SuperValu Tidy Towns 2017: Abbeyshrule urged to embrace Center Parcs Longford Forest

Abbeyshrule are Gold Medal winners and tops in Longford once again

Alan Walsh

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Alan Walsh

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newsroom@longfordleader.ie

SuperValu Tidy Towns 2017:  Abbeyshrule urged to embrace Center Parcs Longford Forest

SuperValu Tidy Towns 2017: Abbeyshrule are Gold Medal winners and tops in Longford once again

Here's what the SuperValu Tidy Towns 2017 adjudicators had to say about Abbeyshrule and above are the marks Abbeyshrule received.


Community Involvement & Planning / Rannpháirtíocht an Phobail & Pleanáil:

Abbeyshrule is very welcome to the 2017 SuperValu Tidy Towns Competition. As befitting a National Overall Winner in 2012 and indeed an Entente Florale Gold medal winner in the same year the application submitted was of the highest order.

Thank you also for the excellent laminated map of the village which made it that bit easier for an adjudicator who would have not been that familiar with the village and surrounds geographic layout.

The application was comprehensive but easy to understand, that said the adjudicator wants to point at the outset of  this report that everything included in the form could not be commented upon in a 3 page report that covers 8 sections.

Be assured that the adjudication was impartial and objective and in keeping with adjudication guidelines.

Congratulations on your Action Plan 2017 -2020 and an example to others that a simple format outlining key priorities and action timescales is far more effective than a tome of multiple pages.

Well done on the two major achievements since mid 2016 the adjudicator visited the Cistercian Abbey and saw where the illumination points were placed. A job that took a fair bit of engineering ingenuity, hopefully one will be able to return at a later date to witness the illumination at night.

The planning and architectural drawings of the Courtyard Project were also viewed and the written notice that it was  approved in May of this year was noted.

Well done on all your events and also your fundraising activities you have certainly set a high standard and one that will be hard to emulate.

The adjudicator has something in common with Abbeyshrule that he attended a Cistercian establishment for educational purposes many moons ago!

The 1916 Commemorative event was extremely well organised. It is good to note that you recognise the efforts of local volunteers by way of a celebration event as these are the  people who put their shoulders to the wheel when needed.

After all if you don’t have local support you are fighting an uphill battle, fortunately Abbeyshrule has it in spades.

The list of local sponsors is impressive as is your interactive involvement with the local authority and a myriad of other agencies and local organisations.

One would presume that Longford County Council, Waterways Ireland and The Heritage Council would be in the top 5 of these contacts.
The communication methods employed are various mixing the traditional with the modern and at the top of the list is Word of Mouth! often demoted in the era of Twitter, What’s App and Instagram but still the most effective method of communication in community settings.
The adjudicator was a little confused about the schools involvement as both schools mentioned are outside your defined area and are also part of centres that are competition entrants in their own right. A bit of Devil’s Advocacy on the adjudicator’s part maybe!!

The Tiny Tweens is new to this adjudicator but novel nonetheless. The input in this category is certainly on par with last year with a few additions.

The adjudicator spent a little while in the most well known established hostelry in Ballymahon and got into conversation about the new Center Parcs Project. I would embrace it as something that may bring positive benefits to Abbeyshrule without compromising your present status.

Built Environment and Streetscape / An Timpeallacht Thógtha agus Sráid-dreacha:
Both major projects mentioned in the previous section will form part of the overall built environment and streetscape section.

The Courtyard Project Proposal, which has now got the seal of approval, will be a major addition to the Village and hopefully you will receive generous funding support under the Village and Rural Renewal Scheme.
When one enters Abbeyshrule the very first thing that strikes one is the village layout and associated balanced development. There is an excellent road surface and footpath structure coupled with clear and defined road markings. These might seem to be basic requirements for any town or village and are often overlooked as major contributors to this category.
Longford County Council has to be commended for undertaking the infrastructural improvements over time making sure that the Village keeps its high national profile intact.
The unoccupied buildings facade upgrade programme was noted and the adjudicator was taken with the creativity of the work -a mixture or art and poetry works well as a camouflage mechanism.
Wheelchair accessibility is to the forefront of any future developments that will take place and this is a commendable action on the part of the committee.
There are a numerous notice boards at intervals in the village proper and on the outskirts aka the Cistercian Abbey. These depict all aspects of life associated with the village in an objective manner. One slight negative is that some of them are obscured a little by overgrown foliage. For instance the excellent and unique Bridges of Abbeyshrule collection is now partly hidden and all that is needed is selective clipping back of the foliage and a pruning of the roses that surrounds them.
Brendan Colum’s mini sculpture of the Cistercian Abbey is a little covered in by the potentilia dominated shrubbery. May one be bold enough to suggest a change in the “reflect, read, relax” sensory garden opposite the Rustic Inn.
The Abbott Sculpture, in the eyes of this adjudicator, does not stand out because of the overgrown greenery ( fern  etc) that surrounds it and this particular feature should be revived somewhat pre next year’s competition.
Your comment on the signage at the Graveyard/Abbey has been noted and your explanation of its existence is straightforward and clear.
The quality of stonework in and around the village is top class and is at its best at Webb’s Bridge. Actually the view from this bridge down onto the Canal Harbour encapsulates all the wonderful infrastructural and landscaping work that has been undertaken, from new protection bollards, new permanent stone furniture to the extremely well maintained landscaping and colourful flower planting.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church was resplendent on the day, credit to the personnel entrusted with its upkeep. Both hostelries were presented to high standard and one was frequented by a group of European bike tourists. Well done on the excellent Village notice board which was populated with up to date information. Finally as someone who loves parish pumps well done on the manner you have enhanced both in the village.

Landscaping and Open Spaces / Tírdhreachú agus Spásanna Oscailte:
This is a category that Abbeyshrule excels in every year and 2017 is no different. It seems, like the adjudicator, that those entrusted with landscaping duties have a fondness for the double begonia  as numerous colourful clusters were observed in both communal and private planting arrangements.
Roses both hybrid and bush are to the forefront as well. The mix of bog oak sculptures and new garden furniture complement the shrub and floral arrangements.
Many of the shrub and flower beds have permanent concrete surrounds that add additional appeal. Well done on the Aqueduct Project which after hard work has produced such a dominant and colourful planting arrangement.
The stand alone containers and half barrels were freshly filled with a mix of established annuals as well as perennials.Some fantastic private gardens were viewed on the adjudication walk about. Trees are part of the fabric of rural Ireland but surprisingly many villages have sparse numbers but this is not the trend in Abbeyshrule.
The trees planted over years have matured and are being maintained to a very high standard and new additions put  in place when and where needed.
Pollinator planting is been very much encouraged of late and you have reacted very positively and dare I say very practically to this important need.
It would be remiss not to mention in this category the entrances into the village where name signs were all complemented with attractive planting features.
Finally just to say that as you have such a large and expanded number of arrangements not forgetting trees and verge grass cutting to look after that some areas are bound to forgotten now and again.There are a few overpopulated shrub beds that need to be thinned out or just cut back. Overall as per other years he standard is very good.

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities / Fiadhúlra, Gnáthóga agus Taitneamhachtaí Nádúrtha:
“If the bees die we will die “so says your Bee or not to Bee notice board. This is a fairly upfront reminder to highlight how important bees are to our every existence.
Abbeyshrule has embraced the bees with open arms – not literally I hope!! and the arrival of two new hives coupled with some members qualifying as beekeepers makes it slightly unique amongst other Tidy Towns committees.
Should the Cycle Rest area improvements proposed for Skellys Bridge not be in the Built Environment section or is there a cross over here that the adjudicator has missed.
Monitoring wildlife activity combined with your wildlife talks is an excellent way of creating a wildlife and natural habitats awareness amongst the local population.
Your are blessed to have both the canal and the Inny River as natural wildlife habitats. You must have been pleased the see the Hooper swans return last winter, it’s amazing the way they gravitate to the canals of Ireland.
The adjudicator observed a few ducks on a little expedition down the harbour on the day in question. Reference has been made in the previous section to the initiatives you have put in place in relation to pollinator planting so no point in repeating here except to say that it impacts on both categories.
Grass margins have been cut according to good practice for the preservation and encouragement of various species of wildlife.
One noticed tracks of cut pathways through meadow like grass along the bank of the canal.
The adjudicator wondered why the grass was left to grow to meadow like proportions on the graveyard where family graves and headstones were covered over completely in some cases.
Well done to the school children of the neighbouring Colehill St Sineachs NS on their green flag achievements to date.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management / Bainistiú Acmhainní agus Dramhaíola Inbhuanaithe:

Without overtly preaching to the converted it is still important to outline the main objective in this category which is the reduction of the production of waste at source. The projects that you are involved in are very much in keeping with the ethos of the category and the one that was most impressive and probably the simplest was the mixing of water and horse manure as part of a fermentation process to produce liquid feed –Excellent.
The novel way of reusing old newspapers has very practical benefits and as a follow up its worth checking 36 uses for old newspapers at www.foe.co.uk .
As I am on the subject of idea generation the following websites are useful for additional project ideas under this category www.localprevention.ie or the circular economy www.sustainableprocessing.ie
Tashinny National School submission is very well put together and an example of the type of interaction between schools and local community organisations such as Tidy Towns. I do have to question, in a light hearted fashion dare I say, where will their loyalty lie when Tashinny take legs in the competition?


Tidiness and Litter Control / Slachtmhaireacht agus Rialú Bruscair:
It was very hard to find fault with the village in the context of litter control or general tidiness. The committee has harnessed the goodwill of the local community in rowing in behind your efforts in this category. It goes without saying that you have a distinct advantage over many other places, some of similar size, in that you are off the beaten track.
Measures that were put in place to deter the bane of rural Ireland - indiscriminate dumping - certainly has paid off because on the day in question, with the exception of one or two pieces, no litter was observed.
The black spot of last year was visited and was free from any waste and this adjudicator is happy with this outcome. There is no point in repeating back to you what you have done except to say keep this type of sustained effort going.
An increase in marks is justified.


Residential Streets & Housing Areas / Sráideanna Cónaithe & Ceantair Tithíochta:
You have two wonderful housing developments of high quality and ongoing ancillary infrastructural work was taking place in one of them. The entrance signage into both was of high quality and very attractive with bilingualism to the fore.
Clauin an Traoinaigh sounds  so in tune with the countryside and at least it was translated into English in a proper fashion.The adjudicator just felt that entrance shrub bed was a little overcrowded and may need a little attention during late autumn.
Barley Gardens looks like the more established development with some fine well maintained properties. The Village “street” has some very fine private properties with excellent gardens. Residents of the village have a definite handle on what Pride of Place really means,
This year’s adjudicator was also very impressed with the signage and the manner in which it was kept.
To be honest the adjudicator didn’t take note whether the Inny Walk sign alluded in last year’s report had replaced the sign with a bilingual version.

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes / Bóithre Isteach, Sráideanna & Lánaí:
The approach roads were maintained to a very high standard and need very little in depth comment. The basic of good management of verges was adhered making provision for the nesting season.The road in off of the main N55 by the Graveyard has an excellent name sign with low lying boxed container of annuals that can be replenished seasonally.
Two properties opposite the Graveyard/Abbey entrance enhance this entrance with fine colourful gardens. Road in by from Scallys Bridge has just been resurfaced and looked very well with the canal embankment on the right hand side  trimmed to perfect.
The chap in the earth based sculpture on the embankment further in needs a haircut as he is a little unkempt.
Well done to the farmers who gave consent to the hedge cutting as unless there were transgressing the law there was no onus on them to do so.Full marks to the committee members who were involved in these sensitive local “negotiations”.


Concluding Remarks:
The adjudicator has visited Abbeyshrule on a few occasions over the past few years and is always impressed with the ongoing simple but effective improvements that take place year on year. It needs people with foresight and a pride in place mentality to achieve this level of consistency.

Second Round Adjudication:
We were delighted to have an opportunity to visit Abbeyshrule after an absence of some years. We were impressed  back then so it was wonderful to observe the continued improvements you have made to highlight your wonderful natural and built environment.
The fresh blue 'Welcome' signage is complimented by nicely designed flower beds on  each of your approach roads - this gives the visitor a sense of arriving somewhere special.  You have done well in terms of providing the visitor (and locals) with a sense of your local history.
We particularly liked the way you have  incorporated the local bog oak into many of your heritage features.  In terms of your landscaping, you are taking an excellent approach.
The quality of landscaping was excellent throughout with a good mix of permanent planting and summer blooms. Vibrant planters of colourful begonias were suitably placed in areas of hard landscaping to give a lift to the streetscape. We liked the fact that you have a variety of plants but yet stick to an overall landscaping theme. This brings a sense of cohesion to the village. Plenty of pollinator-friendly planting was also observed - on this topic we liked the way you are raising awareness of our struggling bee population and how we can assist them.  
Particular credit must go to the Tidy Tweens group for their innovative bee project. We noted the orchard near their informative sign. The latter will continue to raise awareness for some years go come. Please be mindful of invasive species such as laurel becoming dominant over native plants in your hedgerows. Your ongoing actions in relation to Sustainable Waste & Resource Management are commended.
Business premises were fresh and welcoming (Rooney's and the Rustic Inn). The derelict Courtyard building looks very well due to attractive paint and art work. We read with interest of approved plans for a new development here and trust that the design will be sympathetic to the surroundings and the history of the current site.
Approach roads are well-maintained but not overly manicured, as befits your rural setting. The entire village was  spotless in terms of litter on the morning of our visit. We did spot one dedicated volunteer out with the litter picker giving the village the 'once-over' after the weekend. We were most impressed also with your attention to 'Tidiness' - again this all contributes to the overall aesthetic of the village. The building facades backing onto the Royal Canal were particularly impressive. The mural works well here. The Royal Canal area is a gem and was being appreciated by the many walkers out enjoying it in the sunshine.
Signage in terms of walks, cycles and wildlife interpretation was in good order. The 'History of the Canal' sign is in danger of becoming hidden. Throughout the village, we felt there was an air of pride and attention to detail.  The presentation of private homes was very high. We particularly liked Barley Gardens with its colourful gardens and lovely planting area at the end, leading to the well-signposted Inny Walk.
The standard at the aptly-named Corncrake Meadow was slightly lower but good nonetheless. We noted the 'goat meadow'here and the new goat residents back near the bridge.  Abbeyshrule is further enhanced by attractive stone bridges and stone walls. These along with excellent road surfaces, street furniture and pathways makes for an impressive overall presentation.
This adjudicator would like to congratulate you on your 2012 national win (and other recent awards) - a momentous achievement for your hard-working and proud community. This obviously has spurred you on even further to make Abbeyshrule the beautiful village it is today.  We would like to compliment you on your strong community spirit and organised approach. The first adjudicator has given you a comprehensive report. This adjudicator would like to endorse same. Well done Abbeyshrule and keep up the good work.