Tidy Towns Competition 2016
Ballacolla: Mark 315. Mark Awarded 2015: 313
Community Involvement & Planning:
Ballacolla is very welcome to the 2016 National Tidy Towns Competition. Thank you for the comprehensive entry form and annotated map which indicated projects to be considered for this year’s competition (add the names of the projects on the map for clarify next year) and was most useful on adjudication day. Perhaps next year you might limit the photos to be included in the application as they tended to make your submission bulky and difficult for the adjudicator to handle while walking around the village. Your overall approach to the competition seems to be working for you and it is obvious that the 12 committee members receive good support to keep up the high level of care witnessed on adjudication day. Congratulations must go to the school for all of their support and given the limited financial resources you have we must say that your long tradition with the competition has seen you make so many positive interventions in your village.
Built Environment and Streetscape:
Ballacolla is a pretty village spread out from a central cross roads. The church was once again well presented as was the graveyard alongside and perhaps the gate and bell tower could be added to your list of planned project to be refreshed with a coat of paint. Is there room for a feature tree here to add to the buildings setting? The school is such an important building for your community and both the building and the grounds were well presented with the new trees seen and the well-used poly tunnel. St Patricks Hall with its bright green gate is a gem for you and the community garden is a very fitting 1916 commemoration. The empty traditional cottage at the entrance to St Fergals Park were well treated with their white frontage and dark window boards. The new sign to the façade of the Hawthown was admired but the flags looked a little tired here. Some loose wires could be attended to at the façade of the Coach O’Leary and the roses to the bed opposite here give a great splash of colour to the street.
Landscaping and Open Spaces:
The roadside hedgerows, tree planting and surrounding landscape enhance the approach to your village beautifully.
As part of your forward planning in this section we would advise you to develop a long term tree planting plan for the village. In this you should identify approach roads where there are gaps in your future avenues. Also consider spots in the village where specimen/feature trees could be established and places where screen planting may be beneficial, using mainly native species for habitat value. This will allow you develop a strong landscape structure for the village, for which you will be thanked by future generations. We note you are planning to focus your planting to species for year round effect. The summer bedding to the monument could be a high profile place to try this approach. Perennial geraniums could add the summer colour now provided by annuals to the raised monument planter and in the narrow verge between the path and the road here. Maybe try this approach for next year in this key village location and see how locals react? The blue water pump is a lovely heritage feature. The large circular planters here somewhat cluttered up the path and may be better placed near the community buildings at the rear of the school which looked neat and well maintained but perhaps a little grey.
Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities: You are to be congratulated for the proactive approach you have taken in the village in providing and protecting habitats for your bees, butterflies and birds. The schools bird boxes were seen from the community building boundary and noted at St Patricks Hall. The presence of hives in the wild life park gives you an added incentive to create a mosaic of nesting areas and flower rich habitats across your village landscape in order to support both wild pollinators and your managed honeybees. Our tendency to tidy up the landscape rather than allowing wildflowers to grow along roadsides, field margins, and in your gardens, is also playing a role in fewer pollen sources being available. We hope you encourage Ballacolla residents to introduce wild flowers and in many cases just hold back on the lawn mowing to create added supply and diversity of food plants across the village for your pollinators from early spring to late autumn. Look to the excellent All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 website for lots of practical advice. We look forward to progress on your wild life walk for next year’s visit.
Sustainable Waste and Resource Management:
The bring centre at the community buildings was well maintained. Your waste awareness survey was a good way to see how the community regards this category. Many said that waste management means recycling. However the purpose of this category is to encourage towns and villages to move beyond just collecting (or having others collect) and recycling waste and to take steps to actually reduce the production of waste in the community in the first place.
Well done in your efforts at composting and installing a water butt at st Patricks Hall. Look at other simple ways you can address this issue. Have any bring sales been held in the community as a way of recycling items. Does the committee or local residents take part in the Earth Hour? Are the lights for you community Christmas tree low energy and do you compost the tree afterwards? These initiatives can all be included in this category and help gain you marks.
Tidiness and Litter Control:
Well done on the work done here by all your residents from old to young. No obvious litter was noted on adjudication day in the core village area. We note in this section that you say no signs or planters on footpaths although 2 tubs were placed at the dropped kerb at the old cottage at the finger post for st Fergal Park. This is a barrier to wheelchair users or people with mobility issues and the tubs should be removed from here and placed elsewhere. Are all 4bins regularly used at the village crossroads? If not maybe two could be removed to reduce clutter here? We are sure your daily paper pickers would have taken away some small amounts of roadside litter seen on the approach road from Abbeyleix.
Residential Streets & Housing Areas:
The residences in the village are very well maintained both in the core village and those on the approaches. The open space in St Fergasl Parks was well maintained but perhaps could accommodate more trees. Would you consider putting together a list of native and pollen rich plans that residents could be encouraged to use in their gardens to increase the habit value of the garden areas? Boundary planting, in particular in rural areas, have such an impact on the approach to our villages and native planting and hedging should be used where possible both because of its habitat value but also to allow it blend successfully into the adjoining rural landscape. We thank all your residents for the works carried out over the year to keep their properties in such good order.
Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes:
Approach roads were well maintained with speed signage general visible. Some overhanging branches were in danger of obscuring signage and should be cut back as seen to the road sign across the road from St Patricks Hall.
Finger posts in the village could be examined to see if any signs are duplicated and the finger pole by the cycle trail sign needs to have its post repainted. The mixed planting bed to the Ballacolla Tidy Towns sign on the Clough Road provided a splash of delicate colours on this approach. The stone or bounder name stones were admired but on a wet summer day the village name was hard to read. Perhaps the lettering could be refreshed with white paint to ensure legibly at low light levels. The stone walling along the village roads and at the church and graveyard were admired and are a nice feature in the village. The mature trees on the Rathdowney road provide a nice canopy gateway to the village just before the village name stone here and as the many trees you have planted along your roadsides mature this effect on you approaches will only be enhanced.
Ballacolla is a lovely village in an attractive setting in the heart of Laois. We are so glad that you as a community have found it rewarding to be such a long standing member of the Tidy Towns family and look forward to your continued success in the competition. Good luck in all of your efforts for the coming year.