HENLEY has finally struck gold in the Britain in Bloom contest for the Thames Valley and Chilterns region.
Its victory in the town category ended a run of six silver guild prizes in seven years and catapulted Henley into the national finals.
The town was also recognised for the best business involvement and was highly commended for the theme of celebration in 2012 at a ceremony in Aylesbury on Wednesday.
Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin who chaired the Henley in Bloom committee for 10 years said she was “thrilled” to win the gold prize.
“We’ve been amazing this year and a lot of people have complimented us on how the town looks,” she said.
“The icing on the cake was being put forward for the national final. We know it’s going to be an enormous commitment to undertake — but we feel prepared.”
Judges praised schemes such as the planting of flower beds in Mill Meadows by Gardening Buddies and the apple sculpture that was placed in Gravel Hill. It was donated by residents of Henley’s twinned town, Liechlingen in Germany.
Other Henley in Bloom initiatives have included tidying entrances to the town and Newtown industrial estate, encouraging pubs to decorate their frontage with hanging baskets and a competition to find the cleanest residential street.
Future plans include a schools in bloom competition and schemes to clean up the Gainsborough estate, the youth centre and fire station.
Henley will represent the area in the national finals next year and Cllr Hodgkin said the town can expect continuity.
She said: “We will carry on doing what we have been doing and we’ve already got big plans.
“It doesn’t stop here, it’s all year round. People assume that because we’re blessed with a beautiful backdrop in Henley then this is all natural but it takes a lot of hard work.
“Let’s win in the national finals next year because the opportunity doesn’t often come along.”
Cllr Hodgkin praised the team ethic in the town that contributed to the success, adding: “Obviously we will have to have a big party. We’ve already got a golden post box but maybe something else in that colour will be appearing in the town soon.”
Kellie Gehrmann, a town councillor who took over as committee chairwoman this year, said she was delighted with the recognition in the celebration 2012 category.
“It’s particularly important because of the spotlight on the town this year for the jubilee and Olympics,” she said.
“It’s been an extra special effort so to be highly commended for this overall theme was terrific.
“The judges were particularly impressed with the work of Gardening Buddies because not every town has something like that.
“I think we have a few things in Henley that are unique in how we operate and who’s involved in making it as beautiful as it is.”
Watlington also won gold in the small town category and will compete in the national finals.
Henley in Bloom is still looking for volunteers in any capacity. Anyone interested should contact the town hall on 01491 576982.