Towards the end of August 2020, a small number of our community met on a lovely sunny Tuesday evening to take the first tentative steps back into community work, albeit working in a completely different way. Like all Tidy Towns groups, we had been locked down and unable to work on many outdoor projects for a number of weeks and so there were plenty to choose from! We spent about an hour together (while working apart) and it was such a lovely feeling to be back out in the community, working apart but still able to interact with people, to catch up, to check in and see if people were doing ok, if anyone needed help, how people were feeling. We were also delighted to flex our collective muscles and get some work done!
For us so much of the work we do revolves around biodiversity and pollinators and they are embedded in almost everything we do! We stopped using herbicides in our village many years ago and our ethos has been a combination of the hoe and the hand. Lockdown allowed weeds to grow and flourish and also brought about some new thinking. Some areas that were traditionally weeded but that had been left to their own devices during lockdown produced the prettiest wildflowers full of buzzing bees and butterflies. Once we could get back out, we made a conscious decision to leave some areas wild for the rest of the summer and only pull what was necessary.
We were delighted to have so many residents in our community who were happy to come back out and help us do the necessary weeding and great to see both young and old working side by side.
For us the early part of 2020 was the year of the tree! We were lucky to be involved in a fascinating project with master hedge layer Eoin Donnelly who re-laid a large section of hedge behind our local school, giving the children a great insight into the importance of native hedging. This project, funded by Creative Ireland, also involved something we have become quite good at, planting trees!. Over the course of a few weeks and up until Covid hit we were planting frantically, close to 300 (?) trees in all. During those lockdown weeks when we were out getting our exercise it was heartening to see those tiny trees flourishing and putting out tiny buds and leaves.
Another great Biodiversity initiative has been our Pollinator Promise barrels. We started this in 2019 and it has been a wonderful project to be involved in. Barrel planters were offered to anyone who didn’t have a grassed front garden on the understanding that they were to be planted with pollinator friendly flowers and shrubs. We provided planting lists or advice when requested and worked with our local Glanbia who were able to also suggest suitable planting to people as well as donating a large number of pollinator friendly plants. For many residents this was a change as people had to move away from Petunias, Begonias and Busy lizzies but the community really embraced this initiative and got real pleasure watching pollinating insects feeding on their wallflowers, salvias, lavender and more. In 2020 and during lockdown with so many people getting involved in their gardens these barrels were even prettier and bursting with life and activity.
Like everyone else we look forward to the time when we can come together again as a group for community events but in the meantime we are trying to flex the way that we work and at the same time engage with the local community. We have lots of projects on the horizon that can safely be carried out while social distancing such as the planting of close to 1000 Spring bulbs donated by our local Irish Wildlife Trust which is an exciting initiative which we hope will offer opportunities for lots of people young and old to become involved.
Collaboration and co-operation have really been key to all of our project successes. From our local community, local schools and businesses, County Council, Heritage Officer, Biodiversity Ireland, Creative Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust, the list goes on and on. Without all of their support literally we wouldn’t have the village we do now and we look forward to continuing this work and hopefully making Geashill a great place in which to live and work.