Tidy Towns Report: Proactive approach to issues in Castletown

Tidy Towns Report: Proactive approach to issues in Castletown
News Reporter news@leinsterexpress.ie @laoisnews

Tidy Towns Competition 2016

Adjudication Report

CastletownMark: 316. Mark Awarded 2015: 314

Community Involvement & Planning:

The adjudicator would like to welcome Castletown to the 2016 National Tidy Towns Competition. Thank you for submitting a well-considered entry form and your enclosed town map was most helpful particularly as it drew attention to specific projects in relation to this year’s work and locations you would like the adjudicator to visit on adjudication day. Thank you for the comprehensively completed entry form. You have included a list of agencies and businesses through which you gain support and seem to have been very successful in harnessing and utilising particular skillsets in your community through the support of volunteers. Upskilling your core committee through your participation in Laois County Council Workshops seems to be working for you. Well done. The most successful tidy towns groups tend to be those that are able to harness the skills and support for their work from as wide a range of disciplines and agencies as possible, both at local community, county and National level. We are delighted to hear that you have an enthusiastic core Tidy Towns committee of 10 members and are so committed to the competition given your committees relatively short history with us. You have an excellent working relationship with your schools and your Facebook page is a valuable medium to keep up to date with current residents both young and old and the Castletown diaspora. Well done to all involved in the Family Fun day and hope this becomes an annual event for you. You have a very proactive approach to addressing issues that affect you and your fellow residents and this structure seems to be working very well for you, judging by the works on the ground and the projects you feel you can achieve as set out in your enclosed 2016-2018 plan.

Built Environment and Streetscape:

You have a wealth of antiquated buildings within the village and many have a direct link to the River Nore and the village’s importance as a historic centre of business and industry. The community buildings in the village were immaculately presented. St Edmunds Church with its ornate boundary railing was lovely .The Castletown Inn was busy on adjudication days and the blue painted benches matched the simple sinage to present a lovely face to the street. Guilfoyles funeral home again was neatly presented. The new mural and of course recently earnt green flag were prominently displayed at the neat school. You have taken a proactive approach to addressing the magnificent stone mill building working in tandem with the owners to carry out immediate repairs to this fine industrial heritage site while awaiting funds for more substantial works. This is a practical approach to take. The mill stables were equally impressive given that the painting work was carried out by local volunteers. I loved the horse and hens –

beautifully painted - our compliments to your very talented volunteer. The ironwork to the red gate here is another fine example of your rural cultural heritage and looked well preserved. With all planned works to heritage elements in the village from gates to mills make sure you gain advice from the Laois Heritage officer.

Landscaping and Open Spaces:

The specimen trees at the village green create a lovely set piece with new tree planting here ensuring the long term presence of trees on the green. The horse chestnut trees we are sure supply a great quantity of conkers for school children in the autumn. The median red rose planting bed at the school added a subtle burst of colour to this area and demonstrates your commitment to expand the use of pollinator friendly plants in your communal village planters. Your talk from a local bee keeper will advance your knowledge on this topic. Look to advance additional tree planting opportunities in the village as they will be a lasting testament to your investment into the landscape of Castletown.we note your 3 year plan aims to plant 10 tree per year. Identify spots in the village where additional trees and avenues can be established. We are sure Churchfield Heights residents will look after the 7 oak trees recently planted at the 1916 memorial site, watering is crucial for the first few seasons for successful establishment.

We hope the tree planting ceremony was enjoyed by all residents old and new. The Playground was neat and tidy with your new storytelling spot.

The specimen trees at the village green create a lovely set piece with new tree planting here ensuring the long term presence of trees on the green. The horse chestnut trees we are sure supply a great quantity of conkers for school children in the autumn. The median red rose planting bed at the school added a subtle burst of colour to this area and demonstrates your commitment to expand the use of pollinator friendly plants in your communal village planters. Your talk from a local bee keeper will advance your knowledge on this topic. Look to advance additional tree planting opportunities in the village as they will be a lasting testament to your investment into the landscape of Castletown.we note your 3 year plan aims to plant 10 tree per year. Identify spots in the village where additional trees and avenues can be established. We are sure Churchfield Heights residents will look after the 7 oak trees recently planted at the 1916 memorial site, watering is crucial for the first few seasons for successful establishment.

We hope the tree planting ceremony was enjoyed by all residents old and new. The Playground was neat and tidy with your new storytelling spot.

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities:

Your riverside location means a wealth of habitats are on your doorstep. We note the issues you have with the recent weir works and keep up your role as a village voice to ensure any agencies who do work in the area are aware of the community role as a steward of the village’s resources for the future generations. The riverside was immaculately maintained on adjudication day; perhaps a more varied mowing regime here may create a more beneficial grassland habitat? The margin of the space by the trees could be left unmown to aid our pollinators and reduce your maintenance commitment. It is good to hear that you are monitoring your bird boxes and consider an audit to see which ones are placed to attract birds and which may need to be repositioned. Although not listed as a task in your 3 year plan, build on the success of this project by carrying out a habitat survey of the village. For each of the habitat types found in the village such as hedgerows, woodland, old walls and even private gardens, compile a short and long term management strategy. This could be done with the local school children and may show a range of habitats from roosts for bats and birds in the mill to a veritable insect hotel amongst the valerian growing on the old stone wall at the fort. This will gain you marks in this category.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management:

The Green School programme in an excellent scheme and we look forward to Castletown Primary Schools progression after their excellent start gaining their first green flag earlier this summer. Have you had any thoughts about joining the Green Homes programme also run by An Taisce. This could also be promoted through your facebook page and would be a way to progress the success of green ideals in the village. Good luck with the school garden and the composter for school waste. Do you compost arising from village open space maintenance? Maybe look into this for next year’s submission? The bring centre visited was well looked after and the pots of plants brightened up the area. The community orchard is a great initiative and what a lovely location beside the river. Other communities celebrate harvest time with a community fruit picking event, this may be an option once yields grow as the trees establish.

Tidiness and Litter Control:

The structured approach you have taken in this category has helped reduce the impact of litter in the village. As you are aware this category is not just about the lack of litter but rather the approaches taken to address the ongoing control of litter and the development of strategies to deal with problem areas. Bins generally were well kept but the concrete bin by the river is an ugly item and maybe an alternative could be considered or many centres are slowing removing bins to encourage visitors to either bring waste home or not generate waste in the first place. On adjudication day the village core was free of litter although there was some small amount of recent litter on the footpath at the bring bank by your school. This we are sure would have been picked up by the next litter pick. The railing to the R445 bridge is looking a little tired and perhaps you could talk to your area engineer about getting this painted as part of the localities roads maintenance programme. You note in your plan that the wildlife sign by the river needs replacing and perhaps a few paving stones could be added to the base of this sign and the area sign by the road here to provide a dry flat area for readers of the information and those with mobility issues to ensure access for all.

Residential Streets & Housing Areas:

There are a range of residential types in the village and once again they were presented to a high standard on adjudication day. We admired the historic properties around the village green. Open spaces in residential estates were all looking well and we appreciated all the work done by residents to archive this level of presentation. The grass areas at St Patricks Terrace were well maintained but perhaps more trees could be planted in as part of your planned works. As part of a general review of bins we wondered if the bin was necessary at Churchfield Heights as it tended to clutter up the path here beside the 1916 memorial area.

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes:

From your submission and the conditions as seen on adjudication day we appreciate the effort and attention you put into ensuring your approach roads are kept in good condition. The box Failte sign on the approach from Mountrath was nicely trimmed. The three standing stones at the junction of with St Patricks Terrace are a lovely feature to welcome visitors to your village, set amongst maturing trees. It may be time to thin the trees here as they are begin to get crowded out and perhaps raise the canopies a bit to make the simple sculpture more visible while maintaining good tree health. Ensure the new trees at the school verge have their tree ties removed as soon as the trees establish to prevent the ties doing damage by rubbing the bark.

Concluding Remarks:

Well done to all involved in this year’s application and thank you for your hard work and commitment. Castletown is a charming village with an impressive range of building types which tell the story of the villages’ history. We very much appreciate that the effort involved in tidy towns requires a huge amount of voluntary commitment and as you say by carrying out works by the community for the community it encourages greater ownership and local pride in Castletown. Keep up the good work. We wish you all the best for all your planned work in 2017 and beyond for the life of your village plan.