Hedge Laying Community Event

In January 2023, Swords Tidy Towns volunteers took part in their first event of the new year – hedge laying community event. We thank you Mark McDowell from the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland for a fantastic hands-on workshop. It was very informative and enjoyable.

Deborah Tiernan, the Biodiversity Officer at Fingal County Council explains the background to this project:

“The development of hedgerow management guidance for Fingal is a specific action within the FCC Biodiversity Plan. Fingal are currently in the process of mapping the location and condition of all valuable hedgerows on public lands within the Fingal area. During the consultation process for the local town biodiversity plans which were prepared in consultation with the local tidy towns groups, one of the main emerging issues and concerns related to the loss of the historic hedgerows in the north county Dublin area. Many of the remnants of these hedgerows remain within the open spaces of residential areas. The towns of Swords, Balbriggan and Skerries were chosen to launch the first phase of the countywide hedgerow project.

The first phase of this project involved a series of community hedge laying events in the towns of Swords, Balbriggan and Skerries. Each community hedge laying day involves the practical demonstration of how to lay a hedge and the importance of proper hedgerow management that allows a hedge to flower, produce berries/seeds, provide habitat and shelter for birds and particularly pollinating insects.

Demonstration hedgerows were chosen in each of the three towns on open spaces where a community could gather and watch in an outdoor classroom setting. The Hedge laying Association of Ireland were engaged to carry out this series of community training days to demonstrate how to lay a hedge correctly and the associated biodiversity benefits of proper hedgerow management.  The locations chosen offer real opportunity for children and adults alike to witness the changing of the seasons as the hedge buds, flowers, and dies back over winter within a dynamic urban residential setting.

In Swords this event was organised by the FCC Biodiversity Team in consultation with Swords Tidy Towns and Swords Woodland Association. A veteran hedge between Glen Ellen and Sandford Wood Estate was chosen that would respond well to a rejuvenation process. The Hedge Laying Association of Ireland advised and supervised all the works on site, which involved the volunteers manually removing of litter, the removal of dense ivy growth which was shading the whitethorn, removal of brambles and the removal of dead and decaying wood from within the hedge. The process of laying a hedge then required the bending of living branches and weaving these branches within the hedge. The bending process involves cutting into the trunk which rejuvenates the new growth that will emerge in the spring. Please see for more information on this process.”

Melanie’s send-off

Melanie van der Linde has become a valuable member of STT over the last few years, generously volunteering  her graphic design and face-painting expertise. This is addition to regular litter picking and helping with our gardening projects. Her enthusiasm and sense of humour will be missed, when she moves away.

STT Christmas Party 2022

To celebrate yet another successful year, STT members gathered at the Peacock Bar in Rivervalley on December 9th  for an evening of song and dance. Due to Covid restrictions, our 2021 party was by Zoom. So it was wonderful to start the festive season face to face this year.

We were joined by councillors Ann Grave, Joe Newman, Ian Carey, Darragh Butler and Dean Mulligan, who have been wonderful supporters of STT all year.

Karaoke was once again the most popular entertainment of the evening, with many of our members being keen to share their musical talents. 

Neither were they shy about taking to the dance floor. 

STT members really know how to party!

Halloween Bucket Collection 2022

Once again, FCC provided a wonderful evening of Halloween family entertainment at Swords Castle, ending in a magnificent fireworks display.

It was also an opportunity for STT to raise funds for our ongoing projects. Luckily we have a talented artist and face painter in our ranks. Melanie van der Linde transformed our volunteers into ghouls and witches, who moved among the crowds with their collection buckets. They were joined by our chairman Ken Duffy, whose make up was done by Aoife, from “Aoife’s Fun with Faces”. 

Thanks to the generosity of the people of Swords, the total amount collected is €1054.45!

The ongoing financial and moral support from the people of Swords is greatly appreciated. 

SuperValu Pavilions Re-opening

On the 24th of November 2022 Swords Tidy Towns members were invited to the opening of the newly refurbished SuperValu shop in Pavillions Shopping Centre. Our volunteers were watered and fed and very well looked after by management and staff.

A cheque was presented to Swords Tidy Towns for €1000 in recognition of our hard work. The support shown to our group is very much appreciated. St Francis Hospice, Dublin Gravity Autism and Swords Senior Citizens were also among the local groups shown recognition and support.

WaterBlitz Photo and Video Competition 2022

On October 8th for the second year in a row, STT took part in WaterBlitz, a the Citizens Science project intended to provide a snapshot of the quality of waterways throughout the country. 

The Water Institute, a research centre based in Dublin City University, invited participants to send in photos and videos along with their test results. 

Prizes were to be awarded for different categories – Best Community Photo Award, Best Tidy Towns, Best Selfie, Best Secondary School, Best On Water and Best Video. 

The large number of entries and the high standards made it difficult for the judges to select the winners.

STT won the “Best Community Group Photo”. Our prize-winning collage was designed by our very talented  photographer and member, Ramune Kuzminiene. It incorporated every stage of our testing at different local waterways.

Save Swords Greenbelt

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.

Irish WaterBlitz 2022

Our waterblitzers ready to go

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.

Digging Drumanagh 2022

Hilary Klompenhouwer at the site of Drumanagh

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.