The work has begun in earnest in Abbeyleix for the town’s participation in the international Entente Florale Europe competition.
Participation in the top European horticulture competition is a big undertaking and will see involvement from different communities in Abbeyleix, alongside the local Tidy Towns group.
Certainly, there is a noticeable support among the wider community of Abbeyleix for the high profile event.
“We had a full house at our public meeting in the Manor Hotel,” said Abbeyleix Tidy Towns Chairperson, Cllr John Joe Fennelly.
Funding of €7,500 has been provided from the National Tidy Towns Association, which will be supplemented by additional funding from Laois County Council and local donations.
The other participating countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia
Originally 46 objectives were set out by the Abbeyleix committee, and while some of these have been achieved, with new additions etc. they still have a target of 43 objectives. “It is a lot of work,” Cllr Fennelly said.
The judging on July 7 will involve a half an hour presentation from the local committee, followed by four hours of judging of a selected route through the town.
The midlands has some form in the competition, with Tullamore’s success last year. “Tullamore scored a gold medal, which was well-deserved, and we hope we will do as well,” he said.
Local business people Anita Bonham and Mark Williams have come on board, as have a number of residents associations. Cllr Fennelly said Abbeyleix Tidy Towns is also very lucky to have a very hard-working secretary. “We are blessed to have Mary White. She’s a dinger – she’s absolutely fantastic and everything she does is so positive,” he enthused.
The route for the judges has already been planned, beginning at Abbeyleix Heritage House it will include the 1916 Commemoration, the Community Garden, Dove House, Abbeyleix Library and Fr Breen Park.
In Abbeyleix, they have proven themselves to be innovative, and their development of a pollinator route scored them extra marks in the Tidy Towns adjudication last year. They were commended for their use of herbs in window boxes to increase food sources for pollinators.
For the Entente Florale competition, everyone in Abbeyleix knows they will have to raise their game again.
“That wow effect is really important and we will need to have colour and more besides,” Cllr Fennelly said. “We are thinking of giving all the shops in the town the flags of the countries involved, to capture the imagination of people. Hopefully it goes well and everyone will put in an effort,” he said.
Abbeyleix achieved a Tidy Towns Gold Medal last year. The town has been committed to the principles of sustainable development and since 2010 activity in this area has become more structured and formalized with the formation of the Abbeyleix Business and Community Forum (ABC) and most recently the Etown initiative which promotes connecting communities, businesses and people.
As one one of the oldest planned estate towns in the country, it is highly likely that Abbeyleix will perform with some aplomb in the competition.