Tidy Towns

While the work undertaken by the fledgling Muintir Guild in developing the unsightly Square (i.e. the green area) gave rise to an awareness of how the village looked, it is to the Tidy Towns Competition we must direct our attention when seeking out the main impulse behind the interest today in the enhancing of Kilworth’s appearance. The Tidy Towns competition was inaugurated in 1958 as part of An Tostal, the nationwide festival dedicated to celebrating all things Irish. Kilworth entered for the first time in 1961 and, interestingly, the body that put the village forward was not the Muintir guild but the County Council. We fared poorly and at the 3rdoutset ‘the guild through our esteemed chairman, made strong pleas for co-operation from the townsfolk, but the response to say the least was dismal’. He went on to say that for 1962 ‘we hope for a brighter outlook’; but alas, he had to report at the next AGM, in March 1963, that ‘our best efforts to interest the public in the Tidy Towns Competition ended in failure’. 

Thankfully, he was in a position to report ‘a slight improvement’ in 1964 and express the hope that the work on the green area would ultimately lead to a greater level of interest in the 

At the November 1964 monthly meeting of the guild Dr O’Flynn re-echoed the calls for a greater effort in the Tidy Towns competition. He set out what should be done as part of a renewed major effort: in addition to planting roses in the Square, approaches to the village should be tidied, road edges trimmed, walls and ditches should be cleaned of briers, tubs of flowers should be placed along footpaths, litter baskets should be placed at vantage points and owners of unsightly vacant lots should be asked to attend to them. Specifically, the storing of unsightly gravel by a local tradesman near ‘the hotel’ was frowned upon, as was the apparently abandoned County Council piping in the Square. 

A recurring pattern emerges from an examination of the minutes of monthly meetings in the forty or so years that follow: the Chair expresses appreciation of ‘great effort made so far’ and declares ‘one night per week, properly organised, was better than working every night with the same few’. He declares that Pound Lane ‘should be tackled’, and derelict sites and roadside edges too, especially from the Garda Station to Molly Barry’s Cross (June 1965 meeting). At the January 1966 meeting he deplores indiscriminate dumping in the parish and at the April meeting it was agreed to accept Michael Gowen’s generous offer of tractor and loader in the campaign to remove unsightly dumps. Also, Fr Burns, CC, reports that Michael Hynes has offered his quarry near the village to the County Council to serve as a dump for the modest sum of £10-0-0 p.a. (clearly, health and safety considerations did not command the level of attention they do today!). All agree with the Chair that action must be taken, and with summer approaching a dedicated but small group undertakes a clean-up that will include the spending of 15/- on the poisoning of the rats that infest the waste ground on the Glanworth Road. Adjudications follow and the community is commended for  AGM, held on 9 February 1962, secretary Pat Sweeney reported that from the its ‘well maintained Green’ with its ‘fine floral display’ and regret is expressed that a touch of colour is still lacking and that ‘grass needs to be cut in places’. Each year the adjudicators encourage the community to persevere and they usually conclude, as in their 1970 report, for example, ‘if the effort continues, Kilworth would be a strong contender for a prize in the not too distant future’. 

Throughout the following decades the improvement efforts continued and slowly but surely higher marks were achieved. But the operation was piecemeal in nature and what was missing was a blueprint to enable Muintir proceed in a unified and well integrated fashion. 

This shortcoming was addressed in 1983 when the Department of Architecture and Town Planning, College of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin, contacted Muintir with a proposal that would see five of its fifth and final year students produce a developmental plan for the village and environs, complete with illustrated guidelines. Working under the direction of college staff members Derry Gilligan and Niall Brennan, both architects, the students stayed for some days, interviewed a variety of people associated with Muintir and in due course produced a comprehensive and imaginative document of some twenty-five pages. Of particular significance was their proposed alignment of the Square, a modified version of which was eventually adopted to give us the current layout. They also provided recommendations in respect of car parking, shopfronts, paint schemes and tree planting throughout the village. From the perspective of today their town study presents as an attractive document full of ideas on how Kilworth could become a showpiece town but was not received at the time with the level of enthusiasm it probably deserved. Essentially, on its publication Muintir members viewed the blueprint as requiring an effort far beyond available resources and hence unfeasible. The authors for their part asserted that they never expected Kilworth would adopt the proposals in their entirety and in their response appealed for a sympathetic examination of their document that would ultimately see the adoption of certain favoured ideas in a piecemeal fashion. All things considered, from our vantage point today perhaps what we can most reasonably say about the Bolton Street study is that much of what Muintir is attempting to achieve today is rooted in the visit of those young architectural students some thirty-years ago.

In the years that followed the Bolton Street study there were still no prizes but the dawn of the new millennium heralded a greater determination than ever before to improve on what the little sub-committees of the previous century had achieved. With Dan Noonan, Michael Lovett and Mary Fitzgerald providing strong leadership as Chairpersons, a vibrant and enthusiastic Tidy Towns sub-committee, took up the proverbial baton early in the millennium and in a decade of hard work characterised by a steely determination they took Kilworth to the top of the highly competitive Category B in 2011 and 2012. 

But what is it that the Tidy Towns sub-committee did to bring Kilworth to the top of its category in those years? Day after day in recent years people saw Ella Lovett, Leish Walsh, Eileen Young, Caitríona Hanrahan and others sweep the streets and pick the unsightly wrappers that billowed along the kerbsides. Others joined them in addressing concerns about the condition of approach roads that was expressed by successive panels of adjudicators. 

Today we see evidence of their efforts in the well maintained and now matured, attractive beech hedge that was planted alongside the Glanworth Road in late 1980s. We see it also in the neatly capped walls in the approach from the Mill Hill verges of Anthony’s Road. We see it too in the new footpath stretching down the Coach Road  which eventually will lead to the neatly developed picnic area at the entrance of Glenseskin Wood). And we see it in the new and neatly presented, railings and gates of the Catholic church, in the refurbished Community Hall beside it and in the provision of wildlife feeding stations. 

But perhaps the crowning jewel in the enhancement of the approaches goes to the Molly Barry’s development. Here the plans of 1991 have come to fruition: the lay-by has been lawned and shrubbed and an attractive wall secures the area. A plaque detailing the life Molly Barry has been erected inside the wall and the complex in its entirety presents as a highly attractive gateway to a village that invites the passersby to call. And in addition to all of this, walls, railings and gates have been cleaned (and attractive Market house/ church motifs have been incorporated in some gates); walls have been capped, hanging baskets and colourful window boxes have become a common feature and antique style signposts have been erected in the Square. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise to recall the remarks of the adjudicators in 2010 when they recorded that ‘Kilworth is a beautiful village with fine amenity facilities and there is much evidence of a community that cares deeply for its homeplace and the wider environment’. These sentiments were re-echoed in 2011 when they recorded that the village ‘is making huge strides in the competition year on year’. That this was true was evidenced in the report for 2012 when five extra marks were awarded bringing our total to 294 out of a possible 400 (the national award winner, Abbeyshrule, was awarded 312 marks). This saw Kilworth repeat its success of 2011 in securing first place in Category B, Cork North. Further, our total of 294 marks Kilworth saw us take third place out of twenty-five centres in all categories of size in Cork (North), and in the whole of Cork County no more than twelve towns (out of 97) achieved a higher mark. It is worth bearing in mind that five marks, even one mark, is significant at this level; those centres substantially below Kilworth inevitably find it easier to garner extra marks as they have a far wider range of less challenging improvements to address. 

A sample of the comments expressed by the adjudicators in 2012 gives eloquent testimony to the success of the Community Council’s ‘Village Renewal Committee’ and the in sharpening people’s awareness of the value of a tidy and attractive environment:
    It was a pleasure to visit Kilworth for the first time
    The Muintir na Tíre Centre has been beautifully preserved and the original sash windows     were admired;
    The Arts Centre and the adjacent ‘Chiropractic Clinic’ building were admired;

It is worth recording that it was due to the campaign of concerted opposition by the Community Council in 1994 that the County Council abandoned its plan to close the road from the village to Downing Bridge (the Mill Bridge). This would have been a significant inconvenience to a great many travellers and most likely would have added little to the promotion of road safety.
    The old graveyard was well maintained;
    The lovely village green is the core of the village and has some good tree planting
    The fingerposts at the village green looked great
    There is a beautifully maintained picnic area on the Glanworth Road    
     There was no litter in Kilworth on the day we visited – your efforts obviously paying off
    Weed control was good along kerbsides
    There are fine stone walls on approach from the N8 (from Molly Barry’s) and you have good     name signs with your local crest
    Well done to the school for achieving its Green Flag

But there were some caveats too, although relatively few in number, such as:
    Surfacing is poor at the Pitch and Putt car park
    The area inside the GAA gates is untidy due to poor / weedy surfacing....Is it possible to paint     the gates?
    There is a lot of debris on the approach road verges
    Some signs need cleaning

As we faced into the 2013 Tidy Towns campaign the improvement of approach roads in particular was firmly on the agenda. This was reflected in the development of a concrete path along the Coach Road as far as the Cuckoo’s Nest bend; and the remainder of the old path stretching to ‘small bridge’ was tastefully levelled and regularly cut so that a comfortable walking surface would now be a feature from the village to ‘Woodview’. (Ultimately, with the release of promised County Council funds, there will be a connecting footpath stretching to Glenseskin Bridge.) At the time of writing, the development of a path from the top of Pound Lane to the ‘Small Bridge’ is underway and shortly it will be possible for walkers to take a pleasant and safe ring walk by path from the Square to the Small Bridge and on up to Pound Lane.

 In addition, the Community Council addressed the old and muddy footpath from Douglas Crossroads along by Moore Park wall up to the village. With the help of a generous County Council contribution, a concrete path was laid up to where it met the path from the village by John Hynes’ land, and now it is possible to walk in comfort and safety from the crossroads right up to the village. 

The Tidy Towns Competition report issued on 9 September 2013 and once again Kilworth has recorded an increase in marks: winning second place out of ten in Category B (one less than the winner here, Castletownroche, this year), we garnered no less than three extra marks over 2012 total and we now stand at 297 and are located in the ‘Commended’ category. An extra mark was awarded in three areas - ‘overall development approach’, ‘litter control’ and ‘roads, streets and back areas’ - and in the other seven areas there was no slippage. 

In a glowing report, the adjudicators favourably remarked ‘on your attitude to village identity’ and on ‘the wonderful vitality’ demonstrated in our efforts. ‘From the time one leaves the Cork Road one has the impression of a cared-for village,’ they comment, and add that ‘the attention given to the grass margins, miles of it in places, the condition of the trademark built stone walls and the footpaths (at times) create the impression of tidiness. Then the attention devoted to their front gardens by residents further accentuates that sense of tidiness.’

Their comments on landscaping were particularly encouraging:

You achieve very high marks in this section and they are deserved. Well done on the hedge planting which appears to have been a continuous process down the years in the village. Both the beech and hawthorn are also contributors to the wildlife. Tree planting is also a continuous process as on the Coach Road. The Glanworth Road is enhanced no end by the hedges, planting, roses, bedding plants and picnic area. One of the highlights must be the planting on a curve of the Coach Road. Landscaping has been used to great effect on the way into Hawthorn Grove in order to camouflage the backs of other buildings. The town centre also benefits but one is surprised that use is not being made of the hanging basket pillars. Little pockets of beds here and there are uplifting as on the Lismore Road or at the Gallery or the dwarf roses near Scoil Mhairtín. The provision of half barrels of summer bedding by residents also adds a layer to the landscaping delight of Kilworth. Similar half barrels pay tribute to the handball alley.

But, while laudatory in most part, the adjudicators were not reticent about offering some criticism: 

There are pockets that are somewhat untidy as at the traffic calming in the area of the ABC Academy. There are stretches of footpath that need renewal, in some cases urgently. Towards the village on the Mill Hill approach road attention needs to be given to the wall and hedge opposite the houses. A derelict site brings no honour to its surroundings...and in some cases there is a greater need for planting and general landscaping to enhance the appearance on the (new) estates and thus improve the quality of living in those estates.

So, all in all, a satisfactory result that gently nudges us on to redouble our efforts. The Community Council salutes the Tidy Towns sub-committees of recent years and the supporting contribution of the ‘FÁS/ Rural Social’ workers too, and also it acknowledges the generous financial support of Blackwater Leader (now Avondhu Blackwater Partnership). The Council also salutes those previous sub-committees of the last fifty years who first pointed the way. The challenge now is to retain what we have achieved and add to it. More people with a sense of civic responsibility combined with a keen aesthetic sense are needed for the coming year for work that is pending. Among the tasks to be undertaken, are the locating of broad-leaf trees along the lower Main Street, the capping of the Mill Hill wall and continuing the improvement of the approach roads. If the community spirit of past decades comes to the fore, we can be confident that we may see Kilworth become a serious challenger for the national title at some stage in the not too distant future.


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