On the west coast of Ireland, Atlantic waves have over millennia shaped our coastline creating rocky shores, beaches and towering cliffs.
A couple of weeks ago we visited Balla Town Park. The park, managed by the local community, consists of a series of walks, we choose the fairy village trail.
The town was left land by a local landlord. In 2015, the community applied for a Neighbourwood scheme. An area of 35 acres of old estate wood was cleared of encroaching laurel and planted with 3000 young deciduous trees. These new trees, along with the existing old trees, now make a wonderful diverse woodland. The old trees include oak, beech and horse chestnut trees.
Well laid paths, benches, picnic table, tree trail and interpretation boards all add to the visitors experience. The fairy village including some lovely sculptured way markers, are a great addition particularly for the younger visitors. They are a great incentive for encouraging young ones to go for walks and explore. It is hoped to install a bird hide in the near future. Birds boxes and bats boxes have been erected and there are plenty brash piles for wildlife too.
The Neighbourwood scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. It aims to encourage communities to woodlands as a local community amenities.
Balla Town Park is a wonderful example of what can be done to create a great resource of local people and visitors.
Who lives behind those secret little fairy doors?
Winter light reflected on a lake has a certain magically quality.
That low winter sun, the calm water, I could take photographs all day.
Trying to capture it perfectly – which of course is impossible.
Over the past few weeks I have been very lucky to have been working with some very dedicated people. These citizen don’t seek to stand out, instead they work tirelessly for their communities, their hard work often going unnoticed.
The people I am talking about are the community volunteer committees working to improve our towns and villages throughout County Mayo and Ireland. Many of these committees go under the title of Tidy Town Committees. Tidy Towns was set up in 1958, and was initially used to encourage towns to improve their environs by planting flowers and trees. Today, Tidy Towns is much more than that, encompassing such themes as sustainability and biodiversity.
I have been working with groups in Westport, Mulranney, Belmullet, Castlebar and Balla delivering Leave No Trace Biodiversity Training Workshops. The pilot programme is being delivered in partnership with South West Mayo Development Group CGL (SWMDC). The workshops are raising awareness of local biodiversity, what can be done in communities to protect and enhance biodiversity, and how biodiversity is linked to the Leave No Trace ethos and use of our outdoor spaces.
For me the most inspiring element of delivering the workshops are the groups themselves and their enthusiasm for improving their local areas. These community volunteers are working for the greater good of their communities. They don’t just plant window boxes. They create community gardens, build and install bird, bat and bug boxes, plant orchards, and encourage others to actively participate in the community.
These are the unsung heros of our communities. No job is too small (they will stop to pick up litter where ever they walk), and no challenge too big. If you are a local business owner I urge you to get behind your local Tidy Town group. If you are just an interested citizen, Tidy Town committees arcoss the country are always looking for volunteers to help. Why not give it a go.
I disturbed these two little ladybirds when I was harvesting the last of our apples yesterday. They had found a lovely sheltered spot between three apples (well at least till I came around).