cleaned that Sunday, was already fairly badly littered again by the Tuesday morning. This is a common experience, and a source of frustration to all of us who have volunteered, but unfortunately all we can do is keep chipping away at it in the hope that eventually people might be less inclined to drop litter once an area is kept clean. Many studies have shown that the more littered an area is, the more likely certain people are to add to the litter. Whereas if an area is spotless and beautiful, then the casual litterer may well think twice before hoinking that coffee cup/drink can/takeaway wrapper out of the car window. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I hope I’m not the only one!

Some of the litter found on Kiltoy

One way in which litter can be reduced is by incentivising people not to drop it. Which is why we were delighted to hear of Lidl’s plans to give vouchers for 10c per plastic bottle or aluminium can returned to its stores. Those of us of a certain age can remember when this was the norm for glass bottles, and even today, in Canada you will pay a little extra to buy glass or plastic bottles and can get your deposit returned when you take back the empties. The result is that most people will return their bottles, but even where people don’t there’s a mini industry in people who go round collecting litter in order to collect the deposits.

In conjunction with this, it stands to reason that if less waste is produced in the first place then less will end up as litter. So we are always glad to hear of initiatives by the supermarkets to reduce packaging. They have a long way to go, but at least it’s on their radar, which is a good start, and it’s up to all of us, as customers, to make sure it stays on their radar.

And finally, the perfect way to reduce litter is to catch them young. If it is instilled in our children from a young age that dropping litter is an unacceptable thing to do, then they are far less likely to drop litter themselves, or to grow up into adults who think it’s ok to leave their takeaway wrapper by the roadside. We were delighted to meet a group from Ballyraine FC a while back who were part of a community clean up. For this reason, we sponsored a ‘Junior litter warrior’ competition this summer where we invited facebook followers to send in photos of their kids getting involved in a litter pick. A winner was selected at random each month. We were delighted with the response, and thanks to all who entered.

The Junior Litter Warriors for August

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Garden Competition 2021- NOW CLOSED

We at Letterkenny Tidy Towns ran the 35th Annual Cleaner Community Garden Competition from 4th of July to 31st August 2021 with three categories.

We were delighted to run this 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 ran from 4th July to 31st of August 2021.  The entries will now 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.)

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.

Last year’s ‘Large Garden’ winner from Anne and Charlie.

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.

Last year’s ‘Small Garden’ winner from Breege.

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.

Last year’s ‘Wildlife Friendly Garden’ winner from Bronwyn. This category is all about encouraging natural growth to help out the pollinators and give wildlife a home.

THANK YOU TO ALL THE ENTRANTS & BEST OF LUCK!

The Tidytowns Committee.

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Charity Shops

The following article appeared in the “Tidy Times” column in the Letterkenny Leader on July 1st 2021.

In today’s world we often hear talk of ‘sustainability’. In previous times, an often used phrase was ‘reduce reuse recycle’. Tidy Towns as an organisation is very keen to promote both of these mantras. One great way that we can do our bit is through the use of charity shops. In these days of ‘fast fashion’, buying clothes from a charity shop is one way to save costs while helping to save the planet. Or it might be a place to buy pre-owned books, furniture or just about anything else you could wish for, often in good-as-new condition and always at a very reasonable price. The environment benefits greatly from both reducing the need to manufacture new goods and reducing the need to dispose of the used goods, particularly those which would go to landfill.

Meantime, the donor gets to clear out some space in their home. I once heard someone with a title along the lines of “Clutter consultant” (the mind boggles!) stating that if you don’t use an item of clothing for 6 months, then you don’t need it so chuck it out. I’m not sure I’d quite go that far, but certainly if you have a wardrobe full of clothes that aren’t likely to be worn again, why not have a good old clear-out.

Last but definitely not least, the charity gains some much needed income. Many charities have been seriously struggling for income this last year, and the impact of closing the shops was described as ‘seismic’ by one charity worker. I spoke to Eamonn of Good & New, who explained that the shop had been closed for 40 weeks, but accounts for most of the charity’s income. It was only due to having reserves that they were able to continue to operate, as they get no income at all from Government despite providing a vital service for cancer patients who are referred to Galway.

Without the service Good & New provide, cancer patients and their families would have to make their own way to Galway and find their own accommodation. Aside from the costs this would involve at a time when income may well be impacted negatively, there are also practicalities. For example, people who have radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer need to have 3 litres of liquid ‘on board’ in order for the treatment to be safe. This inevitably results in the need for a lot of pee breaks on the way home. With a specialist bus, stops can be made. With public transport the situation would be impossible to manage.

Some of the literature available at Good & New. “The Toughest Journey” is a fascinating account of the bus ride to Galway, which appeared in the Irish Times.

In Letterkenny we have a range of charity shops. For the most part, they accept donations of clothes, books, CDs, and in some cases they also accept furniture, jewellery bric-a-brac and small electricals. These include:-

  • St Vincent DePaul (Lower Main Street) works to alleviate the impact of poverty on those most in need in our society, caring for the homeless and providing social support to enable people to help themselves.
  • Irish Wheelchair Association (Glencar shopping centre) provide services for people with physical disabilities, including advice, community centres, and support with assisted living, housing, holidays and motoring.
  • NCBI (Upper Main Street) offer services to people affected by sight loss. The advice and assistance they offer can be the difference between becoming isolated versus living a full life.
  • Good & New Charity shop (Port Road) provides free transport to Galway for people requiring cancer treatment, and assists with accommodation. They also offer a drop-in centre to provide advice and support for people affected by cancer and their families.
  • Animals In Need (Lower Main Street) rescue and rehome unwanted, injured and abandoned animals.
  • Universal Books (Church Lane) are not a charity shop, but have an excellent selection of second hand books.

So do take the time to check out your local charity shops, either as a buyer or a donor. You might find something you’d love, or get rid of something you no longer love, and you’ll be benefitting some of the most deserving people in our society.

The NCBI shop

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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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The phantom litter picker – John Wilkie Q&A

In what we hope will become a regular feature to get to know our volunteers, we posed a few questions to Tidy Towns volunteer John Wilkie, in order to get to know what makes him tick and what makes him wave a litter grabber in triumph (or in anger!)

1. What makes you laugh the most?

JW – 0ccasionally Sarcasm make me Laugh. Laughter is a hugely underrated activity. l always try to see the funny side to everything. Also, the things people say! – Like ‘oh its yourself’ or ‘I see you in the town today’. I find Fr Ted very Funny, and as a child I loved Monty Python’s flying Circus – very funny.

2. How long have you been involved with Tidy Towns?

JW – I started with the Letterkenny Tidy towns in  2012 – just started cleaning up around my own area, lower Dromore. Also started cleaning along the dual carriageway around that time – me and family members.

3. What do you enjoy about being involved with the Tidy Towns?

JW – l love the freedom of volunteering you can do a few hours when ever you can – it’s just brilliant.

4. Who is your number one hero?

JW – Greta Thunberg the Swedish environmentalist / activist who is know for challenging world Leaders on Climate change – she is amazing for such a young person. Also Sir David Attenborough is amazing.

5. Where is your favourite place to be in nature?

JW – I just Love anywhere there is Trees…Like Carravaddy ,or Ards Forest park. I also like island hopping, going to visit Arranmore ,Tory island ,Cruit island – so beautiful right on our doorstep – please visit sometime.

6. If they were making a movie about your life, what would the theme tune be?

JW – Star Trek – Space, the final frontier, to boldly go where no man has gone before…

7. You are an amazing litter picker, what motivates you to keep on going?

JW – Well!! For me its about giving back to our Community we must all do our we bit for biodiversity and the environment

8. If you were a superhero what special powers would you have?

JW – The phantom Litter Picker. My superpower is my Laser beam eyes that Zaps all rubbish off the face of the Earth.

9. What is the most unusual piece of rubbish you have picked up?

JW – Well I have found some unusual things, such as ….

– Three piece suit

– Arm chair

– Toilet

– Microwave oven

– Deep fat fryer

– 4 tins of Beans

– 12 Cans of Beer

– Bag of Ashes

– Small bag of Cocaine

– Pregnancy Test which was positive

– Dog house

– New pair of Nike runners

Editors note – sounds like the Generation Game conveyor belt gone wrong. Didn’t he do well! Etc Etc…..

10. Do you possess a wig?

JW – Yes i have a Elvis Wig
Thank you very much…huh hu..

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Food Waste

Did you know that 28% of the world’s agricultural land is used to produce food which is wasted? More than half of this food waste comes from industrial and retail sectors, but a significant amount of it comes from households, so we can all do our bit to reduce this waste. Aside from environmental issues, it has been estimated that the average Irish household spends 700 Euros per year on food which ends up in the bin.

The Environmental Protection Agency have produced the website Stop Food Waste, which is full of helpful tips on how to reduce food waste.

The graphic below shows which food items are wasted the most.

So what can we, as householders, do to reduce food waste?

  • Planning – by taking a shopping list, we are less likely to buy on impulse, and are more likely to think about what we are actually likely to eat.
  • Avoid ‘2 for 1’ offers on perishable foods.
  • If cooking more than is likely to be eaten at one sitting, try to cook things which can be stored and reheated another time. For example, most pasta dishes, stews, chillies and curries will taste even better the second time around! Besides, you then have a second meal for half the effort.
  • If you have a compost bin, put all your waste food in there.
  • Get creative with food which might otherwise go to waste. The photos below show a veggie curry side dish I made from veggies that were left in the fridge. Delicious AND cheap.

We will be looking for more of your ideas for using up food which might otherwise go to waste.

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