Writes Leo McMahon
A renaissance is taking place in Ringaskiddy spearheaded by the local Tidy Towns committee with the support of local bodies.
Enormous change has taken place in the Cork Harbour village and surrounding area in recent decades (which hasn’t always been of benefit to the local community) thanks to the combined efforts of the Residents’ Association, the Port of Cork, large and small employers and more recently with the revival after 20 years of Ringaskiddy Tidy Towns (RTT).
We recently met RTT chairperson Jamie O’Toole and vice chairperson Sinead O’Mahony who outlined the outstanding progress in just over year of the small army of volunteers across an extensive area that includes not only Ringaskiddy village but also Gobby and Luck Strands and the back roads.
‘We were getting a lot of complaints about noise, illegal dumping and litter in Luck Strand and it started there last year with a clean up,’ said Ringaskiddy born Jamie who resides in Ferry View.
‘Because of the Covid lockdown and especially the 5k limit, people started to discover us and got involved,’ said Sinead, a native of Raffeen but a resident in Bloomfield, Ringaskiddy for 17 years.
A WhatsApp group of around 40 members was formed and four big clean ups were held on Wednesday nights during the summer of 2020 with people doing different sections. There was great enthusiasm and smaller groups continued on into the autumn.
‘It started with litter and then went on to weeding and then planting, firstly around the tree near the community centre. In cooperation with Ringaskiddy and District Residents’ Association, who do a huge amount of work behind the scenes, and who were already looking after some of the flower boxes, we got a lot done. There was also great help and advice from Ringaskiddy man John Cummins of Stonewall Garden Centre, Hilltown, Carrigaline.’
Jamie O'Toole, Indra Roelants, Ryan Roberts, Audrey O'Driscoll, Eva Roset and Sinead O'Mahony, some members Ringaskiddy Tidy Towns who have planted and maintain five floral boats in the village. Pics: Leo McMahon
Ringaskiddy Tidy Towns (RTT) operates over an extensive area comprising six sections. 1) From Coolmore Cross to Barnahely Graveyard; 2) From the graveyard to the Oratory; 3) From the Oratory to Paddy’s Point, including Gobby strand; 4) Oratory Hill to Luck Strand; 5) From the Village to Pfizer roundabout and 6) Back roads of Ringaskiddy.
Due to Covid regulations, RTT does not meet in large groups but on different days, members come out and do their bit in the respective work sections on a regular basis. In addition to litter picking, weeding and sweeping the main road and footpaths, Jamie and Sinead outlined the many ongoing projects.
Particularly eye-catching are the five flower boats which have been painted, planted and maintained. These are: 1) ‘Lana Gaideil’ (‘Pump Lane’) opposite the community centre 2) ‘Palmer’s Island’ in the wildflower garden at the end of the green; 3) ‘Barnahely’ near the traffic lights at the entrance to the village and donated by Tom from Currabinny; 4) ‘Rinn an Scidigh’ near the Oratory and Martello Park 5) ‘Gobby’ at the other end of Martello Park.
Jamie and Sinead said special thanks were due to a volunteer from the residents’ association, who refurbished and painted the first boat ‘Lana Gaideil’ and worked on two others. Soil was provided by Noblewood Landscapes and Ger Healy.
The Port of Cork Co maintains the extensive green space adjoining its property along the village but RTT seeded and looks after the native Irish wildflower garden after the plot was rotavated by local resident Eoin O’Sullivan, plus two lavender and flower beds.
On becoming a Tidy Towns group, it became eligible to apply for grants and obtained funds from the factories for three tier planters in the village (Jannsen, DePuy). Made from composite decking, the units have a lifespan of around 25 years. In addition, Cork County Council grants, including its paint scheme, were availed of by a local business and a few homes in the village.
‘We always try to make our planting as pollinator friendly as possible, especially in the pots, troughs and boats’, said Sinead. ‘We grew Cosmos from seed which we divided up between us and planted salvias, lupins, foxgloves. We also got flowers from seedlings from verbena bonarensis and scabious from my own garden reusing pots to plant these on’. The emphasis is always on sustainability and that means re-using, recycling and basically doing more with less.’
Another eco friendly initiative by RTT is using coffee grinds donated by Cindi and Chris of The Beanie Box at Gobby beach car park for use as compost and generator of worms.
RTT hopes to do a lot more in the area of biodiversity and pollination in the next few years, especially with youth, and already has planted some bee-friendly plants on the Port of Cork land, Sinead added.
Frames for the troughs and hanging baskets on the ESB poles, said Jamie, were kindly supplied and put up by Barry Brady, Shanbally. Attractive floral Tidy Town signs have also been placed on wheelie bins at beaches and on poles.
RTT also got a two tank trolley for watering plants provided by the liaison group that comprises Port of Cork, the factories, the National Maritime College and the Residents’ Association who fund local projects annually. Watering duties are divided up between RTT workers in the different areas.
‘At present, RTT has around 20 active members who go out weekly and have set areas but often on the day they work, their kids or friends and neighbours might come along to help litter pick or water. Every section is attended to weekly and if a person assigned is unavailable, he or she sends a text and someone will fill in. However, day in, day out, you will often see a volunteer out weeding or litter picking.
‘I notify everyone in our group through WhatsApp about what is planned for each week and we’re also on Facebook and Instagram’, said Jamie. Other projects have also been undertaken this year, in what is the first of a three year plan aimed at raising awareness and community involvement.
RTT held during lockdown in March, a free bingo night organized online via zoom by Jamie that raised around €650. It was great fun and a huge success with local businesses generously sponsoring prizes. ‘One family said that until the bingo came along, they hadn’t sat on the couch together for years and hearing that is lovely,’ said Jamie.
During lockdown also, RTT put in a Fairy Trail on the green with local children making the fairy doors etc from recycled materials.
On a walkabout with secretary Indra Roelants and her son Ryan, we viewed the latest addition to Tidy Towns, the fantastic ‘bug castle’ on the path to the Martello Tower which her other sons Liam and Kellan were also involved in.
Children are encouraged to add twigs and there’s even a solar light to attract moths. It’s hoped the path can be upgraded as part of the three year plan as there are excellent harbour views along it.
Trojan work has been carried out by Indra and fellow officers compiling the applications and three year plan. Indra, assisted by Noelle Nally, also presented a one year photographic/statistical presentation and ‘thank you’ certificates for volunteers following the bingo fundraiser and is currently completing a local walking heritage/tourism map.
More bug castles and hotels are planned in the locality and RTT also has some small bee hotels in its wildflower garden.
‘The work never ends but through Tidy Towns, I know a lot more people in the village’, said Sinead who paid tribute to Jamie and her fellow volunteers.
‘The feedback has been amazing. When we started last year, we just set out to make the village tidier as there was a significant increase in littering. The amount of litter we picked up initially was unreal and as recently as June, it took RTT volunteers five hours to pick up 16 bags of rubbish from Luck Strand, some of it dumped alongside two full wheelie bins. Illegal dumping continues to be a concern and from March 2020 to March 2021, 234 bags weighing 2.3 tonnes were collected, including 327 bottles!
‘Litter bins were removed from the village a few years ago but last year, we managed to get wheelie bins from Raffeen landfill site for the cemetery, two in Luck and two at Gobby but we would appeal to all visitors to take their litter home’, said Jamie.
Sinead and Jamie said RTT wished to specially thank Ringaskiddy Residents’ Association, Cork County councillors and local officials, the Port of Cork, the factories, local businesses (e.g. Perry Street Market Café sponsored hi-viz jackets), trades people, landscapers, the media and residents who take it on to look after their own properties and the footpath.
Despite but perhaps because of Covid, a huge amount has been achieved. Ringaskiddy has not always enjoyed a good press what with some controversial port and industrial proposals over the years, but Tidy Towns has brought the community together in what is a good news story.
‘The Tidy Towns competition is mainly online this year. We’ll look at the feedback to our first entry for many years and take it from there. That will include working even more with clubs, schools and children interested in making Tidy Towns work part of environmental projects,’ said Jamie who thanked the many children who have volunteered for beach and other clean ups.
One of these, said Sinead, is Eva Roset who did Tidy Towns work as part of her Gaisce Award and has stayed on as a volunteer., These are positive times for Ringaskiddy and district. Recent years have seen the opening of a new playground and Haulbowline Park, more footpaths, speed controls and through co-operation with the residents’ association and council, upgrading of facilities at Luck and Gobby. There are also plans to upgrade the community centre. Ringaskiddy Tidy Towns is playing its part and if you want to be part of it, contact 085 1169929 or link on to its Facebook or Instagram pages.
* Jamie O’Toole was the very deserving first winner of the new Cork International Hotel Community Spirit Award in recognition of him organizing the Tidy Towns effort and the bingo night on zoom. The awards covering the South Cork area, are held in association with The Carrigdhoun Newspaper.