Residents and children of Mountrath may have noticed eyecatching new carved outdoor seats and even an outdoor classroom which have sprung up on the banks of the Whitehorse River in Mountrath recently.
They are all part of exciting new biodiversity projects by Mountrath Tidy Towns.
The group have just received a big vote of confidence in their growing emphasis on biodiversity, in the form of a €2,560 grant from Laois County Council.
Lillian Ash is chairperson of Mountrath Tidy Towns and she said they were delighted to receive what is the second highest allocation for a Laois group, outside of Portlaoise's €4,000.
She explained their projects.
“We recently installed beautiful benches made from trunks of trees. We didn't just want the usual benches for the town, and we are delighted with the result,” she said.
The artist Philip Quinn from Thurles crafted the seats from trunks of fallen trees. He recorded the sounds of the river then carved in the musical notes into the wood.
The group went on to commission Philip to add an outdoor classroom on the banks of the river, recently finished, and ideal timing now with the need for social distancing and a renewal of interest in the outdoors.
“With this grant we now hope to plant an orchard beside the river, so when people go for a walk they can pick an apple” Lillian said.
They are working with a well known Irish group who gather native species of trees and plants to prevent their extinction.
“We are working with Seedsavers to plant old varieties of apple trees and also to take grafts of local varieties of apple trees which are dying out,” she said.
They intend to visit the local schools to teach the children about saving seeds and orchards.
The group's first successful biodiversity effort was to replant the town’s roundabout into an edible garden.
Now it has herbs and strawberries that nearby residents come over and pick to eat and cook with.
Brenda O'Grady is treasurer and Chelsea Barrett is secretary, with the group now growing and welcoming more members.
In all 21 Tidy Town groups in Laois were awarded grants totalling €24,235.