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Wednesday, 13 November 2019
GORING has been crowned the most beautiful village of its size in Britain.
The village won the title of best small town in the national Britain in Bloom competition at the first time of asking.
It also won a gold medal at a prize-giving ceremony held at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Lindley Hall in Westminster on Friday night.
Stephanie Bridle and Janet Hurst, chairwoman and secretary of the Goring Gap in Bloom committee, and Mrs Bridle’s husband Ron were presented with a glass trophy and certificate by the society’s vice-
president, Floella Benjamin.
Goring took first place ahead of seven other places shortlisted in the category.
The judges were particularly impressed by the village’s “sunflower shower” initiative, which was led by artist Rosemary Brook, from Whitchurch Hill.
She encouraged schoolchildren and community groups to make sunflowers from recycled waste.
These were then displayed in businesses and venues across the village. Some were sold in aid of the Bloom initiative at the Goring Village Greenfingers club’s summer show in August.
The judges also praised the committee and its volunteers for beautifying Goring and its bridge to Streatley on a low budget.
They keep their costs down by planting up more than 40 hanging baskets from seed at the Bridles’ home in Cleeve Road and then watering them on a rota basis.
Other features this year included further planting at Goring station and a mural of wildflowers on the eastern platform by artist Sarah Pye, from Sonning Common, which the group commissioned.
Members also installed an old boat at Goring lock which they renamed Bloomin’ Boatiful and filled with summer flowers.
The Goring 2nd cub group planted real sunflowers on a patch of land in Glebe Ride.
The village, which first entered Britain in Bloom in 2012, was awarded a place in the national finals after winning its fourth gold at regional level last year.
It won its fifth regional gold last month and also holds two silver gilt awards.
Friday’s ceremony began with a drinks reception where Mr and Mrs Bridle and Mrs Hurst met representatives from the other shortlisted towns and viewed displays of their work.
They then enjoyed a two-course dinner before the award winners were announced.
Mrs Bridle said: “We were genuinely and utterly shocked at the announcement and it felt surreal to be up on stage collecting this enormous glass trophy.
“We had the chance to get a feel for the quality of the other entries beforehand and didn’t know where we stood because there were some visually impressive entries in the running.
“The judges made a big thing of the fact that we were a first-time entry and said we were incredibly colourful when they visited. They knew we would be a high-scorer because we ticked all the right boxes and said the hanging baskets were the best they’d ever seen.
“That’s a real compliment considering that we do them ourselves. We really slog away throughout the summer to keep them in top condition and you’re always up against nature with issues like greenfly.
“The judges were also very surprised at how much we were able to achieve with relatively few resources and loved the recycling element of the sunflower project, especially as it involved children.
“Rosemary wasn’t able to attend because tickets were limited but she has been bouncing up and down with joy since we found out. Her project certainly played a big part in the result because it involved so many people in the community.”
Mrs Bridle and her husband first entered Goring in the regional competition after organising the village’s celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, when they put up dozens of hanging baskets containing red, white and blue flowers.
Mrs Bridle said: “We had no idea what it was about. We knew flowers were important but it’s also about conserving the environment, educating children and promoting physical and mental health — everything to do with caring for the place where you live.
“We were only thinking about the regional competition and never considered that in time we’d compete at national level. We’ve always done it primarily to give the people of Goring something to enjoy.
“However, one of the regional judges told us that she knew we could go much further from the moment she first visited.”
In 2017, the committee’s preparations and the judges’ visit were filmed for an episode of BBC 2’s Britain in Bloom, which was broadcast last year.
Mrs Bridle said: “I thought the BBC only wanted to film us because I’m a bit of a gas bag but we’re seen now as having an idea about how it should be done. We’ve definitely moved up a notch or two from the early days.”
The committee may come up with more new ideas for next year’s competition but its main priority will be involving more people to keep the high standard going.
Mrs Bridle said: “It’s not all about winning, although that’s a big part of it. We want to make sure that what we’ve created over the years is cared for in the future and that’s the biggest challenge.
“We hope the parish council will help to maintain infrastructure as it’s not much effort to put a lick of new paint on a bench or ask for a damaged lamppost to be repaired.
“Keeping the village looking nice will attract more visitors and more income for the businesses so it’s very much part of the glue that keeps the community together.”
Mrs Brook, who retired after 21 years as head of art at Rupert House School in Henley in 2015, came up with the idea after designing a logo featuring sunflowers for Mrs Bridle’s committee.
She wanted to launch a community project which would encourage children to respect the environment and thought it was the perfect opportunity.
She held sunflower-making workshops at the Care Hub at The Arcade and worked with pupils at Goring Primary School and patients at the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed.
Mrs Brook said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the result. For Goring to be recognised as the best small town is fantastic and makes you realise just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful area and to have the backing of the community.
“I was personally overjoyed and over the moon to have played a part in our success — it was a dream come true.”
She said she had ideas for future Bloom projects but was keeping them a secret so that competing towns and villages couldn’t use them.
A national gold award also went to Reading in Bloom, whose projects included planting at the cemetary and crematorium off Henley Road in Caversham and at Caversham Court Gardens, off Church Road.
Awards ceremony photo: Royal Horticultural Society and Richard Dawson
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