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Community Involvement & Planning / Rannpháirtíocht an Phobail & Pleanáil: Thank you for the filled up entry form and map. I did not find a plan and it is strongly recommended that each group should draw up a three to five year plan of work to be done. This does not need to be an elaborate document, and only work that you are capable of doing should be planned. Where possible professional advice should be gained and adhered to during works. You could organise a general meeting of all parties in the parish and ask the people to put forward proposals of what they would like to be done in your area. At a second meeting your TidyTowns group could refine all the proposals, and this could be your plan for the next few years.
I note you have a committee of 12 people and plenty meetings are held. I like your professional approach and it was a good initiative to invite Eamon de Staffort to point you in the right direction. It is nice to have these little gatherings in the community centre after work sessions and this builds up great spirit. We find that some people are too embarrassed to speak at formal meetings; they could have good knowledge, but they usually take part in those informal sessions and can come up with important solutions to a problem It is good to learn that you are well supported by Laois County Council and this comes about mainly from the attitude of the local group who go out and do things first themselves and the Council will then support the effort. I was most impressed with the presentations of the farm yards and I am not surprised to find that they are helping out  in a big way. Working in a united fashion with the Community Centre, ICA and other local groups is the best approach, and you are making the most of this.
The local people are well informed of your activities. It is good to have these links with the local school and it would be a decided advantage to have the school participating in the green flag initiatives. This can create a lot of extra work for the school principal, but maybe you could come to an arrangement whereby one of the committee could help out – perhaps some retired person. You are most welcome back to the competition; your people have a lot to offer to the local community and to the wider population. This is a good approach to the competition.

Built Environment and Streetscape / An Timpeallacht Thógtha agus Sráid-dreacha: Places like Cullohill are sometimes described as drive through villages, and I drove through it many times myself,  and we get the impression as we pass by that the village just consists of the landscape and buildings on the main road. But we are pleasantly surprised to find unexpected delights on both side roads. The school is nicely positioned in off the road and maintained in great condition; there was some construction work taking place there, performed in a careful and professional manner. The RC Church is well presented with the spacious car park and splendid mature trees. Cullohill graveyard is in great condition and a tribute to the people of the area. I loved the millennium park and I could see there the “footsteps” of an imaginative and enthusiastic people showing great leadership qualities. Sitting on one of the sturdy seats we enjoy the Bog Oak piece, pebble pathways, well tended grassed area, raised flower beds and then there is the waterfall where we find that your holly tree planted on Good Friday 2000 is doing nicely. Heading back to the main road we pass the milk churns on a raised stone platform at a corner and this is a great reminder of the farming traditions of the area.
O’Connell’s bar The Sportsman’s Inn is a landmark building in this part of County Laois and is maintained to a high standard, with the yard and store in spotless condition. Across the main road again we go to the Castle in ruins; we see on the free standing notice that this castle dates back to 1425, is built on solid rock and is up to 90 feet high. It is brilliant to see the architectural layout and stone-works here done by masons hundreds of years ago and most of it standing firmly today. We can get a bit of education here by studying the work done and the materials used, bearing in mind that there was no cement used on it only lime mortar. And sometimes nowadays work with stone is inappropriately done using hard cement based mortar that later cracks and falls. Quite reflection here on a warm summer’s day reminds me of the passage of time down through the years where one poem states “We love this little parish once owned by feared Land Lords, But oh how times have changed sure we own it one and all”, or the Famous lines in James Shirley’s Death The Leveller “Sceptre and Crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made with crooked scythe and spade”. It’s time to stop dreaming and get on with the work. I was delighted with the little lime kiln, it is a gem, and I know it will be cared for in a loving way.

Landscaping and Open Spaces / Tírdhreachú agus Spásanna Oscailte: Landscaping is lovely on the main road to Durrow with your new beech hedge is growing nicely at the back of well kept grass margins. Going towards Johnstown we enjoy tree lined grass margins, and a decorative planter gives colour and freshness to the corner heading towards the Castle. As outlined already, the landscaping is supreme at the graveyard and millennium park. Standing in well trimmed grass near the lime kiln there are splendid aesthetics looking out across the rolling countryside of a patchwork of very nice fields with the backdrop of the wooded area at the back. One is enticed down to view the Chapel in ruins and we read there that it was the private chapel of the Catholic Lords of Upper Ormond. I saw where there is some ivy growing on the walls of the chapel ruins, and you could get professional advice on how best to remove it, as it will eventually destabilise the walls.

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities / Fiadhúlra, Gnáthóga agus Taitneamhachtaí Nádúrtha: I read in the entry form that you rightly got the professional advice from Dr Fiona McGowan and you are opening up the walkway; I saw the start of it today and it will be a wonderful addition to the area for us all to explore. Well done for the planting of new wildflowers and I saw a few beauties at the church where Oxeye Daisy was standing bright and tall and reminding us that wildflowers too have an important role to play. There are many good quality native hedges around so important for the wildlife, and the new one on the main road adds to the existing stock. I heard a variety of birds singing merrily and I got a private tune from a blackbird. We should involve the children in Wildlife from a young age and the important thing to do is to make a start on increasing your awareness of wildlife no matter how small and seemingly insignificant it may seem. A great deal of pleasure is got from birds, butterflies and wildflowers, and once we recognise these we can protect and improve their habitats. Make sure to plant native shrubs and trees for birds. Erect a few bird and bat boxes and it will be interesting to watch them being used, but birds may take a few years to get to use the bird boxes. If we plant Nepata (it is in the recycling area) and buddleia they will attract plenty butterflies and they will look after themselves. A survey could be easily carried out, by getting the adults or maybe the children to write down details of what wildlife is in the area. In other areas the committee gave cameras to the schools and they simply took photographs of the different birds that frequented the playground, and after a short time they all had compiled evidence of what birds were seen, and at what time of the year.
I recommend that you get Paddy Madden’s book “Go Wild at School” ISBN 0 9527546 0 6 and better again get him to give a lecture in the school or local hall, and I can guarantee it would be an outstanding and memorable day for the local children and adults, his Mobile is 087 9028285.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management / Bainistiú Acmhainní agus Dramhaíola Inbhuanaithe: You have listed some good things being done to control the waste such as the underground tank, and I trust it will soon be back in action, involving the schoolchildren and the mulching of the grass. The EU Waste Management Hierarchy is elimination, reduction, reuse, recycle and there are many ways of doing all of this. Carrying out some sort of waste awareness survey or distributing a questionnaire would give people a starting point in terms of waste prevention. Groups can take many steps to reduce the level of resources used and become more efficient at using materials, while at the same time reducing waste generation. Bulk buying and avoiding disposable products, using local libraries and repairing goods are all ways of being more resource efficient. With the children involved in the excellent green schools initiatives we can study what they are doing in the schools and carry it forward ourselves.
All the trees have huge amounts of leaves in the autumn / winter and most of this could be collected and composted. Composting is the way forward and you could further educate the people on how best to do this, by for instance, holding a workshop that demonstrates that to achieve the best results we must mix green kitchen waste with brown waste like hedge clippings, and also by turning it occasionally; more information is available on this from the county council. Compost reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, and produces good material for the vegetable and flower gardens, plus it cuts down on spending money on such like material.
The collection of scrap metal from householders such as old steel beds, wheelbarrows, bicycles, gates, galvanised iron etc and bringing it to central point could earn money for your activities as there are plenty registered dealers in scrap metal who could buy it from you, and reduce the risk of it being thrown in ditches etc.

Tidiness and Litter Control / Slachtmhaireacht agus Rialú Bruscair: The removal of the advertising hoarding at the corner shop was a brilliant idea and we clearly see in the photograph what can be achieved – well done. The recycling centre was clean and orderly. I see you are concentrating a lot on the main street, very well, but this is your area and all the rest of the village is just as important to you the people of Cullohill. Thank you for the nice photographs; that is a beauty of the children and it will be a great photograph in the years to come, with grown men saying “I was there that day aren’t I in the photograph”. No doubt you had a great day and night last August and I see it went on ‘til midnight – great stuff. The old saying goes “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. Your village is presented in an orderly and tidy fashion. Good luck with the contacts with the ESB.

Residential Streets & Housing Areas / Sráideanna Cónaithe & Ceantair Tithíochta: You certainly have got through to the people who present their places so well. The farm yards and houses are a feature of Cullohill and it seemed to me that they were in competition to present the best place. The houses throughout the village are very well maintained and there are a few beauties for instance on the Gattabawn road. You are well served with the splendid community centre.

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes / Bóithre Isteach, Sráideanna & Lánaí: Well trimmed grass margins notably on the main road makes for pleasurable driving. Be careful with the hedge strimmer during the periods 1st March to End of July as it is illegal to cut hedgers at that time of the year. Using bark mulch is good for the trees and can look well. Road signage and surfaces are good but great care must be taken on this really busy main road. The side roads are in good condition and the parking area at the church takes a lot of traffic off the roadsides.