So says Clonakilty’s Tidy Towns committee who are celebrating being named Ireland’s tidiest small town for 2017.
It’s a return to form for the West Cork town which has always been a high achiever in the competition but has not managed to repeat its 1999 victory when it took the overall national award.
A return to the top spot now seems a realistic goal and Catherine O’Connor, joint chair of the committee, says partnership is what will continue to make the difference.
“We have 56 registered members of the Tidy Towns but we don’t do it alone. It’s all about partnership — with the business community, the Chamber of Commerce, FÁS, the schools and the sports groups,” she said.
“There’s a local triathlon group. When we needed the river cleaned, they were the ones who got into the water and cleaned it. When there was heavy work or a big job to be done, you’d ask the rugby club or the GAA and they’d always turn up.
“We have a junior litter patrol. All summer they were out for an hour a day, picking up litter and that will become a lifelong habit for them. That’s what makes the difference — getting every group to do a bit and getting the children involved early so it comes naturally to them.”
The result was an adjudicator’s report that could serve as a ‘how to’ guide for all Tidy Towns participants. It helps that Clonakilty is blessed with lovely natural and historical features but the way they are enhanced impressed the judges who noted, in particular, the colour harmony of the painted buildings, the lack of intrusive overhead cables in the town centre, the attention paid to well located and well-maintained street furniture and appealing signposting.
Of course, the spades also came in useful as Clon has planted 5000 trees in the last three years and aims to have another 1000 in the ground by the end of this year which will be a huge bonus to the local Tidy Towns committees of the future.
The combined effort earned Clonakilty 330 marks this year — just two behind the national winner —but there are other Munster entrants who are challenging Clon’s supremacy.
And with 88 entrants from Co Cork alone — by far the highest entry of any county in the country — the competition is getting more fierce all the time.
Lismore, Co Waterford scored 329 and Coolagown, Co Cork scored 328 to win gold medals in the 1001-2500 population category while Listowel, on a mark of 329; Killarney, 328; Ballincollig, 327; Kenmare, 327; Kinsale, 324; Cobh, 323; Youghal, 318; Tralee, 314 and Carrigaline, 313 did the same in the larger population categories.
Cork, Kerry and Waterford also featured strongly in the silver and bronze medal winners while Limerick managed a silver medal with Adare and bronze with Newcastle West, Galbally and Limerick city centre.
It wasn’t all about the high scorers. The awards also recognise those towns and villages making strong improvements each year. Durrus in West Cork made the biggest year on year improvement nationwide, increasing its mark from 200 to 225 — a 12.5% jump — and earning an endeavour award in the process.
Other endeavour award winners from Munster included Charleville and Cill na Martra in Co Cork, Finuge, Co Kerry; Kilcornan, Co Limerick; Cheekpoint, Co Waterford; Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare and Ballinure and Rosegreen, Co Tipperary.
This year’s Islands Award went to Bere Island, while the runner-up was Sherkin Island, also from Cork. Carragaline won the Clean Air Award for its campaign about the importance of avoiding pollutants.
The Youth Award went to the Tramore initiative, Costofyourcuppa Campaign, which was spearheaded by 6th class in Glor na Mara NS to make people think about the number of disposable coffee cups they were using and to encourage them to embrace alternatives.