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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

'We're out hail, rain or snow': How a 345-person Tipperary village became Ireland's Tidiest Town

Denis Floyd, Birdhill’s SuperValu TidyTowns chairman, shares some of his winner’s tips.

Celebrating last year's win.
Celebrating last year's win.
Image: Naoise Culhane/SuperValu TidyTowns

‘THE JUDGING IS top secret, but in a place like Birdhill, anyone walking around with a notebook will be spotted.’

Birdhill is a small village in Co Tipperary. Very small, in fact. Even taking the surrounding population into account, it has a population of just 345.

Last summer, the village took home the overall prize of Ireland’s Tidiest Town in SuperValu TidyTowns. Birdhill’s compact size makes that achievement all the more impressive, but for locals, it came as no surprise.

After 26 years in the running – and having missed the top prize by just one mark in some years – first place was a long time coming for Birdhill’s SuperValu TidyTowns committee.

So what swung Birdhill the victory, 26 years on? Denis Floyd has been sitting on the committee since its inception, and has been chairman for close to a decade. We asked him for his winner’s tips…

1. Knock on as many doors as you can

IMG_0001 Younger locals helping with planting new bulbs. Source: Birdhill TidyTowns

“You have to involve people,” says Denis. “Without the backing of the community, the work involved [in SuperValu TidyTowns] would be impossible.”

When sourcing volunteers in the spring and summer months, Birdhill’s committee calls on “young blood” from the local primary and secondary schools – and they’re not afraid to knock on a few doors either, says Denis:

Just ask, and even if people can’t give an ongoing commitment, they’ll lend a hand. We also do an email newsletter, and we give hard copies to people we know wouldn’t have emails.

2. There’ll always be rain, so don’t let that stop you

IMG_6720 Sure, doesn't everything look greener in the rain? Source: Birdhill TidyTowns

This is Ireland, so if you’re waiting for a sunny day to get your hands dirty at a group clean-up, you could be waiting a while.

Birdhill’s core committee are out “day or night, hail, rain or snow” to keep the town in tip-top shape. There are planning meetings year-round, but most of the heavy lifting is saved until the spring and early summer.

“Right now it’s full time,” says Denis. There’s grass to be cut, hedges to be clipped, flowers to be potted, painting to be done. Even as chairman, Denis gets dusty and muddy:

“Today, I’ll be out clearing a few beds.”

3. Don’t forget the little extras

Birdhill Hitching Post The local Hitching Post. Source: Birdhill TidyTowns

The 2017 judges were particularly impressed by Birdhill’s herb garden, complete with help-yourself herb bags and scissors for home cooks.

Residents can also avail of a book exchange in an unused telephone box, a Hitching Post for anyone wanting a lift to nearby Limerick or Nenagh, and a Literary Trail complete with quotes – all projects launched with SuperValu TidyTowns in mind.

“Community is the number one reason I got involved,” says Denis. “It’s only natural you’d want to do your bit in your own little area.”

4. Make the most of local green areas

IMG_6704 One of the town's many green havens. Source: Birdhill TidyTowns

It’s no accident that the 2017 judges called Birdhill’s community park a “jewel” in the village. Aside from the usual park amenities, the area features a time capsule, a mosaic of an eagle by the local youth club, an Ogham Garden, a kids’ treasure trail and a wealth of information boards.

“TidyTowns is a way for people to develop a sense of pride and identity with their own local place,” says Denis. “Things like parks and community gardens are a big part of that.”

5. You can’t do it all yourself

IMG_0036 Planting new beds for the year ahead. Source: Birdhill TidyTowns

This year, Birdhill’s preparation process has been sped up because of a certain Michael D Higgins. One perk of being Ireland’s Tidiest Town is a visit from the President of Ireland himself.

“He’s coming on May 19th, so we will have to have the place looking its best a bit earlier than usual,” notes Denis.

As well as the executive committee, there are various people who lend certain skills like landscaping, painting and planting flowers, as well as the usual things like cutting grass and collecting litter.

6. And finally, don’t give up hope

Birdhill SuperValu Tidy Town   Overall Winner-5 (L-R) Martin Kelleher of SuperValu, Denis Floyd, and TD Michael Ring. Source: Naoise Culhane/SuperValu TidyTowns

Birdhill has won the title of Ireland’s Tidiest Village on four occasions, but the residents never took their eyes off the top prize of Ireland’s Tidiest Town.

“In 2008, we were just one mark away from Westport [three-time winners], and we thought we were in with a chance after that. In 2016 then we were one mark off the top,” he recalls.

“We were hopeful going into it last year. The competition is marked in categories, and you’d always be hoping to get one mark to push you over the line.”

So how does Denis rate Birdhill’s chances this year? “There hasn’t been a repeat victory for the last 40 or 50 years, but we hope we’d be up there. If you put in the effort you’ll get the results.”

It’s time to play your part! Get your town ready for this year’s SuperValu TidyTowns by lending your skills or taking part in a clean-up. Get more information and find your local committee here.

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