There may be some sore hands in Shaftesbury this morning due to the amount of clapping at last night’s Shaftesbury In Bloom Awards at the Town Hall.
For two hours, civic-minded locals who make our town a brighter place to live were recognised for their efforts. Over fifty framed certificates were handed out to enthusiastic applause.
“They work hard all through the year on their own gardens. And sometimes they work on land that is not their own, in other parts of town. We feel that their hard work should be recognised,” said Shaftesbury In Bloom’s Ray Humphries. Ray spent most of his evening presenting the certificates as his colleague, Derek Beer, invited each winner to step forward.
Just framing such a large number of awards will have taken a considerable amount of time. “And that was not all of them, because a few of the people given awards were unable to come,” said Ray.
Derek has been involved since the initiative started in 1985. “I think it is important to motivate and recognise people’s commitment and passion for the town,” Derek said. The organisers said that effort and enthusiasm, rather than gardening knowledge, was being recognised.
There were awards for gardens and floral displays of all shapes and sizes, whether private or in public. Both the Ship Inn and Kings Arms were thanked for their summertime flowers and Derek pointed out that people prefer to visit well-dressed pubs.
The Council’s Head Groundsman, Andy Dodd, collected a silver award for his team’s work in filling the borders around the Oasis swimming pool with flowers and shrubs. “We make it nice for the season, when the swimming pool is open. We want people to come in and enjoy the pool, the plants and flowers. We’re just trying to make Shaftesbury a better place,” said Andy.
In the summer, the Town Hall team spend two or three hours a week maintaining the display. “We always have one of our staff making regular checks and watering. It’s not a massive job but it does make a difference.”
Christine Stott hasn’t got a huge garden at her home at number 21 Great Ground. “The garden is minute but we have a lot going on in there,” she said. Christine’s certificate said that she was ‘making a difference’. “A few years ago our garden caught the eye of Shaftesbury In Bloom and we won an award, our first ever, for our back garden. There is no lawn – it’s all hard landscaping – but full of colour and pots,” said Christine.
Christine’s front garden was her next project. Her hanging baskets are a feature that many locals have praised. “We have a long white wall and we have five big hanging baskets. They are all the same, themed colour. During the Jubilee and the Olympics everything was red white and blue,” explained Christine. “We tend to change the colours each year. We have mainly petunias because they are wonderful for bees. My husband is the ‘king of dead heading’, too,” Christine laughed. “That’s what really keeps them in bloom all of the time.”
“All of our plants come from Thorngrove,” Christine added, as she referenced the Gillingham garden centre that has supported Shaftesbury In Bloom for decades. “The other secret is to have an irrigation system,” continued Christine. “It costs a little bit but it’s well worth it. We have it on a timer and it comes on for half an hour at 6 o’clock in the morning and in the evening.”
Christine believes that buying one of Shaftesbury’s newer homes offers an exciting opportunity to plan a new garden from the ground up. That’s what she’s done at Great Ground. “It’s a blank canvas. You can choose what you want. You can have a small, neat Italianate patio garden or you can have it cosy, like a cottage garden. You can do anything with it. It’s wonderful – we have a little arbour with things growing over and we have a water feature. It’s a bird bath that my husband has drilled holes into the side of. We call it the birds’ jacuzzi,” Christine enthused.
After Christine’s talent was recognised, she was asked to join the Shaftesbury In Bloom team. “We love it because we’re putting something back into Shaftesbury. It’s a lovely old town. The group do so much work. We need people to come and give us a hand. It’s not onerous. We get things done as a team. It’s great fun. They’re a great bunch of guys and girls,” Christine said.
Organisers, Ray, Derek and Rob Neely, are keen to hear from people prepared to help by joining Shaftesbury In Bloom. “During the growing part of the season, spring and summer, we organise working parties to keep the grass cut and weed the roundabouts. That’s where we currently have a problem,” said Ray. “We don’t have enough man-hours to cover both roundabouts and some of the side borders in the town. This is why we are on a recruitment drive. We don’t want people to come to meetings that they don’t want to sit through. Many of our people are doers and they would sooner get out on a Sunday morning for an hour or two and give their help that way,” said Ray.
It’s the town’s higher profile sites where the group needs urgent assistance. “The roundabouts are the two main areas of concern. If we could get them up and running we could start a new projects. We’ve had a look around to see which other areas of the town we can make a real difference with,” said Ray.
If locals feel that there are parts of town that need ‘TLC’ Ray would encourage them to take direct action. “A typical area for that was the phone box on Coppice Street. One of our committee members was quite passionate about seeing that improved. We’ve worked with Shaftesbury Town Council and the Post Office, who owns the wall, and we’ve transformed it from a dingy area to a pleasant benched area where people can sit down and have a rest,” said Ray.
Derek judges floral displays across the Westcountry for Britain In Bloom and this summer, he discovered a Devon seaside resort, which could be Shaftesbury’s role model. “I judged Exmouth and they had seventy volunteers all wearing Exmouth In Bloom uniforms. They were out litter picking at night and cleaning the beaches. It’s the same size town, we just need to be bigger and stronger. And we need apprentices because we could keel over at any time!”
If you’d like to help, you can contact Derek at email@example.com. You’ll get the satisfaction that you’re playing your part in improving our town’s appearance. And, chances are, you’ll be applauded as you pick up your award in 2019.
Here are photos of some of Monday night’s award winners: