The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom campaign will for the first time formally recognise the efforts of communities that have been flooded, with the creation of a new discretionary award for overcoming adversity.
The announcement of this new award comes on the same day the RHS revealed the 72 RHS Britain in Bloom 2016 finalists. Judges will make their first visits to the finalists across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and Guernsey in August.
This award will celebrate the resilience of those who work year-round to put the Bloom back into their towns, villages and cities after such challenging circumstances, while recognising the impact of the recent catastrophic floods and other potential challenges that communities face throughout the campaign.
Groups including Aberdeen in Bloom, Kendal in Bloom, Dalston in Bloom and Corbridge in Bloom are among the communities hardest hit by the recent flooding. Many areas are still carrying out clean-up operations before preparations for Britain in Bloom can begin.
Visiting judges will hear how the groups have met these extreme challenges; judges will offer advice from their own experience and from their knowledge of areas that have been affected by extreme weather in the past.
Roger Burnett, Chair of RHS Britain in Bloom Judges, said: “My advice to this year’s finalists would be to demonstrate how they have overcome the atrocious conditions we’ve seen in many parts of the country over the last couple of months.
“Bloom groups are always very resilient when it comes to extreme weather and nature has a great way of bouncing back, so we all look forward to a meeting our finalists to see what wonderful work they are doing to bring their communities together under the banner of RHS Britain in Bloom.”
Andrea Van Sittart, RHS Head of Community Outreach, said: “This new award will celebrate the enormous efforts made by those Bloom community gardening groups who face extreme challenges, such as the devastating floods of recent months. It’s a tremendous achievement to reach the UK Finals of Bloom, and illustrates all of these groups’ impressive commitment to improving their local environment through joined-up community action.”
Other RHS Discretionary Awards include the Young People’s Award, Conservation and Wildlife Award, and the Community Champion Award, which is awarded to individuals who demonstrate exceptional commitment and dedication to Britain in Bloom in their community.
Aberdeen in Bloom
The award-winning Seaton Park has seen the worst flooding in its history.
Steven Shaw, Environmental Manager at Aberdeen City Council, said: “Some areas have been washed away and many are still under water so we don’t yet know if we have the resource, budget or time to reinstate our displays and projects to the same standard. It is going to be a real challenge to get the park back to how it was, but we do love a challenge, and we have received a fantastic response from Friends, communities and volunteers!”
Kendal in Bloom
Several sites on the Britain in Bloom judging route have been affected by flooding, including Abbot Hall which comprises a park, playground and peace garden. A lot of work was planned to take place in the park and the peace garden, which was planted in autumn 2015.
Janine Holt, Kendal in Bloom, said: “The biggest impact for us will not necessarily be the damage caused by the floods, but the effect of the long-term clean-up work required. The floods will certainly make our entry into the campaign more challenging, and we may have to rethink the route for the judges’ tour, as well as some of our community projects. However, community spirit is running high and I am sure that Kendal will rise to the challenge!”
Dalston in Bloom
Three rivers run through Carlisle, one of which runs through Dalston and has flooded over the past couple of months.
Ronnie Auld, Dalston in Bloom, said: “Last year was challenging for the group because we had such a late spring, but we would usually have started preparations by now. It hasn’t stopped raining since December and this is the first time I can remember that Dalston has flooded in this way.”
Corbridge in Bloom
Corbridge in Bloom have experienced huge amounts of rain since December, and 2000 bulbs that were planted on the north side of the river are still under water.
Neville Rutherford, Chair of Corbridge in Bloom, said: “We are being patient at the moment, and have our fingers crossed for some days without rain. We don’t think our displays will be as good as last year now, but working on them in this weather would just cause even more damage to the soil.”
About RHS Britain in Bloom
RHS Britain in Bloom is the UK’s largest community gardening campaign, involving up to 300,000 volunteers. As part of RHS Britain in Bloom – which includes grassroots community gardening scheme RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood – volunteers in cities, towns, villages, urban communities and neighbourhoods work together to improve their local environment, using gardening as a tool.
To find out more, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities