Look, judges - no bins. The village that kept fit while keeping clean
HOW DO you stop people from littering? Take away every bin in the village. It’s a high-risk strategy, but it paid off for Abbeyshrule, which was named the tidiest town in the State yesterday.Tidy Towns committee chairman Philip Butler said people were using the bins for household rubbish to avoid bin charges.
Removing the bins was “a hard thing to do” but it worked.
“When they see a place clean, they will dare not throw litter,” he said.
“They bring their litter with them. When they see a place clean, they respect it.”
No matter how hard you look, you won’t spot a cigarette butt or a scrap of litter in the village.
At first glance it seems the place is so flower-friendly that plants will sprout out of any stationary object.
It’s easy to see why Abbeyshrule – midway between Longford, Mullingar and Athlone – took the top prize.
It has a natural advantage in its picturesque setting, snugly located between the Royal Canal and the river Inny, but a lot of hard work obviously goes into keeping it immaculate.
The lack of litter may have something to do with the fact that the two village shops are long closed – as is the post office and the Garda barracks.
The internet and mobile phone reception is poor there – according to locals you have to stand in the middle of the street to send a text – but there are no overhead wires either, and tall wrought-iron lamps have replaced the much less attractive telegraph poles.
Locals will tell you that you can’t get into Abbeyshrule without crossing water, which gives a good indication of how pretty it is with its tended river bank, wild life sanctuary and community garden, complete with goats and hens.
Jimmy Mitchell, a stalwart of the Tidy Towns effort, said the no-bin strategy was aimed at educating people to bring their rubbish home, and so they do.
Asked what action he would take if he saw anyone having the temerity to drop a scrap of paper on the ground, he shrugged and said: “I’d pick it up.”
So while litter louts aren’t put in the stocks in Abbeyshrule, it would take a brave soul to drop a sweet-paper on those pristine streets, where even the vacant buildings are freshly painted with murals and old reproduction photographs fill the windows.
“The place didn’t get lost in the Celtic Tiger,” stressed local teacher Irene McGoey.
Even Abbeyshrule’s newly built housing estate, Corncrake Meadow, is an eco-friendly development (and only a few units are empty), she said.
Sustainability is a buzzword in Abbeyshrule, which boasts a population of about 200.
Now that they have the Tidy Towns award in the bag, they are hoping to win the Entente Florale: 14 locals will travel to Venlo in the Netherlands on Friday for the awards ceremony.
Entering the competition has had an unexpected side effect on the villagers.
“It takes down the cholesterol,” Philip Butler said.
“We find in the month of September we’re all as fit as fiddles from brushing and sweeping and walking,” he said.