On Tuesday 11th of October, 2022, Swords Tidy Towns volunteers joined “Save Swords (RiverValley / Ridgewood / Knocksedan) Greenbelt protest outside Fingal County Council offices in Swords to show their support to this campaign. Leaflets were handed out to the 40 Cllrs. urging them to oppose Motion 535.
Swords Tidy Towns volunteers took part in the Irish WaterBlitz event for a second year in a row.
This year’s event took place later in the year 7th – 10th of October in conjunction with Earthwatch Europe and was again hosted by the DCU Water Institute.
The 2022 WaterBlitz was open to organisations around the country like our group that have an interest in checking and maintaining the water quality of their local river, stream or lake. The aim was to collect as much data as possible through the FreshWater Watch app to determine the status of waterbodies nationwide, celebrating the cleanest waterbodies and identifying pollution hotspots.
WaterBlitz event was a brilliant opportunity for our volunteers to participate in a Citizen Science initiative. This year we had three teams to test five different locations of our local River Ward. Each team had two STT volunteers and two TY students from a local Fingal Community College. It has been a very enjoyable and educational experience for all involved.
Unfortunately the results are nothing to be happy about – they indicate elevated Nitrate levels in all spots tested in the River Ward with some receiving only “Poor” status.
The data will be further analised by the DCU Water institute and results available at a later date.
Roll on WaterBlitz 2023!
You can read about our participation in last year’s event here.
This year once again, ministerial permission was granted to Fingal County Council to hold a community archaeological dig at Drumanagh Promontory Fort from August 17 to 21. This nationally important Iron Age site is situated between the villages of Rush and Loughshinny.
Heritage Officer, Christine Baker, had previously organised two successful excavations there in 2017 and 2018 using a mix of professionals and amateurs. These were the first scientific investigations of this site, so volunteers had to learn how and when to use mattocks or trowels; how to recognise changing soil levels; to store finds in the appropriate trays; how to sieve soil to recover artefacts that might have been missed by the diggers in the trench, and to learn how to spot pottery shards etc. as opposed to just “interesting” stones. The mantra was “when in doubt, don’t throw it out”. The professionals were patient and happy to answer all of our queries as we worked.
Some of us had been on several previous digs as volunteers, but many had only seen this work on tv or in books. It was wonderful to see how quickly everyone bonded, and worked together as a team.
The volunteers, aged 18 to 73, came from a wide variety of backgrounds but were united by a common love of history and pre-history. Amazing stories were shared and there was so much laughter. In the quiet moments we could listen to the sounds of crashing waves, and enjoy the views over Rush, Lambay Island and the village of Loughshinny.
Being a more remote site, there was no running water. It was a case of bring your own tea, coffee and packed lunch. There was a choice of outdoor seating or indoors inside a cabin. It was a chance to mingle and share what we’d been doing that morning.
From September 5 to 9, the finds were cleaned at Swords Castle, where there was access to water. Several volunteers, who were physically unable to dig or sieve, turned up for the important post-excavation stage. Once again care was taken to place cleaned items in the appropriately marked trays associated with each soil level in the trench. When dried, these were bagged and sent for examination by experts. In Spring, all of the volunteers will be invited to a meeting to discover the details about our finds.
We were unfortunate with the weather on several of these days in September, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. The interesting conversations and banter continued throughout.
In previous years at two separate areas of the promontory, we learned more about life near the Martello tower, built around 1804. A series of these towers were built along the coast as a defence against a possible invasion by Napoleon.
Artefacts such as Samian pottery from Southern Spain and amphora (pots for holding olive oil) prove that in the third century AD Ireland was trading with the Roman world.
For more about these excavations see here.
It’s hoped that further investigations at Drumanagh will be possible in 2023, and that more amateurs will be able to realise their dream of taking part in a real life dig, learning new skills along the way.
Swords Woodland Association kindly extended an invitation to STT members to attend their event called “Woodlands, Nature and People”. This was held in the Atrium in Fingal County Hall on Friday morning, September 23, from 10 am until 1 pm.
Four members of STT and a representative from the Broadmeadow Community Garden arrived to find the Atrium filled with luscious apple trees, and the chatter of excited students of primary and secondary school ages and their teachers.
Other adult guests included Mayor of Fingal Cllr Howard Mahony, Councillors Ann Graves, Ian Carey and Joe Newman.
Councillor Joe Newman opened the programme with a short speech about the importance of maintaining green belts in Fingal and in all built up areas for future generations, in the face of growing demands for housing developments.
Compere for the morning was teacher Ciaran Burke from St Finian’s Community College, Swords. His colleague spoke about the latest area of curriculum for first year secondary students. It aims to develop their link to the natural environment and awareness of their responsibilities as world citizen. One of their students spoke about our responsibility towards third world countries, which contibute least to climate change, yet experience its worst effects
Deirdre McCann, a teacher at Mary Queen of Ireland National School at Rivermeade, gave a wonderful visual presentation featuring aspects of the successful environmental education programme, which has been running at her school for some years. The children can now watch acorns growing in special boxes, presented to them by Swords Woodlands Association. All students are given opportunities for practical hands-on experience. They grow plants in their polytunnel, make compost and learn about sustainable gardening. They’d also taken part in tree planting events with Orla Farrell through her Easie Treesie programme. Orla was present, wearing her special beanie.
In the final section of the programme students were engaged in a range of activities.
Several apple trees were presented to each of the various groups at the close of this very successful event.
On September 10th, a sunny Saturday morning, the regular STT crew turned out in force for this event. Some of their family members attended too.
It was also the first time that 30 of this year’s new Transition Year students from Fingal Community College joined us.
Small groups of enthusiastic students were paired with individual STT members, who took them to various locations on our regular rounds.
Some were involved in weeding along the streets, and did a wonderful job.
Others became experts at using their litter pickers after tackling rubbish around the town.
Several groups joined up to tackle the weeding along the banks of the River Ward. With so many willing hands, this was done in record time.
It was wonderful opportunity for people of all ages to work together and to mingle socially. A fun, productive morning was had by us all.
Swords Tidy Towns have once again joined forces with Greyhound Recycling to find Swords’ tidiest estate with this year’s “Tidy Estates Competition”.
The competition was last held in 2019 and thankfully with the pandemic over, 14 estates took up the challenge this year.
Judging took place earlier this month. Estates were awarded marks for the presentation of their common areas (40%); Gardens (30%) and house exterior (30%).
The winning estate, Carlton Court, will receive a prize of Eur 500, a free skip for clean – up’s and a winners plaque. Presentation to be completed in due course. The standard of entries was exceptional from beautiful floral displays at entrances to home- made bug hotels. Please see Greyhound’ link for more.
Swords Tidy Towns have made great strides in competing in the National Tidy Towns Competition in recent years, having won 4 silver medals since 2017. We hope the Tidy Estates Competition will help us improve our position even further.
We thank Greyhound Recycling for coming on board to support us in our efforts.
STT’s second heritage walk with local historian Mike Power was scheduled for 14:30 on Saturday, September 3. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. Heavy showers continued all day and threatened to de-rail the outing.
Mike, ever resourceful, swiftly organised an alternative talk. In the comfort of the snug at The Arch Bar, the participants sipped tea and enjoyed two hours of local history.
STT member, Grace, wanted to know more about the importance of the Ward River. Mike produced a model showing the geology of the area. He spoke about importance of the river in regard to the early monastic settlement in Swords through to Norman times. In 1200 John Comyn, the first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin had Swords Castle built. His compassionate predecessor St Lawrence O’Toole was a friend to the poor. Comyn was more business-like, and set about growing the town of Swords to expand the income of his estate. The main street and its burgage plots were aligned on the castle. In order to attract settlers, he offered the same tax and privileges as those offered to those living in Dublin city. The burgesses, in return, had to pay an annual rent of twelve pence, and had to perform certain labour services for the archbishop. Mike provided us with a map of buildings on Main Street in 1900, where this layout continued. Aerial photography shows that burgage plots were still visible off Swords Main Street in the 1980s.
Mike discussed important local identities such as parish priest John Carey who secured the site for St Colmcille’s church free of charge from James Taylor of Swords House in the 1820s: James Moss, a leader of the 1913 fight for the rights of farm workers: and A.J. Kettle, a founding member of the Irish Land League.
Light-hearted topics like 19th century street entertainment, and colourful local characters were covered too.
The success of the afternoon was due in part to the lively discussion and interesting contributions from locals, who’ve had connections with Swords over many years.
Thank you Mike for a fun and informative session, and for answering our questions so well.
To celebrate Heritage Week 2022, Swords Tidy Towns organised a history walk around the town. There was a great response to our advertisement online, and the tour on August 20 was immediately booked out. So a second tour has been organised for September 3.
The leader for our history walks is Mike Power, a local historian. On Saturday he shared his extensive knowledge of the history of Swords from the time of St Colmcille through to the Vikings, the Normans and beyond. He also told stories about colourful characters associated with Swords, using historical pieces to illustrate his talk. The geology of the area was also discussed in layman’s terms.
The walk was attended by Independent Councilor Joe Newman, who said that he enjoyed Mike’s easy to understand talk about the geology of the area, and the great information about Swords history that he’d shared with the group.
Mike Power’s next history walk on Saturday, September 3 is bound to be as informative and enjoyable.
UPDATE: this walk is fully BOOKED OUT now, but due to a huge demand we are adding an additional date for the Saturday, 3rd of September, the same place and time. Booking is essential!
To mark Heritage Week 2022, Swords Tidy Towns are hosting a heritage walk “Discover the hidden built heritage of Swords”. This walk is kindly hosted by Mike Power. This is a free even, but places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment.