Intro Text 

The aim of these brief guidelines, produced to complement the existing Tidy Towns Competition Information Guidelines, is to provide guidance for you, as a Tidy Towns participant, on conserving and enhancing wildlife in your town or village. 


The National Tidy Towns Federation recognises the importance of conserving natural amenities and of appropriate landscaping. 70 out of a total of 300 marks are awarded by the Tidy Towns Federation to these categories. In addition, cash awards for the ecologically friendly management of all areas in and around a town or village are sponsored by the Heritage Council, the Department of the Environment and other agencies. 


Towns and villages can support a wide range of habitats and species of local or even national conservation interest. Below is a list of the habitats commonly found in towns and villages together with practical guidelines for their management.


To assist the Tidy Towns judges and promote all of your hard work it is important that whatever wildlife conservation and enhancement measures you undertake are highlighted in your Five Year Tidy Towns Plan.  Also, remember to state that measures such as using native species and the avoidance of herbicides are national policy as outlined in the National Biodiversity Plan.


General pointers

  • Leave things as they are

It is often easier to keep existing habitats than to create new ones. Identify your existing habitats e.g. hedgerows, grassland etc, on a map and include in your Five Year Plan. Point out where the existing habitats are and highlight the fact that you are retaining them.


  • Networks of wildlife sites

Networks of wildlife habitats are more ecologically valuable than isolated wildlife areas.  Where possible create linking corridors by planting/retaining hedges or keeping a strip of long grass along the road verges.


  • Appropriate species

The choice of the appropriate tree and shrub species is very important in urban areas where there are restrictions on space etc. Where possible, use native species, which reflect those species found growing in the surrounding countryside. In general, non-native species support little wildlife. Some such as the commonly used Leyland cypress and Lawson’s cypress grow very fast, present maintenance problems and are visually intrusive. They are therefore not recommended for planting in Tidy Towns. 


  • Invasive weeds

Some non-native plant species are very invasive. These include Japanese knotweed and Giant Hogweed.  If these weeds are in your town or village, get specialist advice on how to remove them. Do not plant so-called “wild-flower” seed mixes.  If you manage your area in the right way, native local wild flowers will colonise it naturally. Never introduce any sort of pond plant into a stream or other natural watercourse.  Let nature do the job herself!


  • Grass Cutting

Manage wide verges and amenity areas in a “hay meadow” system with a first cut in June or alternatively keep cut until May and then leave uncut until August. Close-cut a metre wide strip at the outside to demonstrate that this is a deliberate choice of management.


It is important to remove cut grass from areas being managed for wildlife. Consider setting aside a screened area for composting. Composting units for smaller quantities of gardening refuse including weeds and clippings may be available from your Local Authority Environment Awareness Officer.


  • Interpretation

Where appropriate provide suitable interpretation to explain the wildlife interest of the area.  Seek advice from the Dúchas Conservation Ranger and/or your Local Authority Conservation Officer or Heritage Officer.


  • Protected Structures, Archaeological Sites

Prior to undertaking any work on protected structures and archaeological sites the Dúchas Conservation Ranger, Local Authority Conservation Officer and/or Heritage Officer should be consulted. Identify such areas in your Five Year Plan.


  • Sites designated for nature conservation (Special Areas of Conservation, Natural Heritage Areas etc)

Prior to undertaking any work on sites designated for nature conservation the Dúchas Conservation Ranger should be consulted. Identify such areas in your Five Year Plan.


  • Graveyards

A licence is required from Dúchas prior to undertaking any work on graveyards.


  • Expert advice

Expert advice and information on wildlife conservation and management is available, often at no cost, from a number of agencies including: Dúchas (Local Conservation Ranger), Conservation Volunteers Ireland, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Peatlands Conservation Council, Networks for Nature, Bourn Vincent Trust, Crann, and your Local Authority Heritage Officer, Conservation Officer and Environment Awareness Officer.


More information is available in the Tidy Towns handbook issued to each committee.  Copies are also available from the Department of the Environment.


Useful Addresses

Birdwatch Ireland, Ruttledge House, 8 longford Place, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. Tel: (01) 2804322

E-mail:, Website:


Conservation Volunteers Ireland, The Steward’s House, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin 14. Tel: (01) 4952878, E-mail:, Website:


Crann, Crank House, Main Street, Banagher, Co. Offaly. Tel (0509) 51718

E-mail:, Website:


Dúchas, The Heritage Service, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) – 6473000

E-mail:, Website:


Irish Peatland Conservation Council, 119 Capel Street, Dublin 1. Tel: (01) 8722397

E-mail:, Website:


Heritage Council, Rothe House, Kilkenny. Tel: (056) 70777

For contact details of your local Authority Heritage Officer, Website

Networks for Nature, 107 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 6768860

E-mail:, Website:






(See Heritage Council “Conserving Hedgerows” leaflet)

Birds, bats and other mammals, insects, mosses, fungi and lichens

·         Where necessary, cut or lay while dormant, from the beginning of September to the end of February (it is illegal to cut hedges between 1stMarch & 31st August)

·         Cut into an A-shaped profile

·         No herbicides to be used within 1.5m of hedge

·         Store grass clippings away from base of hedgerow


Birds, bats* and other mammals, insects, mosses, fungi, lichens


* (See Heritage Council “Conserving Bats” leaflet)

·         Where necessary, cut while dormant, from the beginning of September to the end of February (it is illegal to cut hedges between 1st March & 31stAugust)

·         Use appropriate native species

·         Groups of trees are preferable to single trees

·         Do not use herbicides, use tree tubes as an alternative

·         Do not use fungicides

·         Put up bat and/or bird boxes

·         Leave some standing deadwood & log piles

Stone walls & bridges, derelict buildings & monuments

Lichens, mosses, ferns, bats, birds, insects

·         Leave mosses, lichens & ferns on walls etc

·         No herbicides

·         Do not use concrete to re-point

·         Do not remove render

·         Keep ivy in check (do not remove)

·         Plant ivy and honeysuckle on modern concrete walls. 


Old managed grassland, bats, birds, insects, mosses, lichens

·         Do not remove mosses & lichens from headstones or walls

·         Set aside an area for nature conservation that is only cut once or twice a year

·         When cutting grass close to headstones use a hand-held clippers

·         Do not use fungicides

·         Do not use herbicides at the base of headstones or walls

·         Keep old trees free of ivy by hand weeding

Flower beds & borders

Insect and bird feeding

·         Use native plants and native seed stock traditional to the area where possible

·         Use only peat free compost, or make your own

·         Choose plants which are rich in nectar and pollen to attract insects

·         Choose plants with plenty of berries & seeds to provide food for birds

Grassland – road verges

Birds and insects

·         Leave grass in verges on outskirts of town less tightly mown

·         Do not use herbicides or fungicides

·         Grass clippings to be removed to an appropriate area for composting

Grassland- amenity areas

Birds and insects

·         Leave areas for wildflowers, nettles etc

·         Reduce mowing regime

Gardens & school grounds

Birds, insects, mammals

·         Encourage gardening for wildlife

·         Put up bat & bird boxes and feeding tables

·         Provide hibernators for hedgehogs

·         Use only peat free compost or make your own

Rivers and canals

Fish, insects, birds, snails, mammals, undisturbed grassland

·         Do not use herbicides

·         Retain at least 2m strip of bankside vegetation

·         If planting trees and shrubs, check for appropriate species

·         Waterways Ireland must be consulted for works on canals

Lakes, ponds, ditches & wet areas

Frogs, newts, insects, waterfowl

·         Do not use herbicides

·         Leave areas of vegetation at bankside

·         Create log piles

·        Do not introduce plants




Alder                                     Alnus glutinosa                  

Arbutus (the Strawberry Tree)   Arbutus unedo

Silver Birch                            Betula pendula

Downy Birch                          Betual pubescens

  Hazel                          Corylus avellana

  Hawthorn                     Crataegus monogyna

Broom                                   Cytisus scoparius

Spindle                                 Euonymous europaeus

Alder Buckthorn                     Frangula alnus

Ash                     Fraxinus excelsior

Ivy                     Hedera helix

Holly                                     Ilex aquifolium

Juniper                                  Juniperus communis

Privet                                    Ligustrum vulgare

Honeysuckle                         Lonicera periclymenum

Crab Apple                            Malus sylvestris

Sessile Oak                          Quercus petraea

Pedunculate Oak                Quercus robur

Scots Pine                                        Pinus sylvestris

Aspen                                   Populus tremula

  Bird Cherry                            Prunus padus

Wild Cherry                           Prunus avium

Sloe, Blackthorn                                Prunus spinosa

Purging Buckthorn                           Rhamnus cathartica

Dog Rose                                          Rosa canina

Burnet rose                           Rosa pimpinellifolia

Bramble                                            Rubus fructicosus

Willow spp.                           Salix spp.

Elder                                     Sambucus nigra

Rowan or Mountain Ash            Sorbus aucuparia

Whitebeam spp.                                Sorbus aria

                                             S. rupicola

             S. devoniensis  

S. latifolia,

S. anglica

             S. hibernica.

Yew                     Taxus baccata

Common (or European) Gorse Ulex europeaus

Western (or Mountain) Gorse Ulex gallii

Wych Elm                                         Ulmus glabra

Guelder Rose                        Viburnum opulus