MILLTOWN MIGHT BE small in population terms, but if you happen to be driving along the N17, you certainly won’t miss it.
The 200-person Galway village is something of a gem along the Sligo-Galway route, with rainbow-painted walls, vibrant flower arrangements and plenty of traditional brickwork.
And as with many small Irish communities, most of that beauty is down to the work of the local SuperValu TidyTowns volunteers.
“I joined ten years ago when I first moved to the village,” says Liz Gardiner, current secretary of the Milltown committee.
“It means you actually get a say in the development of your village and your community, which is so important. Local work on the footpaths, the lighting, the parks, our award-winning river walk… none of that could have been done without the SuperValu TidyTowns initiative.”
When you live in a small village, it’s accepted that everyone mucks in, and Liz says the SuperValu TidyTowns committee is a key part of that community involvement.
We meet monthly during the winter, weekly during the summer and we volunteer in the evenings as well. We’ll be out weeding, painting, watering, it could be anything really. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can take part.
Milltown has been a consistent high roller in the awards over the last five decades. It has a string of Bronze and Silver medals to its name, and has won top marks for all of Galway on 15 occasions.
The village has yet to take home the main award for Ireland’s Tidiest Town, but for PRO and long-time volunteer Clare O’Connor, that’s not really the point.
In small communities, we need focus. We need things to get us out, get us together, so we celebrate any little win we have.
Clare’s main responsibility on the committee is to oversee waste reduction and sustainability projects, which is no small task in a rural community.
These days the local shop gives a discount for reusable coffee cups, the local primary school kids have become experts in recycling and composting, and a recent ‘Lovely Leftovers’ campaign saw an estimated 10,000kg of food waste saved in households around the area.
“It’s easy to get people involved with the schemes when we can show them the benefits they can bring about,” says Clare.
Every project we organise on the committee is about bringing the community together. That’s the most important part.