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Derbyshire highlights at the East Midlands in Bloom Awards 2014

PUBLISHED: 16:49 09 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:49 09 December 2014

Belper River Gardens. Photo by Ashley Franklin

Belper River Gardens. Photo by Ashley Franklin

Various photographers

Ashley Franklin reviews this year’s East Midlands in Bloom competition

BuxtonBuxton

East Midlands in Bloom celebrated its 50th year in 2014 with a record 61 main Bloom entries. Following a record year of firsts in 2013, Derbyshire’s only winner this year was St Mary’s RC Primary School, Chesterfield, who triumphed in the Best Ornamental Garden category.

Belper earned Gold for a fourth successive year and Draycott, Little Eaton and Wessington won plaudits as first-time entrants in the village category. Buxton re-entered the competition after a five year break, and regular town entrants Ilkeston and Long Eaton struck Gold for the first time.

East Midlands in Bloom Chairman Jeff Bates pointed out that Gold recognizes ‘an exceptional level of excellence’ especially as the judging now has three core pillars: ‘horticultural excellence’, ‘environmental responsibility’ and ‘community participation’. Belper’s score of 177 points out of 200 was enough just to edge out Ilkeston and Long Eaton, and there was special praise for Belper’s Judges’ Award for ‘the remarkable display of poppies’ on The Chevin hillside where the town commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of World War One by planting poppies spelling out WWI.

Buxton’s Silver Gilt after five years of absence was highly commended. The judges stated that ‘the community has got behind this entry and achieved some amazing things in a short space of time.’

LittleoverLittleover

In gaining 172 points for Gold, Long Eaton was commended for ‘the interaction with various schools and projects involving young people’ and the ‘impressive community involvement overall.’ Likewise Ilkeston (171 points), where the judges observed ‘a community working hard to improve many areas of the environment.’

In what was a triumphant year for Erewash Borough, the most impressive first-time entrant from Derbyshire was Draycott. Usually, first-time entrants earn either Bronze or a Certificate of Achievement, so Draycott’s Silver Gilt in the Small Town category is remarkable. ‘We were astounded,’ says Ali Bowley, Draycott in Bloom’s Plant Co-ordinator.

Buoyed up by a ‘Level 5 Outstanding’ award when they entered the smaller ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category for the first time last year, a few Draycott residents decided to grasp the nettle and enter as a town. ‘It was phenomenally hard work,’ Ali points out. ‘Over the next few months our newly-formed group of more than 40 volunteers sowed seeds, potted on, transplanted, dug, pruned and designed planting schemes. We also encouraged local businesses to fund various projects.’

One particular feature of Draycott’s entry – which won a Judges’ Award – was its ‘Wellies & Wheelbarrows’ theme which encouraged numerous residents to make ornamental use of their old boots and barrows.

Water Lily by Isabelle Fidler of Spire Infants School, Chesterfield, winner of the Childrens Digital photography Competition, Reception Years 1&2Water Lily by Isabelle Fidler of Spire Infants School, Chesterfield, winner of the Childrens Digital photography Competition, Reception Years 1&2

As a result, the Bloom group galvanized the town, says Ali: ‘As Draycott in Bloom grew, so did the community spirit. By the time judging day arrived, not only was the village looking wonderful but it was buzzing with excitement. We had a party after the judges left – and another one after the Awards ceremony!’

‘We’re deeply proud of what we’ve done,’ says committee chairman Kaye Thurgood, ‘not least because Draycott is now an even more wonderful place to live.’

‘Now, there are neither weeds nor litter to be seen,’ says Ali, ‘and, furthermore, we have brought our community closer together. Our success has also had a noticeable knock-on effect with neighbouring villages planting a lot of bulbs recently!’

As a first-time entrant in the same Small town category three years ago, Darley Dale won Bronze, then Silver Gilt. It’s Silver Gilt again this year, with a considerable increase in marks, and the judges once again praised the ‘enthusiasm and passion of a group and community that continues to blossom.’

The Judges’ Award went to the volunteers at the town’s RBS bank who refurbished their ‘overgrown and badly tended garden’ with a World War One theme, its centrepiece being an oak plaque engraved with an extract from a Siegfried Sassoon poem. Another outstanding project involved Darley Dale Primary School making 35 nest boxes to attract birds to the school grounds.

As Darley Dale edges towards Gold, so does Bakewell whose Silver Gilt was earned for many fine features, including the Secret Garden at the Manners Hotel, the sedum roof at the Old House Museum and the Riverside Garden which received a Judges’ Award.

In the Large Villages category, Little Eaton could be future winners, having gained Silver as a first-time entrant. It’s encouraging that the Judges’ Award went to the ‘well organised promotional campaign creating strong Bloom awareness.’ As Little Eaton in Bloom secretary Sue Stone points out, the village has always had several societies but no gardening club until 2012. ‘That provided the perfect platform,’ says Sue.

The Silver award is all the more remarkable considering the Bloom group didn’t start work until January. ‘We needed to be sensible and work out what we could achieve in the short time,’ explains Sue. Also key to their success, she says, was ‘having a wide range of experience and skills in our group along with some very talented gardeners.’

Middleton by WirksworthMiddleton by Wirksworth

The transformation in Little Eaton has inspired the Bloom group to plan further impressive makeovers around the village. ‘We have had great fun and made new friends,’ says Sue, ‘and on a wider level, our entry has put residents and local businesses on their mettle to show the village at its best. It’s been wonderful to hear such positive comments about how much nicer Little Eaton looks.’

Another first-time entrant, Wessington, earned Bronze in the Small Village category while Silver was awarded to Elmton. In the Villages category, Middleton by Wirksworth are gradually moving up to Gold having achieved another Silver Gilt with year-upon-year improvement in marks since entering in 2009. While in the Urban Community category, Littleover earned Silver, and praise for the village’s Commemorative Trail – ‘an inspirational approach that highlighted the strength of community feeling for those lost in the Great War.’

Middleton in Bloom’s entry was also commended for a First World War commemoration: a plaque recognising the national importance of Middleton’s quarries and stone masons. The village provided over 10,000 headstones for the graves in France and Belgium.

Chesterfield, which achieved Silver Gilt in the Small City category, was also praised for its contribution to First World War remembrance with a Judges’ Award for the war theme that formed part of St Mary’s Primary School garden. So impressive was the garden overall that it won this year’s Best School Ornamental Garden award. The judge Chrissie Dale stated that ‘the children individually designed a super sensory garden using containers and props to illustrate the importance of the senses.’

Draycott. Photo by Oehlers PhotographyDraycott. Photo by Oehlers Photography

Two other Chesterfield gardens earned Gold: 153 Moorland View, Chesterfield won the Frank Constable Award for Best Residential Garden while Ringwood Hall Hotel in Brimington won Best Hotel/Pub Garden or Display.

There was still more success for Chesterfield in the Children’s Digital Photography competition where Isabelle Fidler of Spire Infants School won the Reception Class award for her striking image of a water lily. Three Rosliston Primary School pupils – Amelia Rose Banbury, Kenzo Marbrow-Wright and Darcie Skellet – shared first prize in the Years 3 and 4 category with images of a butterfly, spider and frog respectively.

Five times Best Village winner Rosliston was sadly absent this year but Chairman Jeff Bates hoped they would be encouraged to return in 2015. He also hoped more first-time entrants would be encouraged to take part, especially in view of Draycott’s inspiring success. ‘What Draycott has experienced is a great improvement in community spirit as well as making the place tidier, cleaner and more colourful. The whole ethos of the Bloom campaign is that participation brings benefits to the local environment, engenders pride in our locality and uplifts all our spirits. While everyone wants to win, in reality taking part itself is winning.’

The full results can be found here - Derbyshire results

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