Members of the Ballincollig Tidy Towns team taking a break from their hard work. The town secured the title of Ireland’s Tidiest Large Urban Centre 2023, along with a €5,000 prize at the SuperValu Tidy Towns Awards.

Ballincollig celebrates SuperValu Tidy Towns success

“Tidy Towns is much more than litter and flowers.” This is according to Tom Butler, who has been leading the Ballincollig Tidy Towns efforts for the past 25 years. What began as a three month stint for the chairperson of the committee, has become a long-lasting labour of love.

The dedicated efforts of Tom and the Ballincollig community have paid off, with the town securing the title of Ireland's Tidiest Large Urban Centre 2023, along with a €5,000 prize at the SuperValu Tidy Towns Awards.

The win marked their 11th gold medal and earned them the County Award for Cork South, missing out on the overall award by just one point. “Out of 887 entries, Ballincollig was in the top three in the whole country,” Tom told the Cork Independent.

“You never know how well you are going to do, it’s like getting the Leaving Cert results every year,” he said.

While every award is appreciated, Butler acknowledged that this year’s feels special. "For us, every award is an achievement, but this one seems to be bigger for people. Even this morning I was stopped by a few people congratulating me. It’s fantastic."

Tom stressed that the success isn't just about the Tidy Towns committee but the whole Ballincollig community pitching in. "No matter if it’s schools, businesses, the city council, or residents, they all play a role. So, while we receive the award, the whole community is winning it," he said.

Being involved in Tidy Towns is a year-round commitment, says Tom. “It’s 52 weeks of the year. We don’t stop, we have been working on 2024 since 1 June.” The dedicated volunteers engage in various activities, from Sunday morning litter picks to tending to the town's flowers.

Biodiversity and sustainability are key priorities and central to the committee’s plan and commitment to environmental sustainability, says Tom. “We harvest our water for watering from the roof of the school in Inismore. All the leaves that are falling at the moment, we gather them, and we have permanent compost bays. We have the best compost you could possibly get, and we keep turning it in the bays. It taken two years to get the compost where it’s at,” he says.

“We recycle flowers from Tesco and from Aldi from time to time. We have a polytunnel that we call ‘intensive care’ , we bring the flowers back there and revive them and give them out to groups like the Westgate Foundation for instance,” he added.

The Tidy Towns committee's focus isn't on winning competitions but on bettering the community. "We have never gone out to win a competition because if you go out with that mindset, you might have a burst for a year, but it falters. From 25 years ago, we have improved our points, year on year, every year. But by improving a small bit year by year we’ve come on leaps and bounds,” he said.