The following is the text of our submission (for the work on which thanks go to our committee member Kristina) to the Draft Active Travel Strategy for Fingal.

Active Travel is a Necessity and Must Be Possible for All

Sustainable Skerries whole heartedly welcomes the draft Active Travel Strategy for Fingal.

Better health and wellbeing, improved local air quality, a more attractive public realm, 

lower travel costs and improved access to education and employment opportunities all bode well for our vision of empowering our community towards a sustainable and resilient future for Skerries.  In order to make Skerries resilient, regenerative and a great place to live for all, now and in the years to come, active travel must be prioritised, but to do so we need to do more than just make sustainable travel more attractive.

To bring about significant changes in our travel behaviour while protecting and promoting the

environment across the county, sustainable travel infrastructure needs to be looked at in a way that truly understands the needs of individual towns and addresses the existing barriers to building active travel into everyday life as part of normal daily routines.

The mounting evidence that a substantial daily shift from car journeys to active travel and public transport can reduce congestion and make sustainable travel choices more attractive is undeniable, but it can lead to a chick and egg situation if the pressure to make better travel choices is placed solely at the door of the individual resident.

That is why putting active travel first in planning, design and delivery of infrastructure and initiatives is something that Sustainable Skerries applauds and is eager to see in practice. 

Existing infrastructure needs to be carefully assessed and connected to new developments to ensure a connected approach is adopted and ensure a more sustainable outcome for Skerries. 

Existing entrances to shops which prioritise those arriving by private car, roads with no pavement for pedestrians, areas where pedestrian access is neither prioritised nor visible, insufficient bike parking, disconnected cycle lanes,  inappropriate placement of ramps where road crossings are not safe, to name but a few, all present opportunities for Fingal County Council to really zoom out and look at our town as a whole, before zooming back in and looking at the way many small changes can be connected to one another to make big changes.

National design guidance being issued to support planners, developers and scheme designers is to be commended, and Sustainable Skerries would encourage Fingal County Council to see the importance and urgency of ensuring such guidance is followed at all times.

Skerries needs a more joined up approach when planners and developers of separate housing estates are told to provide safe routes to schools for its residents.  Unfortunately, there are too many examples where good intentions at the design phase have not materialised into substantial change.

The inclusion of a cycle track in a new housing estate, along with accessible pavements is to be commended, but in many cases in Skerries these stop short of reaching their intended goal.  Some new cycle tracks begin and end on only one stretch of road in the estate and do not connect to any other cycle track outside the estate or on surrounding roads as cycle tracks (and at times pavements) often simply do not exist in these places. Such examples only serve to put an appearance of active travel infrastructure, but do not provide the residents with actual safe ways of getting from their home to the nearest amenities, which in Skerries often means joining a road when leaving the estate that has been designed with the motorist in mind.  Such failures in joined up planning can often serve to actively discourage residents from choosing active travel when leaving their estate, as the contrast between the safety of their newly designed estate and the surrounding roads highlights the dangers pedestrians and cyclists are faced with when undertaking their daily routines.

As housing developments expand throughout Skerries, permeability needs to be addressed if Fingal County Council is to succeed in encouraging more individuals to choose active travel over the private car.  Walled off estates that are kept separate from one another creates problems for pedestrians and cyclists.  Where residents prefer cul de sacs for the obvious benefits of reduced traffic, such boundaries should not be closed to those choosing active travel.  The safety of our children when going about their daily lives is affected by permeability in urban areas.  Where there is an option to choose a boundary that is open to pedestrians, provides connection with neighbouring estates, green spaces and playgrounds without necessitating crossing main roads or walking in secluded areas, these options should always be implemented, both at the design stage and retrospectively. We would like to see the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets prioritising active travel in practice. Fingal County Council has highlighted Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas.  Sustainable Skerries would like to see the implementation of plans for villages that do not require residents to walk or cycle for more than 15 minutes to access local amenities.

Sustainable Skerries welcomes the National Cycle Manual, but would like to see it implemented and real changes to the infrastructure that respect individuals’ need for autonomy when going about their daily business are urgently needed.

From a biodiversity perspective, any changes to existing infrastructure or implementation of new infrastructure should carefully consider the long term effects of changes made to our flora and fauna.  Wherever trees are cut down (and only if absolutely necessary), these should be replaced with equivalent numbers of  mature trees. Wildflower corridors should be maintained and where pavements and cycle tracks need to be placed on grass verges, increased surface area should be included in the no mow areas to allow more wildflower meadows to establish and bee corridors to be created and maintained.  Natural, pollinator-friendly alternatives should be sought when designing the surrounds of playgrounds, schools, estates, car-parks etc. as opposed to brick walls.  If Fingal County Council aims to make active travel more attractive, then working hand in hand with the rewilding of our environment can achieve this in a sustainable and highly effective way.  

Finally, Sustainable Skerries would like the Council to remember that those without access to a car and whose mobility is impaired actually do make up a substantial number of our residents.  Children are not born with automatic access to cars and individuals of any age can suddenly find themselves unable to drive a car.  Active travel is not just a choice.  Active travel is a necessity.

Last Wednesday (18 May 2022), Dave Goulson, the author of the Sunday Times bestseller Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse, joined Sustainable Skerries online for a fascinating talk on insects.

We might not like them, or at least think we don’t like them, but Dave tells us why we quite literally can’t live without them.

We all know that insects pollinate flowers, and agree that this is a good thing, but they do far more than that and he explains exactly what.

Simply put, life as we know it could not exist without them……and it might not for much longer unless we act now.

Insect numbers have been decreasing globally for decades and continue to drop alarmingly, all the evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, points down. 

The situation is far worse than we realise but there is still time to turn things round. Find out all about it here:

Subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Isn’t that encouraging? We can all make a difference.

🐝 Every insect-friendly plant in our gardens or on the verges helps.
🐝 Every bit of insecticide / pesticide not used helps.
🐝 Every neighbour, friend, colleague encouraged to stay away from RoundUp etc. helps.
🐝 Every time we publicly thank the county council for NOT mowing so often helps.

It’s not too late to observe No Mow May – how about leaving your lawn uncut for a bit?!

As Dave said: “Amazing how much life a garden supports if you don’t mow it so much.”


If you are based in Skerries and would like to link in with the work we are doing in Sustainable Skerries, please make sure you’re on our newsletter list. We send out an email roughly once a month plus when there are specific events.
We are planning quite a few of those, including a visit from Éanna Ní Lamhna, and if there are people who’d like to become involved, send us an email to sustskerries@gmail.com
The committee is open for new members!

The sun shone and the sunflower seeds were planted, and the 2022 Sustainable Skerries Car Boot Sale and Family Fun Day was a huge success, thanks to all who set up stall, to those who came and browsed and bought and enjoyed, and not least to Ernestine and her team of volunteers for all the work – and to Skerries Educate Together for letting us use the car park!

On Sunday 8th May, Sustainable Skerries had their work cut out, organising cars and bikes in Skerries Educate Together so each had a good spot to sell their once-loved wares. From food processors to foot massagers, hundreds of items found a new home that wasn’t the rubbish bin! And hundreds of people will have one less visit to the shops because they stumbled upon a much needed item, which was exactly what Sustainable Skerries were hoping to achieve. 

Not only did the day achieve the goal of promoting a circular economy in a practical way but it also served as a sunny gathering for the Skerries community. There were many happy faces wandering around, having enjoyed the home-baked buns while the kids partook in games and had their faces painted.

Plans are now being made for another indoor version of the event, in the run up to Christmas. Details will be sent out in our newsletter so make sure you’re subscribed. You won’t want to miss it!

By Sabine McKenna, Sustainable Skerries

The situation we’re in, as a species, is worrying. Depressing, even.

We know that from the news. We know that from experts. And we are beginning to experience it in our daily lives, even here in Skerries, comparatively sheltered and buffered as we are: Extreme weather events like strong storms, extreme rainfall and flooding are already more frequent. And so are long periods of drought.

Even the Irish Times says it…

This is more than just a biodiversity and a climate crisis: This is an existential crisis.

I spent last Thursday at a LEADER Climate and Biodiversity Conference in Dundalk, listening to Éanna Ní Lamhna of (among other things) the Irish Tree Council, garden designer Peter Donegan, journalist turned climate activist John Gibbons and Padraig Fogarty, ecologist, author and former long-time chair of The Irish Wildlife Trust.

And I can tell you, it was not easy listening… Even though we (humankind) has known since the 1970s (when the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth) that we’re on the trajectory to catastrophe, even though the Climate Change reports keep arriving and keep getting worse, even though the insects are dying (one study showed a decline in insect populations in Germany by 78% since 1991), even though pretty much all indicators are showing a worsening situation, humanity as such does not seem to change.

Just have a look at the “doughnut” representing where Ireland is (if you’re fascinated by this, you can learn more about The Doughnut of Social and Planetary Boundaries on Kate Raworth’s website; she coined the term). 

(I am summarising part of Padraig Fogarty’s talk here. And John Gibbons continued the sorry tale:)

After giving us some more details, including a few facts regarding the shocking under-representation of climate change and its consequences in the media (you can read all about this on his website climatechange.ie, John Gibbons stated starkly (and I paraphrase) that one of the worst things is that we think there is hope, that it will somehow be OK, and that we therefore don’t do anything about it. He called this “hopeium” (or should that be “hopium”?) We need to grieve for our future.  We need to understand: Climate Change: What Happens If The World Warms Up By 5°C? We need to realise how sad it is that we are (very likely) losing our future, so that we start acting. He also said we need to  use our influence in Europe for better climate policies! They matter! 

There are of course things we can do. On a practical day-to-day basis, as Peter Donegan reminded us, in our gardens, in our communities, we can ensure that we help biodiversity where we can, reducing the impact of any (garden or other) building from the design stage on, planning for sustainable drainage systems, using local and sustainably sourced material which is easy to maintain (and thus sustainable), not removing soil, using no chemicals and planting for as wide a variety of species as possible. This can even work in a car park

The time to change our future for the better is getting shorter though, Éanna Ní Lamhna reminded us. She gave a fantastic talk about biodiversity and pollinators – I won’t go into the details because we hope to get Éanna to come to Skerries soon to share her wonderful wisdom with us in her inimitable way. Watch our Eventbrite page! Subscribe to our newsletter so you know when it’s happening! 

Nature is resilient, a complex system which we are not even close to understanding (which is one of the many things Padraig Fogarty said; he also mentioned the number of species in Ireland which have become extinct in the last 50 years or so, plus those that are under pressure

So what would we do if we had the power?

What would you do if you were to magically turn into the Irish cabinet and could make any three to five policies become reality? That’s what I asked three of the four speakers (sorry, Peter, that I didn’t catch you on this one). Please note that I did not write down word by word what these fantastic people said; this is from memory!

John Gibbons suggested:

  • Start a massive communication programme to ensure we all get how serious the situation is.
  • Start a food revolution towards growing (organic, plant-based) food for humans, not animals in Ireland
  • Make Ireland a net exporter of renewable energy, mainly through off-shore wind energy! 
  • Retrofit all houses to A Rating

And Éanna Ní Lamhna:

  • Make it easier to plant trees, help farmers financially to do so.
  • Ensure that people can get to places easily by public transport.
  • Make owning electric cars easier e.g. for those living terraced houses. 

Padraig Fogarty would:

  • Stop industrial fishing 
  • Pay farmers for rewilding
  • Get rid of some dams on the rivers.
Storm and high seas in Skerries… Extreme weather events have already become more frequent.
Photo by Fintan Clarke.

And what would I do? 

All of the above, I guess. Plus: I would do what I can to spread the sense of urgency that we all felt during this event. And take action wherever I can, focusing on what seems to matter most: Awareness and influencing policies where we can. This blog post is one step. As is my continued work with Sustainable Skerries.

If you’re feeling climate and biodiversity anxiety, join the club. Actually, it’d be strange if you weren’t…

One thing that does help is to take active steps in the other direction than the one we’re headed in. 

There are solutions, suggestions how we can respond to the urgency of the climate crisis.

It won’t be easy, but the alternative is too frightening. Time to act now, individually (as voters, consumers, people) and in groups.

Join us! Subscribe to our newsletter (if you haven’t already). Drop in on our events to learn more and to support our work. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram – and if you’d like to be part of our team, send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com 

 Sun 8th May, 10am-1pm, Educate Together National School

Just come along – and if you’d like to sell, secure your spot on eventbrite now!

Buying and selling pre-loved items is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, so Sustainable Skerries hope you can join them for a Car Boot Sale on 8th May. It will be a fun-filled morning with family activities, face-painting, music, raffles and of course, lots of cool stuff for sale.

Sellers can arrive at Skerries Educate Together at 8.30am and buyers can arrive at 10am. There are lots of ways to get involved but the main objective is to promote a circular economy while having some fun! 

We will also give away seedlings to people who want to try their hands at growing their own food!

What is a circular economy and why is it important? 

Our current economy is linear. We take raw materials from the earth, produce something, consume it and throw it away as waste. 

Comsume less, share better

A circular economy is one in which we share, lease, reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle things that already exist, rather than producing more and more. The principles required for the adoption of a circular economy are: 

  1. eliminate waste and pollution
  2. circulate existing products and materials
  3. regenerate nature

By buying fewer new things and getting more from what we already have we can help tackle issues like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste piles and pollution. A circular economy is a resilient system that is good for business, people and the environment. 

Aside from the environmental benefits, both selling and buying pre-loved items is massively rewarding. Not only will your purse benefit but you’ll also feel great about it. 

So now is the time to get involved! Sustainable Skerries are excited to host this event to promote the exchange of items that are already in existence rather than the production of new unnecessary things. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

Sellers

If your cupboards are bursting at the seams maybe now is the time for a clear out! Sellers can register their car (early bird price €10 or €15 on the day) or active transport (€5) on the Sustainable Skerries eventbrite page. Arrive at 8.30am to get set up before the public start arriving at 10am. Please bring your own tables and chairs.

Buyers

Enjoy a morning of browsing, while also helping to combat the climate crisis. Feel free to have a wander and a coffee with some nice beats in the background. Entrance is free and you can arrive from 10am. Gates close at 1pm. Don’t forget your cash! 

Families

From face painting to games and music, your kids are sure to have fun. There will be volunteers to help out but make sure the little ones remain under your supervision. 

If you are driving, please park your car at the shopping centre and walk across. There will be very limited parking for persons with mobility issues. However, there is ample parking for bicycles.

All funds raised will go towards Sustainable Skerries and their efforts in making Skerries resilient, regenerative, and a great place to live for all… now and in the years to come.

We look forward to seeing you all there! 

Calling all spring-cleaners!

If you’re planning a clear-out and hate the thoughts of dumping your once-loved goods, don’t fret. Not only is one person’s trash another person’s treasure… rehoming your pre-loved items is also a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Car Boot Sale and Family Fun. 8th May from 8.30am (set-up begins) to 1pm. Buyers will arrive from 10am. Skerries Educate Together National School Kelly’s Bay Drive, K34 CX46 Skerries – View Map

Pack up your car and join Sustainable Skerries on 8th May for a car boot sale in the Skerries Educate Together National School at an early bird cost of €10 for cars (€15 on the day), €5 for bikes and other non-motorised transport. Gates open 8.30am on the day to get yourself set-up before the public starts arriving at 10am. Please bring your own tables and chairs. This price is for sellers only – admission is free for buyers and no registration is required.

Please note, this event is for private sellers only, commercial vans will not be admitted.

It will be a fun-filled morning with family activities, face-painting, music and raffles. There’s an ATM across the road but you might also want to bring small change.

We look forward to seeing you there! Book your spot now on Eventbrite.

On Friday and Saturday, local residents and people from all over Skerries came together to plant more fruit trees in Mourne View and at the pedestrian lights and the Ballast Pit.

So now we have three open orchards in Skerries, with some three dozen trees in total!

If you’d like to join us in the Skerries Open Orchards Project (aka SkOOP), please do – see the bottom of the Open Orchards page on the Sustainable Skerries website for a form.

Over the next six months or so, we will be mainly doing our best so that the young trees are thriving.

We will also work on the text and design for some signage we hope to be putting up in the near future.

That way, everyone will know why the trees are there, and that the fruit, once fully ripe, is for all to enjoy.

In the planting season 2022/23, we hope to start more open orchards. Let us know if you’d like some in your area. We will send information out to all neighbourhood groups registered on the Skerries Community Association’s Neighbourhoods Network, too.

For now, here are some pictures from the planting days – thank you to everyone who came out and helped!

We could not have done it without the two dozen volunteers who came and helped – and especially not without the gentle instruction and guidance and advice from Dominica McKevitt, the Ardgillan head gardener whose help is such a great asset to our group.

Ballast Pit Planting Pics

  • Images by Sabine McKenna, Hans Zomer (1), Kristina Davies-Barrett (2)

Mourne View Planting Pics

A proverb says:
It will never rain apples. If we want apples, we must plant trees first.

Introducing: The Ballast Pit Triangle Open Orchard!

Come plant some trees with us (Sustainable Skerries / Skerries Open Orchards Project)
at the Ballast Pit (near the traffic lights)

this Saturday, 26 March 2022, from 2 pm!

Or indeed in Mourne View at Wild Cat Lane on Friday from 4 pm, where we’re starting another open orchard – or some non-fruit trees on Saturday morning from 10 am with Fingal County Council.

 Can you join us? Please fill in this form so we can mail you the details!

You may know that we have received funding to start mini open orchards in Skerries, and have already planted 20 trees in Kelly’s Bay.  Now we are ready for more – but we can’t do that without you.

  • We have had talks with Fingal County Council, and they are very supportive.
  • Now we are asking you to help make this plan become a reality.

Join us and plant a mini orchard close to the Ballast Pit pedestrian lights this Saturday!

This is your opportunity to help plant the trees in the designated areas (see map on the other side). The fruit of the trees will be everybody’s to enjoy.

🌳 Information panels  will ensure passers-by know the background of our orchard trees. 🌳

Some questions and answers

How come this is happening? When an organisation called ChangeX offered funding for open orchard projects, the Sustainable Skerries committee went for it.

The first planting day in February was brilliant – see for yourself on SustainableSkerries.com/orchards.  

Now we have just about enough time to plant a few more trees before the end of this planting season.

Is the County Council OK with this? Yes, we have met with Fingal County Council on location, and they are really supportive of our project.

Will there be more Open Orchards? We’d like some in our area…
We hope there will be many more! We’re coming to the end of this year’s planting season, and have started planning for the next ones that will be planted in the autumn.  🌳 Get in touch, join the Skerries Open Orchards Project aka SkOOP! 🌳

Where can I learn more? Apart from SustainableSkerries.com/orchards, ChangeX has some information about our project and about open orchards in general.

How do I sign up?
Please fill in this form so we can mail you the details – if that doesn’t work, you can also send an email to sustskerries@gmail.com

Will we get loads of apples and other fruit?
Not for the first couple of years, but over time, there should be quite a bit.  People are welcome to help us harvest the fruit!

Why start an open orchard, anyway?
What is the thinking behind the Skerries Open Orchards Project?

We’re glad you asked! The Skerries Open Orchards Project aims to plant fruit trees in public places in Skerries. The trees will provide free fruit to local residents and greenery to the open spaces in our town, but there are other benefits too. 

First blossoms in Kelly’s Bay Open Orchards.

A newly planted tree will offer some extra pollination opportunities and absorb a small amount of carbon dioxide as well as rainwater that might otherwise have stayed on the surface. And as the trees grow, so do these positive effects.

Of course there are already many fruit trees around the town, but by planting fruit trees on public land, the project is an investment in our shared public space. The trees embellish our greens and provide an opportunity for residents’ groups to work together to protect and nurture them. The trees will start to produce fruit, but it’s the process of caring for them that produces the most important harvest: strengthening our community and improving our public space.

Overview: This week’s Tree Planting Opportunities in Skerries

By the way: Did you know that it’s National Tree Week? We couldn’t have planned these better so!

  • Mourne View Open Orchards Planting: Fri 25 March 2022.
    Meet at Wildcat Lane, 4 pm.  
  • Ballast Pit Triangle Open Orchard Saturday: 26 March
    Join us near the pedestrian lights and help planting a mix of fruit trees, from 2 pm.

 Join us! Just fill in this form and we will mail you the details!

And Fingal County Council are holding a Community Tree Planting Workshop, Town Park: Sat 26 March, assemble 10 am at the Skerries Mills car park. No need to register. You can find all the details on this on our site, sustainableskerries.com/orchards, as well. Fingal County Council will even have a few trees to give away, free for households!

Sustainable Skerries, a committee of the Skerries Community Association CLG,
is involved in activities around biodiversity (currently implementing the Skerries Pollinator Plan),
food (Sustainable Skerries Food Festival planned for April 2023),
waste reduction / circular economy (Repair Cafés, Car Boot Sale Sun 8 May 2022),
sustainable energy (with Skerries Sustainable Energy Committee) and
sustainable transport (with Skerries Cycling Initiative).
We also engage with other groups in Skerries, as well as Fingal County Council
(e.g. in the consultation process for the next Fingal Development Plan).
Join us! sustskerries@gmail.com 

Our aim is to make Skerries resilient, regenerative,
and a great place to live for all… now and in the years to come.

For the last couple of years, you have been collecting your crisp packets and dropping them off in our collection box in SuperValu. Cristina has been sending them to become high-quality recycled plastic. Please continue to do so! Until the middle of March at least. However, from then on we can no longer accept them.

Cristina writes: “TerraCycle have decided to discontinue the crisp packets recycling scheme (see their email below). In the next few weeks I will contact SV to thank them for their support and will send the last delivery towards the end of March. Thanks to everyone for your support on this.”


TerraCycle’s full email:
We cannot thank you enough for your dedication and support over the past three years. When we launched The Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme with Walkers in December 2018, there was no nationwide solution for recycling flexible plastics, such as crisp packets. You immediately embraced the scheme and demonstrated just how much people wanted to recycle their packets!
With your help, we have collected millions and given them a second life, turning crisp packets into new products like outdoor furniture and playgrounds. Not only this, but your actions have helped change the way others think about recycling. 
Over the past year, flexible plastic points have been established at more than 150 supermarket locations in the Republic of Ireland. This means crisp packets can now be dropped off for recycling, along with all other types of flexible plastic, at any of these locations. Additionally, flexible plastics can now be collected via household recycling schemes. In light of these developments, and after careful consideration, The Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme will close this April.

Some 30 adults and 20 children got together today, Saturday 12 February 2022, to plant 16 fruit and 4 nut trees. Not only did they get those 20 holes dug and those 20 trees planted in just about 120 minutes, they also had a lot of fun!

Video: Hans Zomer

The trees will now grow up (we hope) to be the Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard – the first of many which the Skerries Open Orchards Project (SkOOP) hopes to plant.

If anyone sees this who is living in Skerries and is now thinking: “There’s a bit of land near me which would be great for such an open orchard,” please do get in touch with sustskerries @ gmail.com

You can read more about this project on sustainableskerries.com/orchards

Sustainable Skerries would like to thank ChangeX for funding this project, as well as Fingal County Council, who were very helpful when we discussed our plans with them and also promised to help out with signage.