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Community Involvement & Planning / Rannpháirtíocht an Phobail & Pleanáil: Thank you for the filled up entry form, map and plan. I note you have 9 committee members and plenty meetings are being held to monitor progress and plan ahead. Good to find that you are getting support from the agencies that are listed, and do you get any support from the local shops and businesses? The local people are well informed of your activities, and it is positive to have this link to the local school. We are pleased to find that the people get a sense of pride in Durrow from the involvement in the competition, and it brings the people together. This is a good approach to the competition.

Built Environment and Streetscape / An Timpeallacht Thógtha agus Sráid-dreacha: There is a beautiful and quite distinct Built Environment in Durrow starting off with the spacious square where we admire the Georgian style three storey houses. Sitting down in a lovely garden seat curiosity takes over and we see in a notice board a picture of a Georgian door and looking at the houses we see two splendid examples, one in Durrow House and the other up at the corner near the church- a great start. Down further the splendid St Fintan’s Church of Ireland stands out and I loved the curved traditional stone wall outside; this is a fantastic wall and great to see it in such good condition after all those years. It has some growths of ivy on it and I strongly recommend that this ivy be removed, as it will destabilise the wall, and there are also a few small trees starting to grow on top of it and they too should be removed. The stately entrance to the Castle is impressive and the entrance to Our Lady’s Meadow Primary School 1983 is in keeping with the entrance to the castle. The remainder of the buildings are mainly business houses, some with lovely murals and maintained to a high standard.
In other parts we enjoy some lovely houses, plus well kept first class business houses such as Hennessy butcher and The Pharmacy in Mary Street. Up further Tom Woods Place stands out. But there are other impressive places that are keeping up this high standard, and back down in Church Street we enjoy the Library, a shop alongside and two across the road Dec’s Bar and Carry out Off-licence. The RC Church is splendid in every way and the mural stands out on the nicely presented Community Hall. Bobs Bar is unique and nice to see there the old agricultural equipment that was used in the area down through the years, and I loved the little famine era small thatched house. We also see an interesting plaque stating that the world’s largest gathering of High Nelly bicycles, 344, was recorded at this bridge on the 10th of October 2011. Across from Bobs Bar we see the splendid Ashbrook Arms and nearby The Health Centre is well presented.

Landscaping and Open Spaces / Tírdhreachú agus Spásanna Oscailte: Landscaping is excellent in many places where we enjoy the large green that contains lots of great mature trees, splendid open grassed spaces, garden seats and ground level flower beds. All the approach roads have extensive tree lined grass margins and nice shrubberies and this is wonderful on the Dublin Road where there is an outstanding display of flowers trees and shrubs and again in well maintained grass margins. There is another lovely open space where the Grotto is situated. The Mill Road amenity area is a most interesting with the stone replica mill wheel and picnic tables and a nice lawn. It is interesting to read the great history carved in the stone on the windows; undoubtedly this is an interesting and educational setting. This amenity is positioned on the side of the busy road near the corner and it would be great if a parking area could be provided adjacent to it.
I loved the little triangle, Tae Lane which contains the impressive Immigration Memorial Wall and details in stone of people that emigrated such as Alice Byrne (1921-2006) from Chapel Street who went to the Isle of Wight. This area also contains the small pump, mature trees, and nice green and attractive roses.

Wildlife, Habitats and Natural Amenities / Fiadhúlra, Gnáthóga agus Taitneamhachtaí Nádúrtha: This is a lovely facility at Dunmore Wood where there is splendid parking area leading to interesting woodland walks. It would be nice to paint up the old house and do a bit of artwork in the windows. I read good details of the birds on a poster by “Bird watch Ireland. And it will be interesting to see the details of wildlife pictures built up by your local photographer. I do agree that the “dawn chorus walk” is a splendid occasion. I drove out towards Attanagh and saw the start to the different walks as outlined in the brochures. We suggest that the schools should be involved from an early age and I recommend that you get Paddy Madden’s book “Go Wild at School” ISBN 09527546 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 contact is (087) 9028285 or paddy.madden@mie.ie by email.

Sustainable Waste and Resource Management / Bainistiú Acmhainní agus Dramhaíola Inbhuanaithe: I note the initiative you have in place – notably a walk to school day and the actions of the local scout group in taking on a mobile phone recycling project. I inspected the bottle and clothes banks and they are maintained to a high order. 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: I appreciate your management plan is working with the weed free places all over the town. I saw the CE workers brushing and cleaning and leaving the footpaths neat and tidy. The derelict house below on the Johnstown road is untidy. Congratulations for taking part in Clean up Laois. We look forward to the removal of the overhead cables. Great commitment is shown by the people that go out and tidy up after others, and good to learn that the litter is segregated once collected.

Residential Streets & Housing Areas / Sráideanna Cónaithe & Ceantair Tithíochta: I visited the housing estates and they are presented to a very high standard, and the most impressive was Derrywood; it has splendid landscaping maintained to a high degree and we are greeted by a good quality timber sign “Fáilte- please drive slow” Erkindale Drive and St Fintans terrace are well maintained. And there are splendid town houses on the Johnstown Road and just one in particular catches the eye as it is boarded up. It would be great if a bit of artwork was done on this house to improve its presentation at this point. Going up towards the church there are lovely town houses maintained in great condition. Two houses in Church Street near the post office had brilliant displays of flowers in hanging baskets. Just one word of caution – there are flowers in a container hanging on an ESB pole in Church Street and this is illegal and highly dangerous. Many other houses had great displays of shrubs, flowers, trees and lawns and combined with your splendid effort make Durrow a very attractive and colourful place to visit.

Approach Roads, Streets & Lanes / Bóithre Isteach, Sráideanna & Lánaí: All the roads in Durrow are in good condition with excellent clear and distinct road signs. I was very impressed with the small old stone bridge, we admire its architectural qualities making it as secure today as when it was built, and there are lovely views from the new bridge with the railings. Navigation around the town is assisted by the one way system, and the traffic lights enable us to get safely on to the main road. I was impressed with the cycle lane that extends to the outskirts of Abbeyleix. Sitting in one of the lovely seats in the green we are surprised at the huge amount of lorries that pass through the village.