HERE we go again. Henley is bidding to become the Britain in Bloom champion — and the Henley Standard is right behind it.
This week, we are reviving our Buy a Basket campaign to fill the town with summer hanging baskets in time for the competition judges’ visit in July.
We have renamed the campaign Going for Gold and are urging town centre shops, businesses and residents to beat last year’s record-breaking total of 163 baskets.
Click here to download the form to order the baskets or there is a printed version in this week's Standard and will be published again over the next few weeks, when we will be featuring some of the people who have bought them.
Henley in Bloom is competing to win gold in the national competition, run by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Last year, the town scored 168 points out of a possible 200 and won silver gilt, falling just two points short of gold. This year, the aim is to go one better.
Councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs Henley in Bloom, said: “We would like the town centre to be an avenue of flowers.
“We are very well supported by independent businesses but we would really like more of the chains to come on board.”
Residents were able to buy the baskets for the first time last year and Cllr Hinton said: “We are doing it again because the baskets were really popular with residents, particularly those in Queen Street, Friday Street and Bell Street.
“We were also very grateful to receive donations from people who didn’t have a property in the town centre but still wanted to help. It enabled us to put more baskets up in areas such as the station forecourt.”
Windowflowers, based in Burnham, will once again provide and maintain the baskets, which will be installed from June to October, at a cost of £60 for one or £116.40 for two (including VAT).
The baskets will feature pansies, primula obconica and senetti, among other flowers.
Cllr Hinton said: “We haven’t gone with the gold theme because we wanted to be a bit different. Some of the feedback we received last year was that people wanted more vibrant colours.”
Some businesses have already pledged their support.
The Spice Merchant restaurant in River Side will be taking part for the first time this year and will have at least three baskets.
Manager Hasan Chowdury said: “We wanted to get involved with Henley in Bloom because it’s nice for the community to be able to support each other.
“The flowers by Henley Bridge always look nice and I think if we add some flowers outside the restaurant it will complement the other businesses in Thames Side.”
Cllr Hinton added: “It’s great to have the support of the Spice Merchant because last year there was an absence of flowers on the riverfront.”
Higgs Group, which publishes the Standard, will have six baskets on its offices on the corner of Reading Road and Station Road, the same as last year.
Managing director Neil Ratcliffe said: “As usual, we will be supporting Henley in Bloom and trying to ensure that this year we win the gold.We will once again be sponsoring the Tesco roundabout in Reading Road and other key sites in the town.”
The Buy a Basket campaign last year was praised by the Britain in Bloom judges, who used Henley as an example of how bloom groups can work closely with their local newspapers.
Cllr Hinton said: “The Buy a Basket campaign was absolutely phenomenal and this really showed in the number of baskets we sold. This year we want to be bigger and better than ever and we are delighted to be working with the Henley Standard again.”
Marisa Francini, a member of Henley in Bloom, who is co-ordinating the sale of the hanging baskets, said: “We were only two points off gold last year.
“This year, we are really pushing to have more baskets to win the national gold. If we could get around 170 that would be fantastic. We really believe that it will make the town look more beautiful and increase the sense of community pride. Henley is a fabulous town anyway because of its location, history and community but the hanging baskets just make the town look more beautiful.”
Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “I think the work Henley in Bloom does is wonderful and really makes the town look brilliant. Let’s hope we get gold at the national competition this year.”
The 76 Britain in Bloom finalists will receive either a bronze, silver, silver gilt or gold award and an overall winner will be chosen in each of the 12 categories.
Henley will be competing against Bridgnorth, Dalton with Newton, Immingham, Linlithgow, Shevington and district, Thornbury and Halstead in the best town category.
Henley has won gold in the town category for the Thames Valley and Chilterns region of the competition for the last two years.