Wednesday, September 16, 2015

May the Bloom be with you

This was the day when we would find out if all our hard work in the village had paid off. I must confess to being rather nervous even though I knew we'd done some good work. Maggie picked me up bright and early and we had what seemed to be a rather long journey over to the Amex Stadium in Brighton where the ceremony was being held. I've been there before to give a talk about dementia but in a different section of it.

We were directed to a parking area near the entrance and were just leaving the car when a rather aggressive attendant told us we couldn't park there and had to go back to park in a different zone. So off we went to park just 200 metres away.

I was having a bad hair day and was rocking the cocker spaniel look with overly curly and flyaway locks (which serves me right for having plaited it the day before!). Maggie sensibly clipped her hair up but I stubbornly left mine down.

Side view of the stadium from the car park

We were directed upstairs to the conference room and had a good view of the football pitch

Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club are nicknamed the Seagulls, hence the images on the seats.

There was coffee and biscuits before we were ushered into the conference room (I wrapped a cookie up in napkin to take home for Mike and Maggie took one for her daughter). It was a large room with tables set out for representatives from each town/village. We were sharing a table with people from Angmering who had won several awards before.

At this sort of event there's always lots of waiting around and so I took a few photos before all the presentations began.

The ceiling was amazing and had been designed with giant waves (Brighton is beside the sea in case you didn't know)

This lady, from Rustington (who won loads of categories) has a tradition of dressing up for the event!

This is what it was all about

I love the flowers - very Orla Kiely with a 1960's vibe

Southern Water sponsor the event and are encouraging people to garden in a more environmentally friendly way

There were 2 presenters, one of whom was Jim Buttress a well renowned gardener and TV presenter. He was formerly the Queen's gardener & was superintendent of the Royal Parks in London for 25 years. Most recently he hosted the BBC's Big Allotment Challenge. He's also a lovely chap and gave a talk at our local Garden Society last year. Maggie's known him for years.

The main presenter was Peter Holman, the Chairman of South and South East in Bloom and he appears in a photo later on. The event is sponsored by Southern Water who have helped changed attitudes to water conservation by encouraging sustainable planting.

I must mention at this point that Maggie is herself a judge for Britain in Bloom so she knows exactly what's required and we were very lucky to have her guiding us through the whole process. Of course, she wasn't allowed to judge our entry though! You can read all about our judgement day here.

There were so many different categories of entrants for example large towns/villages, urban communities, coastal towns, community projects, conservation areas,  parks (of different sizes), cemeteries, churchyards, business landscapes and allotments to name but a few. This meant there was lots of clapping and we were instructed to clap as the recipients came up for their awards but to remain silent as they returned to their table so that the next category could be announced.

I was delighted that some of the places I know well received prizes and I scribbled lots of notes in my programme so I wouldn't forget:
  • Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells got a Gold in the 'Large Parks' category.
  • Reculver Country Park in Deal got Gold in the 'Heritage Parks' category.
  • Tunbridge Wells got a Gold in the 'Large Town' category.
  • Samphire Hoe got Gold in the 'Country Parks' category.
Then there was a break for lunch and amazingly I got my vegetarian lunch and Maggie got her dairy-free version. This in itself made my day as you've no idea the number of times mine either goes missing or I'm presented with fish!

We were both a bit nervous as our village was called out and then we saw that we'd got a Silver Gilt which was an amazing achievement for our first entry. I took this photo of the screen before heading off with Maggie to collect our certificate. We also won our category by default as there were no other entries. This does not detract from our achievement at all and I hope other small villages will be encouraged to have a go next year.

What you can't see here is that the name of our village was missing a 't' and appeared as 'Ewhurs Green'!

Our certificate was presented along with a trophy and we had our photos taken. When I got back to he table the lady sitting next to me had very kindly used my camera to take this shot of us. We'll have to wait for the official photos. * Now included below*

Left to right: Tom Hart Dyke (if you haven't heard of him he's a very interesting person and well worth looking up), Maggie Whittaker, Susie Hewer, Chris Collins (celebrity gardener who was taught by Maggie many years ago)

Silver gilt certificate and category award

We had secretly hoped to get a Silver so Silver Gilt was brilliant and when we looked at our marks we were only 6 points off achieving Gold!

The trophy was hard to capture…..

..…so Maggie held a napkin behind which made it easier to see!

More awards were announced and more happy people collected their certificates. There were special awards for people who'd made an outstanding contribution to the Britain in Bloom campaign and also a 'Lifetime Achievement award' recognising the hard work and perseverance of that individual.

The last section was for the most points gained within each county. Maggie and I decided that either Battle or Bexhill (judged by Maggie herself) would win our county. The first to be announced was Dorset and it was no surprise that Bournemouth won as they seemed to have won loads of different categories. I was getting rather hot and so clipped my hair up to get some air onto my neck.

Next up was East Sussex and I was watching people on the Bexhill table as they announced the winner as Ewhurst Green. As the name registered in my mind Maggie turned to look askance at me and we both exclaimed "that's us!!!" I gave her a hug and then everything went into slow motion. Maggie stood up and I followed, unclipping my hair at the same time and shaking it out. We wove through the tables to get up to the stage and people were saying "well done" as I squeezed past and I had the biggest grin ever as I reached Tom Hart Dyke who shook my hand and said how pleased he was for us as it was our first ever entry!

I don't have any photos from that as yet as I'd packed my camera away by this stage so the lady on our table couldn't take a photo of us as she had done the time before. *Here it is!*

County winners!

So here it is, our wonderful award for most points in our county, having beaten off the big hitters such as Battle, Bexhill-on-Sea, Brighton, Hailsham & Eastbourne. By the time this appears on my blog we will have announced the result to our village and I can't wait to see their reaction.

Now we'll have to aim for Gold next year and I've already had some banter with the Bexhill-in-Bloom team who'd like to take away the County award (we'll have to see about that!!!)……..……..

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