Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Wildflower mural welcomes judges

Wildflower mural welcomes judges

A COLOURFUL new mural at the village station greeted judges who inspected Goring’s entry into the Britain in Bloom competition.

The artwork, which depicts the hills and wildflowers of the surrounding Chilterns countryside, was officially unveiled as a surprise gift to the community just two days before the judges’ visit last Wednesday.

It was painted in acrylic by Sarah Pye, who used to exhibit at the Art at Goring gallery in High Street, on separate panels which were then bolted to a service shed on the station’s eastern platform off Gatehampton Road.

The mural is wrapped around a corner of the building and measures about 6m in length and 2.5m in height. It took Mrs Pye about two weeks to complete while working on her hands and knees for up to eight hours a day.

Mrs Pye, of Sonning Common, attended the unveiling along with members of the Goring Gap in Bloom committee, which commissioned it, and representatives from Great Western Railway.

GWR’s business assurance director Joe Graham, who regularly visited the station as a boy, presented the committee with a double-tiered green cake topped with flowers, butterflies, a watering can and a picket fence made from icing.

The group, which has more than 50 members, has been working to improve the look of the station since 2017. In recent years Network Rail and GWR have installed disabled toilets, a passenger footbridge with lifts and other features to make it more accessible but the volunteers said it still looked drab and functional.

They first planted shrubs and blooms along a 20m earth bank at the eastern platform and have since installed new planters made from old sleepers as well as a rainwater butt with help from GWR’s contractor Hochtief.

Chairwoman Stephanie Bridle said: “The mural had been at the back of our minds since last year’s judging as we wanted to continue greening up a rather grey station. We soon realised it wasn’t going to be terribly simple.

“We were attracted to Sarah’s work as she’s a gardener herself and very much understands what we’re trying to achieve. She did such a beautiful job that we’ve seen insects trying to land on the flowers.

“Painting outside on a busy station platform would have been too hazardous so we had to find a studio that was big, dry and warm enough. Sarah worked incredibly hard on it though she said she wouldn’t be keen to take on such a big job again!

“We aimed to demonstrate the beautiful landscape that lies beyond the station and hopefully this will encourage more people to visit and enjoy exploring the countryside. We’ve seen lots of people stepping up to take a closer look so I think it’s been well received.

“We’re delighted that GWR has recognised our achievement as we’re very proud of our volunteers’ work. This project was a huge challenge with many obstacles to overcome but now the station is a much more attractive place.”

Judges Paul Almond and Nigel Bishop were inspecting the village as part of the small town category of the Royal Horticultural Society contest’s Thames and Chilterns region.

They were first shown around the high street, which as usual was decorated with dozens of hanging baskets, troughs and planters filled with flowers grown at Mrs Bridle’s home in Cleeve Road.

Businesses had decorated their premises in hand-made “sunflowers” as part of an arts and crafts initiative led by Rosemary Brook, of Whitchurch Hill, who offered to help the committee after reading about their accomplishments in the Henley Standard. The judges visited Goring Primary School, where pupils grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs in a courtyard garden, the Withymead nature reserve and Goring lock, where the volunteers had filled a dinghy named Bloomin’ Boatiful with flowers.

They also inspected a new garden area in Glebe Ride which was set up by resident Terry Walker and planted with real sunflowers by the village’s Scouts. They enjoyed lunch at the village hall before leaving.

Mrs Bridle said: “It was a hot day and we were busy preparing right up to the last minute but the village looked beautiful and hopefully we did very well. The community got behind us as always, for which we’re thankful, and did their bit to tidy the streets and their own gardens.

“The primary school is always a highlight because the children were buzzing around excitedly and showing off all the things they’d grown. They’re an absolute delight and it’s great that they’re so enthusiastic about horticulture and the outdoors.

“The station mural was our big ‘wow’ moment and the judges seemed very impressed with the transformation.

“Paul last visited before we started the project in 2017 and I remember him saying ‘don’t worry, this lot will get it done’.”

The village is to be judged again in the competition’s national finals on August 1 after it won its fourth regional gold last year. It has also won two silver gilts since its first entry in 2012.

Mrs Bridle said: “The judges never give much away but I’d say they were happy — and that’s being conservative. They seemed to really appreciate how much of an effort we’d made as a community. Everyone they met was very positive and complimentary and they said the baskets were the best they’d ever seen.

“We were pleased to hear that, especially considering that we make them ourselves instead of buying them in, but I hope that’s not tempting fate as we need them to stay in that condition until the national judges have been.

“They also gave us some helpful feedback for the next visit. There weren’t any major flaws but there were a few tiny things to address and we’ve been able to do that so we will just have to see how the next visit goes.”

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