Sunday, 13 June 2021

Town bids for European title

HENLEY is bidding to be crowned the environmental champion of Europe.

HENLEY is bidding to be crowned the environmental champion of Europe.

The town has been chosen to represent Britain in Entente Florale Europe, an annual competition which seeks to improve the quality of life of different communities.

Similar to the Britain in Bloom competition, the contest promotes:

• The “greening” of towns and villages using plants, parks and other outdoor spaces.

• Environmentally and ecologically sensitive development.

• Educational and communication initiatives which promote environmental awareness.

The competition was founded in 1975 and is now open to 12 nations including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

Entrants from the UK are only allowed to take part once every five years and must have been a finalist in the national Britain in Bloom competition, as Henley has been for the past two years.

Kellie Hinton, who chairs the Henley in Bloom committee, said: “It is rare to be asked and we are honoured to be selected to represent the UK.

“Henley is known for certain things and we want Henley in Bloom to be another reason for people to come here.

“Horticulture is just one part of it. There is also environment, quality of life, sustainability and biodiversity.”

The judges, who will visit Henley in July, will also consider aspects such as tourism and public involvement.

Councillor Hinton said: “This is really well suited for somewhere like Henley. A big part of the overall score is based on tourism — how it is managed, plans for the future and so on — and that’s where Henley should do very well.”

Henley in Bloom will run the town’s annual hanging basket campaign in association with the Henley Standard as its official media partner, and run the Hit Litter and plant swap events as well as a number of new projects.

It has already launched a competition to redesign the roundabout in Reading Road at the entrance to the town featuring a new sculpture and garden worth up to £10,000.

The roundabout, which is sponsored by the Henley Standard, will show the town as a “gateway to a healthy lifestyle”.

Cllr Hinton urged residents, retailers and other businesses and community groups to become involved.

She said: “We want to involve absolutely everyone. There shouldn’t be one person in Henley who doesn’t know what Entente Florale Europe is.

“It’s not just about gardening, we also need help with administration, sponsorship, fund-raising and raising awareness.

“Our main focus is going to be enhancing what we already have. Everything that will be done would have been done regardless of the competition but it’s nice for the town to achieve something as a whole as a result of volunteers and community groups.”

Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst said: “I’m delighted that Henley is taking part in a competition that everyone can benefit from. Anything which gets residents to focus on Henley is worthwhile. It’s not just about flowers but also improving the town.”

Henley was put forward for the competition by Roger Burnett, chairman of the judging panel for the Royal Horticultural Society, which organises Britain in Bloom.

The town will be mentored by Peter Holman, one of two vice-chairmen of Entente Florale Europe and the lead UK judge. He is also chairman of South and South-East in Bloom and vice-chairman of London in Bloom.

Mr Holman said: “Henley wouldn’t have been nominated in the first place if the Royal Horticultural Society didn’t think it was up to the task.

“From my point of view, Henley is a solid entry and will do extremely well. There is a good committee of people and there is no reason why it shouldn’t achieve the highest possible standard.

“The competition puts any entry on to the European map. It’s a real opportunity to showcase our towns and villages. It also improves tourism and increases the number of potential visitors, which is why entrants find it so beneficial.”

Cllr Hinton welcomed the support of the Henley Standard, whose Buy a Basket and Going for Gold campaigns were praised by the Britain in Bloom judges.

She said: “The Henley Standard has been our biggest supporter for a number of years. It is a true community newspaper that not only reports on events but gets involved and cares about the community.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the paper and we consider it to be a vital part of the campaign.”

Henley has won silver gilt at the national Britain in Bloom finals for the last two years and gold in the Thames Valley and Chilterns region of the competition for the last three years.

To volunteer to help Henley in Bloom, send an email to

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