Shaftesbury in Bloom hope to extend the town’s floral displays this year. And the volunteers will be better equipped to maintain the town centre flowers after the Town Council donated time-saving equipment.
Most evenings in spring, summer and early autumn, you’ll see a group of unpaid helpers watering flowers in window boxes and beds around the High Street and the town’s major car parks. “No one gets paid to do this. It’s all volunteers. We do it because we like to see the town look good. We like the fact that everyone else likes to see the town look good. And we have a jolly good laugh when we’re doing it. It’s fun,” said volunteer James Thrift.
Summer 2019 was especially dry and James says that Shaftesbury in Bloom’s 150-litre water bowser proved inadequate. “We have all of these fantastic flowers in the town but, especially in the warmer weather, we need to water them constantly – two, if not three times a week. The amount of water that we can carry around the town has not been enough for the job in hand. It takes more time to fill the bowser than it does to go around and water,” said James.
On Tuesday night, Shaftesbury Town Council agreed to hand over their unwanted watering tool. Town clerk Claire Commons explained that the council’s old water bowser was bought ‘with very good intent’, but it is too large for the council’s operations and is not fit for purpose.
Head groundsman Mike Wakely confirmed that his team does not use the kit. Councillors agreed to give it to Shaftesbury in Bloom on the condition that the Town Hall team can borrow it, if needed. “It’s just going to make our job of going round and watering everything so much easier,” said James.
His fellow volunteers have a large area to cover in their watering rounds. “At the moment, we cover Angel Lane car park down the bottom, around the High Street, The Commons and Bell Street car park,” said James. He says that the bigger bowser will boost the bloom team’s morale and productivity. “It’ll probably take the same amount of time to water three times as much, because we can fill up this one bowser once. It’ll be far more efficient and that means more time in the pub!” smiled James.
Extra flowers could also be introduced. “We can now extend the number of flower tubs that we have around the town. There’s been a definite call from people, including the Chamber of Commerce and the shops, for more flowers,” he said. And James hopes to extend the period of floral colour, too. “The plan is that we will have them out for longer. They will come out earlier in the year. At the top of the town, we have these three- or four-tiered stands which are very expensive to buy. If we can raise the money to get more of them, that would be lovely. The general idea is to extend the area that we cover and the density within the area to make it a much better visual display.”
This Sunday, 2nd February, the Shaftesbury in Bloom volunteers host their first team activity of 2020. “We have working parties – a get together where we pick an area that needs a lot of maintenance. It’s a bit of a blitz session,” explained James. “As you approach the Royal Chase roundabout on the Lower Blandford Road, the A350, the Tree Group planted two beautiful trees as a gateway to the town. As you go past it, on the left, there used to be a footpath that joined the Lower Blandford Road and went around the side of the roundabout onto Salisbury Street. It’s become completely overgrown with lots of brambles and rhododendrons. The Town Council has been through that and cleared it. We will be going out to finish off by hand. We would like to have a sea of wildflowers all around the verge and the footpath snaking its way through it.”
James says the group is planning that wildflower display around the Royal Chase roundabout to create a positive impression of Shaftesbury for visitors. He’s been inspired by what he has seen in Somerset. “In Taunton, an awful lot of work has gone into roundabouts which have been completely covered in wildflowers. People love to see them. It is the gateway to a town. It’ll be marvellous being welcomed by a sea of wildflowers,” he said.
Volunteers are welcome between 10am and midday at the Royal Chase roundabout on Sunday. “If you have some secateurs and gloves, bring them or just bring your smile and a sense of humour,” James said.