Friday 20 September 2019

Dromiskin Tidy Towns committee busy as bees

Margaret Roddy

Visitors to Dromiskin can't fail to be impressed by how well the village is looking these days. Thanks to the efforts of a band of hard-working volunteers, Dromiskin has set its sights on winning a bronze medal in the Tidy Towns competition, something which would have been unheard of a few years ago.

Much of this can be attributed to the enthusiasm of people like Mary Murtagh, who since retiring from Louth County Council, has thrown her energies into the Tidy Towns, not just in Dromiskin but throughout the county; Seamus McArdle who was a member of the original Tidy Towns Committee which was formed 30 years ago; and Kevin Halpenny, who as Chief Parks Superendant with Fingal County Council, is only too happy to lend his knowledge to the local community, as are Benedicta McArdle of Louth County Council's horticultural team and bee-keeper Martin O'Rourke.

And, as Mary points out, there are many others. There's the volunteers who turn out for the litter picks in the village as well as the four approach roads, there's those who help out with the planning, painting, planting and weeding, and there's the FAS workers whose contribution is greatly appreciated.

'The Tidy Towns competition has changed and it took Dromiskin a while to catch up with these changes but now that it has, we're just eight marks away from a bronze medal which was unimaginable a few years ago,' explains Mary. 'The competition used to be about being tidy and looking pretty but now it's all about the environment and sustainability. We are working very, very hard and would be hoping to win a bronze medal by 2022.'

This is where the expertise of volunteers like Kevin Halpenny comes in. He is advising the committee on initiatives such as the bee-friendly planting at the Bee Positive Gardens at entrance to the Dog Pound.

He points out that the six gardens are a response to the All Ireland Bee Pollinator Plan and he hopes that it will show people the type of plants and flowers which they can use in their own gardens to attract bees and other insects.

'We've got lavender, fox gloves, and daisies, all garden plants which are readily available and attractive to bees,' he says.

'We used a lot of annuals in the past which needed a lot of peat and water. Now we are using plants which don't require a lot of water and will flower for years, so they are sustainable, attractive and contribute to pollinators.'

By setting this example, Mary says it's hoped that people will be encouraged to get away from using seasonal bedding plants which come in plastic trays to ones which attract bees and other insects.

'We're hoping to have a butterfly garden as well and will do other pockets of planting to attract pollinators,' she says.

Local bee-keeper Martin O'Rourke gives talks on bee-keeping, getting across the message that everyone can take steps to help the pollinators.

As the only member of the original Tidy Town's committee, Seamus McArdle has made a big contribution to the improvements which have taken place around the village over the past 30 years, and his beautifully-crafted creations have become local landmarks.

Having trained as a coach builder and welder with McArdle coachbuilders, Seamus is happy to turn his skill as a craftsman to making attractive features which grace the village.

His first project was making wooden welcome signs, and since then he has played a leading role in numerous projects including repairing the old stone walls of the graveyard and church and school, building the attractive stone roundabouts and Viking Ship, making the sculptures of inventor Fr Nicholas Callan for both Dromiskin and Darver, carving the bog oak sculpture in the graveyard, as well as working on the railway heritage project.

This year, Seamus has created striking sculptures of a dog and horse using about 13,000 feet of 6mm steel. It took him around seven weeks to make the pair which now stand proudly opposite the entrance to Louth County Council's dog pound at Whiterath.

The Tidy Town's efforts are embraced by the whole community, and Mary Murtagh praising the involvement of the local school, St Peter's NS. 'We have the most fabulous relationship with the school and have young people coming out on our work sessions.' She notes that the school scored highest in the Louth County Council Grow awards and Eco Tribes Competition.

Funding remains a major challenge, with the committee needing to raise €10,000 a year, just to keep the show on the road. But, she says, as the village looks better and better, people are more willing to help with fund raising.

A big day is planned at the end of August when the community will get together to celebrate the wonderful work being done in the Heritage Park.

The Argus