Sunday, 01 August 2021

Buy a basket for bloom bid

BUY a hanging basket and help Henley become the Britain in Bloom champion of 2013.

BUY a hanging basket and help Henley become the Britain in Bloom champion of 2013.

That’s the call of a new campaign launched by the Standard this week.

We are urging town centre shops, businesses and — for the first time — residents to buy summer hanging baskets in time for the competition judges’ visit in the summer.

We want to beat the current record of 146 baskets, set in 2005, and help power the town to victory in the national competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society.

A form to order hanging baskets is printed in this week’s Standard and will be published again over the next few weeks when we will be featuring some of the traders who have bought them in previous years.

Henley is competing for the Britain in Bloom title for the first time after winning gold in the town category for the Thames Valley and Chilterns region in last year’s competition.

This year’s hanging baskets will feature gold bidens to celebrate last year’s success. Some could also feature tomatoes and strawberries in a nod to the competition’s “incredible edibles” theme.

Henley Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin said: “I think it’s pretty obvious that the more bright flowers we have around the town the better it looks.

“If we could have 150 baskets it would be amazing. We want to stretch them right round the town this time.

“The baskets make shop fronts look attractive and fresh and it shows both the community and businesses are aware of their surroundings.

“It’s very hard to quantify what flowers do but it actually does make a difference and puts people in a really nice mood as well.”

Windowflowers, based in Slough, provides the baskets which will be installed in June and maintained until October at a cost of £49.50 plus VAT per basket.

Cllr Hodgkin said: “This year is a really big year for us as a town so everyone should be behind this because it’s not just a council project, it’s for everybody.

“It’s not an expensive thing to do and the more people who can get behind the campaign the better. People are cutting back and you can’t blame them but I feel this is still really important. I think with the Henley Standard’s support we can do it.”

Kellie Gehrmann, chairman of Henley in Bloom, said: “I think this is a brilliant idea — firstly, because the baskets look fantastic and secondly, because it encourages wildlife and brightens up the place.

“Hopefully, we will get 150 baskets and maybe even more. I really hope some of the major chains go for it this time as it tends to be the independent shops which get most behind it.” She appealed to town centre residents to buy a hanging basket too.

Councillor Gehrmann said: “People don’t always have time to have window boxes or a hanging basket and maintain them. This gives them an opportunity to have one without needing to maintain or plant it themselves as well as giving the town a nice consistent look.”

There were just three hanging baskets in Duke Street last year.

Marisa Francini, a member of Henley in Bloom who is co-ordinating the sale of the hanging baskets, said: “It just looked so bare and there were hardly any on Reading Road either. Some parts of the town have not been well covered in the past as some people never respond and some just aren’t interested. We are trying to encourage greater community involvement as we would like the whole town to look gorgeous.”

Some businesses have already pledged their support. Neil Ainsworth, landlord of the Argyll in Market Place, is to buy five baskets.

He said: “I think hanging baskets make it far more appealing for people to come into the town and make visiting Henley a more positive experience.

“The prestige of winning Britain in Bloom would be very beneficial for the town as a tourist destination, which is what we all want to encourage, and we all have a part to play in that.”

Jean Miller, owner of Rive Gauche in Hart Street, will buy two baskets as usual. She said: “It’s nice having flowers around as they make the shop look pretty and the town look colourful.”

Mrs Miller said tourists often took photographs of her two baskets, particularly the one on the side of the shop nearest the river, which tends to grow very large.

Ellaine Campbell, personnel manager for Waitrose in Henley, said the store would buy three baskets as usual.

“I think it’s important to keep the town looking nice and it looks best if everybody supports this,” she said. “It’s going to be quite a hard task with the economic climate as it is but it would be a good thing to encourage more people to contribute.”

Higgs Group, which publishes the Standard, will have at least four hanging baskets.

Managing director Neil Ratcliffe said: “Winning gold last year in the region was a terrific effort by the Henley in Bloom team and if we all contribute hopefully we can go one better this year. We already sponsor key sites in the town and we will certainly be increasing the number of baskets on our building this year.”

Some of the older shops in the conservation area are unable to have hanging baskets due to the age of their buildings.

The Henley in Bloom group hopes these businesses will choose to make a cash donation, improve or maintain an area of land they own or donate a prize for the raffle that is open to businesses and residents who sponsor the cause.

The Britain in Bloom judges will visit the town between July 29 and August 9. Their marks and comments will concentrate on three areas — horticultural achievement, enviromental responsibility and community participation.

Henley will be up against Windermere, Oakham, the City of London, Morpeth, Freckleton, Blairgowrie & Rattray, Newquay and Garforth in the best in town category. Each of the 79 finalists will be presented with a bronze, silver, silver-gilt or gold award and an overall winner will be chosen in each of the 12 categories.

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