Ennis: South/MidWest Large Town Local Authority Pollinator Award winner 2019 & Tidiest Large Urban Town Winner
Cormac McCarthy explains how Ennis was transformed into a bee-friendly town
Well to everyone’s delight and excitement in Ennis Tidy Towns we managed to retain our Pollinator Award for 2019. When you see the tremendous work being undertaken by communities, large and small, throughout the country it is such a testament to all of us of the real impact we have, and that how, once again, communities are leading the way in the protection and promotion of our native wildlife and biodiversity.
Following our success in 2018, we knuckled down immediately after the Awards to start planning out not only our 2019 National Awards project list, but investigating if could we build on the success of our Pollinator work and bring it to the next level.
First and foremost, we were still grappling with the logistics of how to effectively manage our pollinator roundabouts. Being on busy roads, like the town bypass, the Council were justifiably concerned about volunteers raking the cut material by hand. So with the change in management came increased biodiversity, but there had to be a more effective way of cutting and removing the grass. By chance we came across the Biodiversity Zero Grazer which was trialled with great success in October of 2019. More details on this trial can be found here: https://pollinators.ie/ennis-tidy-towns-transform-roundabouts-into-wildlife-havens/.
We are investigating purchasing the unit for community use throughout the county and are hopeful of positive news. Though at the time of writing this article Coronavirus has come into full swing and potential corporate sponsors are, needless to say, cautious about what the future will bring.
Pollinator Planter at O’Connell Square
Pollinator Disc Planters by Ennis Friary
Biodiversity signage at Ennis
Orchids at one of Ennis’s pollinator-friendly roundabouts
The Biodiversity Zero Grazer was trialled with great success in October of 2019. More details on this trial can be found here: https://pollinators.ie/ennis-tidy-towns-transform-roundabouts-into-wildlife-havens/.
Since the 2019 Awards, we have upped our pollinator roundabouts from 3 to 5, leaving just 1 grassed roundabout not managed for wildlife. We will be rectifying this in the near future so 100% of the roundabouts will be managed for pollinators and biodiversity. We have also had very positive engagement with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, who have partnered with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and will see can the many motorway roundabouts follow suit. Other stakeholder engagement has included Irish rail, local GAA clubs, Macra na Feirme and faith communities. There seems to be cross-sectoral support of our efforts and we are delighted to have such support from our community partners.
All of the above sites are being monitored by a local Botanist and we can prove there is up to 55% greater diversity on our managed-for-pollinators sites when compared to more manicured areas. In quantifying our success, we can show others that this approach works and the benefits are not just anecdotal. This approach has encouraged our partners in Clare County Council and this year, we agreed to a management plan, developed by Ennis Tidy Towns and their volunteer botanist Donncha O’Cathain, of the local Post Office Field. This site, a lovely mixture of wet grassland, scrub, trees and meadow, regularly floods but will be a tremendous town-centre biodiversity asset. By adding this site, we begin to add to the tapestry of sites throughout Ennis thereby decreasing fragmentation and proving food sources for pollinators and other wildlife.
As well as management of areas to make them more natural, we also forged a partnership with the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board who run a dedicated horticultural class. We negotiated the transfer of three large tiered planters that are stationed throughout the town by the Ennis Municipal District Gardening Team and we funded the planting of these with 100% pollinator-friendly plants. These were complemented by two large disc planters as well as the base of our IBAL sculpture.
Pollinator Planter by Ennis Friary
We labelled the planters showing the change in planting regime and received significant positive feedback from the public. We are indebted to lecturer Sinéad Monahan and students of LCETB, along with Brendan Keogh and all the Gardening Team for their ongoing support and assistance. We have arranged for more of the Council planters to migrate to this planting regime for 2020.
The last 12 months has seen a new commitment by Ennis Tidy Towns to focus on knowledge sharing. To this end, we shared the planting regime for the above planters widely on social media.
Staff and Students of LCETB
We feel that Tidy Towns groups do so much good throughout the country, it is important that we support each other and there is no point all of us continually reinventing the same wheel! In addition, we launched our Community Biodiversity Toolkit. The rationale behind this was communities manage a wealth of communal green spaces that are important recreational assets. However, there is always scope to make room for wildlife and this toolkit aimed to provide no nonsense, plain English tips on how to do this in a range of case study sites including a park, GAA grounds and housing estate green area. The toolkit cost €4,000, of which €750 was grant-aided from Greener Clare as part of the Local Agenda 21 grant scheme. The Toolkit is available to download, free of charge, from www.ennistidytowns.com. Please feel free to use it and let other groups know about its existence.
All of the above culminated in Ennis launching itself as Ireland’s First Pollinator Town in December 2019. This was in recognition not only of the tremendous work done by the entire community in winning the Pollinator Award for Large Urban Centre, but also in the knowledge that we hadn’t reached the pinnacle of what was achievable and that we would continue to strive for more and more projects that benefited pollinators and biodiversity in general. The ‘title’ is not an award, it is an ever-present reminder of the obligation we have to address the decline of pollinators and the Biodiversity Crisis which we face. We are hopeful that competitions like the Tidy Towns Awards can be a significant player in addressing this issue.
Best of luck to everyone in this year’s competition from all in Ennis Tidy Towns. Please feel free to get in touch if there is any project you’ve read about here that you would like to replicate and learn from our success and, of course, failures!
This article was published in our newsletter on the 2019 Local Authority Pollinator Award.
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ABOUT THE TIDY TOWNS LOCAL AUTHORITY POLLINATOR AWARD:
This special award in the Tidy Towns competition encourages Tidy Towns groups to implement pollinator-friendly actions in their town or village, and is open to all groups who enter the National Tidy Towns competition. The Local Authority Pollinator Award, now in its fifth year, has generous cash prizes – now totalling €10,000, and applicants have also increased their points in the overall competition through actions taken for pollinators.
Local Authority Heritage Officers and Biodiversity Officers initiated and run the award, in partnership with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan team at the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
There has been an amazing reaction to this special award since its launch in 2016, and reading about all the achievements and actions taken for pollinators in towns and villages across the country is truly inspirational. Indeed, over 160 individual towns and villages, from every county, have entered the Pollinator Award, and not only that but according to TidyTowns adjudicators upwards of 80% of all 918 TidyTowns groups are implementing actions for pollinators. All entries are filled with wonderful projects, each improving and creating much-needed habitats for pollinating insects and biodiversity generally.
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Project Officer position has been funded by SuperValu in 2020.