Durham City is the bloomin’ best – that’s the official verdict of judges at a prestigious national gardening contest.
Durham was named ‘Best Small City’ in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Britain in Bloom competition, at a ceremony in Belfast on Friday night.
The city beat off the challenge of Rochdale, Derry and Shrewsbury to land the title and was also invited to compete in Britain in Bloom’s prestigious Champion of Champions category next year.
There was further success for County Durham in the 54th annual competition, with Tanfield a finalist in the village category.
Both Durham and Tanfield were competing – the former for the 39th year – following their success in the RHS’ regional Northumbria in Bloom event.
Durham’s entry was overseen by Durham County Council which welcomed Britain in Bloom judges to the city over the summer.
However Durham In Bloom is a massive community effort involving volunteers, groups, businesses and organisations like Durham University, Durham Business Improvement District, Durham Cathedral and St Cuthbert’s Hospice.
Other partners are the authority’s Durham Area Action Partnership, Durham City Homes, Durham Markets Company, Durham railway station, Gilesgate Primary School, HMP Durham, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, St. Margaret’s Allotments and The Woodland Trust. The newly formed City of Durham Parish Council has signalled its interest for next year too.
The council’s head of direct services Oliver Sherratt said:
“We are absolutely delighted to win a national award for our beautiful city.
“It is a huge team effort, from the council nurserymen which grow most of the plants we see in the city centre to the ground staff that plant them out and care for them, and most importantly to the myriad of organisations and community groups which work for the common cause of having Durham look at its very best for residents and visitors alike.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has worked with us to make this success possible and we look forward to going up against the best of the best in the champions event.”
Cllr Brian Stephens, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, added:
“I am so proud of all the hard work that has gone in behind the scenes to bring about this success for both Durham City and Tanfield.
“We really do have some amazing floral displays in County Durham and for our city to win a national award in recognition of its horticulture is just fantastic.”
RHS judges praised Durham’s creative floral displays and standout horticulture – reserving particular praise for work done at the cathedral, city centre roundabouts and the council-managed Wharton Park. They also highlighted the city’s community partnerships.
The judges said:
“There are numerous examples of quality plant displays being planned and maintained to the highest horticultural standard throughout the city around the cathedral…
“Community participation is at the heart of Durham in Bloom – by co-operating with a range of organisations and volunteers, the campaign delivers an excellent environment for residents and visitors alike.”
Tanfield was congratulated by the judges on its achievements over the past five years, which was said to be thanks to the community’s ‘infectious enthusiasm and passion’ for its village.
Darren Share, chair of the RHS Britain in Bloom judges, said:
“This year’s finalists faced the most challenging conditions the competition has ever seen with much of the country under snow and ice at the start of spring followed by the joint-hottest summer on record.
“That so many groups have walked away with top medals is remarkable and a reflection of communities’ hard work, ingenuity and horticultural know-how.”
Britain in Bloom has 12 categories and is open to rural villages, urban corners and city centres. Entries are scored across a range of criteria that includes horticultural know-how, community engagement, efforts to bolster biodiversity and climate change adaptation
Prizes were handed out by Chris Bavin, presenter of BBC Two’s Britain in Bloom TV series and guest speaker at the awards ceremony.
To find out more about In Bloom efforts in County Durham, visit here.