Having won the national Pollinator Award in 2017, and a regional award in 2018, Geashill continues to excel in the Local Authority Pollinator Awards and this year proudly took home the top prize for most pollinator-friendly small town in Ireland. Pat Foley and Caren Carruthers explain their success.
Eddie Kelly, Maureen Maher, Caren Carruthers and Pat Foley, Geashill Tidy Towns, celebrating yet another Pollinator Award at the Tidy Towns awards on September 30th 2020, at the Helix in Dublin.
It’s results day. We’re heading up the A4 on our annual pilgrimage to the Helix – and we’re buzzing!
National Pollinator Award Winners in 2017 – Regional success in 2018. Could we dare hope for lightning to strike three years in a row? Hardly.
Somewhere outside Enfield; the decision is made without any need for a vote. Win, lose or draw – we’re done. We’ll give it a break for a while after this.
A few hours later and the announcements are being made. We’re named as Midland and East Regional Winners – we won’t be going home empty-handed. Then the big one – Overall Winner Small Town – a long pause… Geashill, County Offaly!
There’s no leaping about; there’s just relief and satisfaction. We join Buncrana – winners of the Large Town Category – for photos with Una, Juanita and the Data Centre crew – and then it’s homeward bound, tired but happy.
The amazing Bumblebee mural created at Geashill National School
Since then, we’ve had a chance to reflect on our 5-year involvement with the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; what we’ve learned and what it has meant to us, both as individuals and as a Tidy Towns group.
First off, it’s been good to get to know the bees. Five years ago, we were looking up definitions of the word pollinator. Every Bumblebee seemed to wear bewildering variations of Kilkenny or Down GAA jerseys. Now, we know it’s not obligatory to get to know the colours and patterns of all 21 species of bumblebee in order to provide for them, but it is helpful to know which one is enjoying the flowers you planted! By the time you’ve sorted out the first few, you’re probably hooked and it isn’t like you have to do this all on your own.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre puts on excellent identification courses, with practical demonstrations on how to capture bees in a net so that you can better identify them. What used to be a stroll in the garden or along a hedgerow becomes a mini safari with a Bumblebee Swatch and notebook in hand. Then the camera must be brought along so that you can sort out some of the trickier ones when you get home.
We also made the decision to switch from blowsy but nutrition-less annuals to bee-friendly perennials, but we really didn’t know our plants, bulbs and trees well enough. So began another absorbing journey of learning for us; one that has informed all of our planting in the village over the past 5 years. We have planted over 1,500 native trees in and around our little village, with every crown of every Rowan; Crab Apple or Wild Cherry a mini blossom garden for pollinators of all kinds in Spring and early Summer. Along the way we have also learned how to leave the earth alone, primarily by not spraying everything on it and in it to death and also by valuing those flowers we call weeds, which are essential to insect life and therefore all of life.
These approaches came as a challenge to some in our community, but we found we had the staunchest of allies. In fact, we had about 140 of them! These allies came in the form of the children, Principal and teaching staff of Geashill National School.
They’ve been with us right through the 5 years of our implementation of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; planting a native apple orchard – Úllord na n’Óg; building a Sensory and Pollinator Garden; recording the insect life of the village; constructing a Vertical Herb Garden and even recording the song we adapted with them “Where Have All The Wildflowers Gone”. Children are so open to working with nature and their enthusiasm is infectious. They are our hope for a better future and definitely keep us young.
Úllord na nÓg Geashill National School
Sensory Garden, Geashill National School
Spring Dandelion campaign
‘Pollinator Promise’ barrels
Perennial Container planting, Geranium Rozanne
To any Tidy Towns group out there who hasn’t yet entered for the Local Authority Pollinator Awards – we say – do it this year! You and your children will benefit. Your village or town as a living organism will benefit and – most important of all – your bees, pollinators and wildlife will reap the rewards of your labour. Oh – I almost forgot. It will also help you pick up some marks not just in the Nature and Biodiversity category but across the entire application. And – it’s lots of fun!
Tree-planting at Glebe Walk, Geashill
This article was published in our newsletter on the 2019 Local Authority Pollinator Award.
To read the full newsletter, Click here
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.