Britain in Bloom: More than just a feast for the eyes

 

The Royal Horticultural Society staged the annual Britain in Bloom awards at St Peter Port, in Guernsey, at the weekend.

Britain in Bloom is seen by many as a rather cosy, middle-class affair - a kind of Neighbourhood Windowbox Watch. This is a bit unfair. Taking part in Britain in Bloom can effect a genuine transformation in neighbourhoods, not only aesthetically, but economically, environmentally and socially. It's not surprising, then, that the judges aren’t just looking at the quality of the summer bedding but also at the level of community participation and environmental awareness.

Take Herm, for example. One and a half miles long and half a mile wide, with a population of 63, it lies between Guernsey and Sark, and it was one of the gold medal winners in the 2012 awards, as well as carrying off the RHS Britain in Bloom Tourism Award, presented to the finalist that demonstrated the most effective use of their "In Bloom" participation as a means of supporting tourism.

Herm could be said to have more in common, horticulturally speaking, with Madeira than Manchester. A holiday island paradise, brimming with sub-tropical specimens such as echiums, brugmansia and osteospermums, it might not be the first image that springs to mind when you hear the phrase “Britain in Bloom”. However, as with many places in the British Isles, the beautiful surroundings it can offer visitors are crucial to bringing in tourist cash. If the only way people can get to you is to take a three-mile boat trip from Guernsey (itself a 40-minute flight from Gatwick), you have to be able to provide something with a bit of a wow factor once they get there.

Two full-time gardeners, Brett Moore and Roseanne Wheeler, ensure that the tiny island looks its best from April to October, and as well as the sub-tropical plants, there’s a wealth of wildflowers – dog roses, foxgloves and rare orchids.

Perhaps the economic imperative explains why the affluent south-east doesn’t figure as prominently as you might expect (given its mild climate) in the Bloom awards. The number of long-range commuters and the prevalence of second homes also means that it is difficult to build the sense of mutual endeavour that glues a community together.

The only finalist south of Watford in the Champion of Champions category for 2012 was Thornbury in South Gloucestershire, while the outright champion of champions was the Northern Irish village of Broughshane, in Country Antrim.

It’s been a tough year for anyone involved in horticultural endeavours. The weather was horrible and money is tight, so all the participants deserve credit, believes Roger Burnett, chair of the RHS Britain in Bloom judging panel, for rising to the challenge.

He said: “I love seeing the imaginative ways communities overcome challenges. It was reported that groups were pulling out of Britain in Bloom because of these problems but, in fact, we had a ten per cent increase in the number of groups signing up, making it a record year.”

For the St George’s Crypt homeless shelter in Leeds, joint winner of the RHS Britain in Bloom Young People’s Award, the emphasis is on cultivating pastoral care rather than pansies and petunias.

There has been a homeless shelter at St George’s since 1930, but three years ago, following a huge refurbishment, the charity decided to redesign the garden  and incorporate it into their Social Enterprise scheme.

Chief executive Chris Fields explained: “The theme is nurture, and we offer either catering or horticulture. Anyone who comes here is offered 15 hours of personal development to see if they like it, and at the moment we have six ex-offenders and six ex-addicts on the scheme.”The trainees run a small market garden, and are just about to take delivery of 30 chickens. They’ve taken part in guerrilla gardening projects in the city, liaising with local developers to plant up unused plots, and they also provide garden maintenance for local people – under supervision, of course.

Mr Fields said: “I don’t believe in the Playstation/pool table culture. Getting back to nature really suits certain individuals, who wouldn’t benefit from sitting in a room with a group of people talking about their problems. For addicts, especially, it can be helpful, because they can measure their progress against the growth of the plants and the passing of the seasons."

Hearing about this sort of scheme is quite humbling. Indeed, being at the dinner in Guernsey on Saturday made me very aware of the astonishing efforts that are being made through the UK, by ordinary people, to make our cities, towns and villages better places to live.

All the Britain in Bloom volunteers I spoke to had one thing in common; a huge pride in their local community. I was on a table with the group from Spofforth, a village near Harrogate. They weren't in it for the money (they themselves don't get any), or the publicity. Their idea of reward was to get a certificate with an RHS gold medal, and when they won their gold, they all burst into tears.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee