Friday, 15 February 2019

Village in national final of Britain in Bloom contest

Village in national final of Britain in Bloom contest

GORING is vying to be crowned one of the most beautiful places in the country.

The village has been shortlisted in the small town category of this year’s Britain in Bloom finals after winning its fourth gold at regional level last summer.

Judges from the Royal Horticultural Society will inspect the village in August.

Goring will be up against seven other towns and villages. They are Cranbrook in Kent, Desford in Leicestershire, Garstang in Lancashire, Ham and Petersham in south-west London, Randalstown in Northern Ireland, Sedgefield in County Durham and St Just in Cornwall.

Volunteers from the Goring Gap in Bloom committee, which has also won two silver gilt awards for the village since 2012, don’t plan to change their successful approach but will improve their existing projects.

They plan to carry out more planting at the station in Gatehampton Road, where they planted a bare earth bank with shrubs and hedges in the summer of 2017.

This took longer than expected because they had to put in extra soil but judges were impressed when they saw it last year.

The volunteers will also continue to maintain the wildflower area they planted outside the BT phone exchange building off High Street and hope to devise another eye-catching project like the 8ft sunflowers they planted on the adjacent footpath last summer.

Committee chairwoman Stephanie Bridle, of Cleeve Road, Goring, said: “The new bed at the station looks beautiful but we could do more to make that area a green place instead of a grey one and we’ve recently been approached by a company which can help with that.

“Our sunflowers off High Street were a big hit, with lots of passers-by stopping to take photographs, so we need to come up with an idea that has at least the same impact.

“We’re mostly going to consolidate and improve on things we’ve already started rather than take on anything drastically new.

“We might have a few extra tricks up our sleeve but aren’t announcing them yet as we’re waiting to see whether they will be possible.”

The volunteers knew Goring was in with a chance of reaching the national final after it took the Thames and Chilterns title in October, when it scored a record 176 points out of a possible 200, and learned they had been successful last week.

Mrs Bridle and committee secretary Janet Hurst are to attend a seminar in Manchester where the RHS will explain what is expected of them.

They will also give a presentation about the horticultural and environmental projects which they and other community groups, including Goring Primary School and the Withymead nature reserve, conduct throughout the year. Mrs Bridle said she and her colleagues were thankful to Henley’s former parks services manager Gareth Bartle, who died in May last year, as he judged Goring’s regional entry in 2017 and had offered advice and support for many years before that.

She said: “He was something of a mentor and was always enthusiastic and encouraging.

“The last time we spoke he said we deserved to compete nationally as we were operating at that level but, of course, that wasn’t in our gift. We had to wait for the invitation.

“I think our shortlisting was based on us winning our category yet again as part of a steady, successful track record including 
several golds. 

“They probably felt it was our time and we can’t honestly say we were shocked as we knew we had done well.

“Fortunately, the parish council appreciates what we’re trying to do and is receptive to our ideas, as is the wider community.

“There’s an increased awareness, which is very helpful, and I’m hoping that more businesses will support us this year. There are many benefits in being an award-winning village so hopefully they’ll be keen to contribute.

“Goring is very special because it has a huge amount of community activity and we want to highlight that because the marking scheme now considers that along with the environmental aspects, not just horticulture.

“We have to show them what a dynamic, community-minded place we are and how great it is to live here. We don’t ‘do’ nervous as we’re far too old for that and the stress would probably finish us off!

“We’re simply delighted to have got this far and certainly aren’t being complacent as we know the competition will be very tough.

“We aren’t expecting gold but will do everything we can to showcase the village at its best.”

Goring won gold in 2013, 2015, 2017 and last year, when it also won the Pride of Place award for the committee’s enthusiasm, and silver gilt in 2012 and 2014. It took a year off in 2016 due to uncertainty over funding.

Councillor Bryan Urbick, who liaises with the committee on Goring Parish Council’s behalf, said: “It’s fantastic news and we’re incredibly proud of the Goring Gap in Bloom team.

“We’re now working with them to help get a few extra things in place for the national final as well as the regional entry.

“We’re looking to improve our support for the committee in terms of both time and money, although they’re pretty self-sufficient as far as funding goes.

“The biggest benefit from taking part is the feeling of community pride it brings. It’s nice that the village looks particularly tidy and colourful as a result but the best thing is that people enjoy themselves and smile and chat with each other while working towards the same goal. It’s really quite lovely.”

A total of 71 cities, towns and villages are competing in the national finals, including Reading.

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