Thursday, 29 July 2021

Town hopeful after visit by Britain in Bloom judges

ORGANISERS of Watlington’s bid to win Britain in Bloom say they are hopeful following a visit by the judges.

ORGANISERS of Watlington’s bid to win Britain in Bloom say they are hopeful following a visit by the judges.

The town is competing in the large village category of the national competition just four years after entering for the first time.

Judges Andrew Jackson and Martyn Hird were given a tour of the town by members of Watlington in Bloom on Tuesday last week.

Chairman Tim Horton said: “The whole day went extremely well. The judges talked of the enormous impact of everything they had seen and heard, which showed the incredible range of community involvement.

“We hope to do well but we are relative newcomers and we are facing some towns that are veterans of this competition. We will just have to wait and see.”

Terry Jackson, Watlington in Bloom co-ordinator, said: “The judges seemed to have enjoyed their day.

“They couldn’t tell us how we did but they did say congratulations for getting into the nationals so quickly.”

Mrs Jackson and committee members Gill and Tom Bindoff met the judges at the Fox and Hounds in Christmas Common, where they had lunch before the two-hour tour.

The first stop was Watlington Hill where the visitors were introduced to National Trust warden Jerry Page and Robert Barber, chairman of Watlington Environment Group.

Mrs Jackson said: “They didn’t want to leave the hill. It’s kind of our prize area because it is just so glorious up there. The sun was shining but it wasn’t blisteringly hot.”

The group then travelled to Watlington and District care home in Hill Road, where they met residents and staff as well as Sheryl Barnes, of Watlington Gardening Club.

Peter Hemmins, the home’s gardener, showed the judges the soft fruits being grown.

The group then met two pupils at the allotments at Watlington Primary School.

The children told the judges about what they have been growing and the rota for watering the area during the summer holidays. The next stop was Mansle Gardens where the judges met members of the It’s Your Neighbourhood group, who look after the area.

The garden has herbs, vegetables and fruit, including some alpine strawberries which were planted by chef Raymond Blanc during a visit to the town in May.

The judges also viewed the memorial cross in High Street, where parish caretaker Bob Thomas has planted red, white and blue flowers to spell the initials “RBL” in tribute to the Royal British Legion.

Mr Horton said: “The high street was full of flowers and it was quite a transformation from last year in both the quality and quantity of blooms. The judges seemed very impressed, particularly with the hanging baskets outside the war memorial club.”

Tubs lining the high street have been refurbished and replanted thanks to sponsorship from St Leonard’s Church and Wallingford honey maker Rowse.

The last stop was the paddock to look at some of the gardens in Davenport Place.

The judges then met invited guests and fellow committee members at the town hall and heard a welcome address recorded by actor Jeremy Irons, who owns a house in the town.

He said that he hoped they would “see Watlington the way I see it”.

Mrs Jackson gave a presentation about horticultural activity in the town and Mr Horton said special thanks should be given to Mrs Jackson and her husband Keith for their efforts ahead of the judges’ visit.

“Terry Jackson honed everything to perfection,” he said. “Terry and Keith are at the centre of everything that has happened and we all pay tribute to them.”

Members of the committee made last-minute preparations including mowing, dead-heading plants and picking up litter.

South Oxfordshire District Council had arranged for staff to “deep clean” the town in the days before the judges’ arrival and Mr and Mrs Bindoff weeded outside the men’s toilets. Mr Horton said Watlington was benefiting from the town’s competition entry, regardless of how it did.

“There has been a real feelgood factor in the town, which makes shopping and meeting friends in the town attractive,” he said.

The judges have completed half of their visits to the eight finalists in the large village category. The others are Caistor, St Pierre du Bois, Coupar Angus, Eynsford, Hillsborough, Usk and Barwick-in-Elmet.

The winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Cleethorpes on October 12.

Residents will be informed at a gardeners’ question time evening on October 16 when the first question will be “How did Watlington do in Britain in Bloom?”

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