Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Couple with flowers from A to Z win cup for second time

A COUPLE have won the top prize at the Henley in Bloom Awards for the second time.

A COUPLE have won the top prize at the Henley in Bloom Awards for the second time.

David and Karen Thatcher, of Gainsborough Crescent, were presented with the Henley in Bloom Challenge Cup for best overall entrants at this year’s awards ceremony, which was held at the town hall on Thursday last week.

The couple were awarded gold in both the front patio and back garden categories, scoring full marks in the latter.

Town councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the Henley in Bloom committee and was one of the judges, told them: “The judges were just amazed by your gardens, which are clearly the result of dedication and hard work.”

The Thatchers, who also won the trophy in 2014, grow their own fruit and vegetables including courgettes, tomatoes, kale, sweetcorn and peas, which they freeze and eat during the winter.

Their  garden also features a pond, bridge and colourful floral displays and the couple spend evenings and weekends deadheading and keeping it looking its best.

Mr Thatcher, 64, an engineer, said: “We are both very keen gardeners — we grow all our own flowers and use all the seeds they produce. 

“We’re always looking for something unusual so the garden isn’t the same all the time.

“It’s good fun and hard work but it’s a way of relaxing. When it all comes to life it is amazing.”

This year he installed a ramp for the pond so hedgehogs could get in and out.

He said: “The garden is full of frogs and basically that stops the slugs and snails. It creates a natural ecosystem.”

Mrs Thatcher, 49,l a teaching assistant at Valley Road Primary School in Henley, said the garden includes a species of flower beginning with every letter of the alphabet.

She added: “It’s our little sanctuary and way of relaxing.”

The awards categories included front gardens for patios and lawns, back gardens and community gardens as well as pubs and restaurants, sponsored by Higgs Group, publishers of the Henley Standard.

The ceremony is held jointly with Henley Allotments Association, which presents prizes for best plot and best newcomer at the Greencroft and Watermans allotments.

Each entrant received a certificate and a voucher for Toad Hall garden centre — £20 For gold, £15 for silver gilt and £10 for silver.

In the back garden category, the Thatchers scored 100 per cent, as did Duncan Birrell, of Gainsborough Hill, and both won gold awards.

Town councillor David Eggleton, a member of the Henley in Bloom committee, said: “The judges were unable to mark down anything in these gardens. They are biodiverse, sustainable, clean, weed-free and attractive.”

Ron White, of Milton Close, and first time entrant Lisa Downer, of Remenham Terrace, also received gold in the category.

Silver gilts were awarded to Chris and Anne Eggleton, of Gainsborough Crescent, Pat McKenzie, of Northfield End, Caroline Chisholm, of Ancastle Green, and Pauline Miller, of The Close.

Pamela Hodgeson, of Bowling Court and Sylvia Silvey and Richard Goodsell, of Vicarage Road, were awarded silver.

The small front garden patios category was won by Mr White, who was awarded gold, as was Geoffrey Chip, of Reading Road.

Councillor Eggleton said: “Ron’s use of pollinator-attracting flowers is unique and it was visibly the best display in the street.”

Ms McKenzie received silver while Biddy Hume Humphreys, of Park Road, won silver gilt.

The Thatchers won the large front patios category.

The other three entrants in the category all won silver gilt. They were the Eggletons, Ms Chisholm and Betty and Joseph Wylie, from Swiss Farm.

Mr Birrell was awarded silver gilt in the front lawns category, the highest award, while Ms Pearce and Ms Miller both won silver. In the community gardens category silver gilt was awarded to Bowling Court, 30 retirement homes off Fair Mile, where the garden is maintained by Martin Curtis, from Cholsey, who was last year’s overall winner.

The 60-Plus Club in Greys Road car park and Headway, a brain injury support charity based at Brunner Hall in Greys Road, were both awarded silver gilt.

Pub of the year was won by the Saracen’s Head in Greys Road for the second year running.

The runner-up was the Row Barge in West Street, while the Three Horseshoes in Reading Road was given a special recognition award.

The restaurant of the year was Pachangas in Duke Street, also for the second consecutive year. It was commended by the judges for its use of pollution-reducing plants.

The runner-up was the Spice Merchant in Thames Side.

The Elizabeth Hodgkin Community Award was presented to businessman Clive Hemsley, of Hart Street, Henley.

Cllr Hinton said he had helped with the tours of the town given to the judges of the regional and national Britain in Bloom competitions as well as those for the Entente Florale contest.

He was always willing to help and never failed to make her laugh, she added.

Mayor Julian Brookes, who presented the award, thanked Mr Hemsley for his “commitment, enthusiasm and support”.

The Gardening Buddy of the year was Jan Sutton for the second time.

Elizabeth Hodgkin, who co-ordinates the volunteer group, said: “She has been with us almost from the beginning and has a real commitment to what we are trying to achieve.”

Dave McEwen, chairman of the allotments association, presented its community award to Henley Cricket Club, which is next to Greencroft allotments.

He thanked the club for being good neighbours by allowing plot-holders to use club toilets, providing grass cuttings for compost and allowing the association to use the pavilion for an event free of charge. The award was collected by cricket club members Danny Hall and Roger Garfath.

Mr Garfath said: “We use two of the allotment plots for parking and we are delighted to be able to support the allotment holders.

“They do a good job, as do all the gardeners in Henley.”

The allotment awards were presented by Andrew Hawkins and Anne Saunders, who were both involved in the judging.

Mick Blackall was awarded the best plot at Watermans. The ward was collected by his son Jeremy and 11-year-old grandson James, who helps him maintain his plot.

The best plot at Greencroft went to Mandy Taylor, who took the plot on when her husband Doug passed away.

The best newcomers were Keith Rawlins (Greencroft) and Peter Crook (Watermans).

Cllr Hinton said although fewer gold awards were presented this year standards had not fallen.

“Normally we have a higher number but we have changed our judging criteria,” she said.

“We would like to see more entries. We had some first time entries this year and are still well supported by those who have taken part for yearsbut we managed to judge the front and back gardens in one day and we could do more days.”

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