READING has been awarded a prestigious Gold Award in the 2019 Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) 55th annual Britain in Bloom community gardening competition.
The RHS Britain in Bloom judges announced the winners of each category and finalists’ final score at an awards ceremony held at the RHS Lindley Hall in London on Friday 26th October 2019.
The judges visited the town in July and were impressed with the work that had been carried out to “unite communities, volunteers and gardeners.”
They said their Reading tour most certainly had “a wow factor and showed consistently the heritage, horticultural, community and business passion that unites this entry.” The judges saw: “…excellent and extensive evidence of pride of place and how Reading is as a city. From the moment the judges stepped off the train and throughout the tour we saw excellent examples of civic pride.”
The judges noted Reading “demonstrated strongly their commitment to being a sustainable city,” and were impressed with “Some 56 hectares of wildflowers have been introduced to the borough and that these are being rolled out extensively on verges.”
There was praise for displays in Caversham Court Gardens, the Forbury and the Abbey Ruins and for the town centre and Oracle Shopping Centre’s floral displays. The judges also noted Green Park as “an excellent example of biodiversity management in a business setting.”
The judges were impressed by examples of community activities at Erleigh Road Community Garden and at Reading Old Cemetery in east Reading, the engagement of schoolchildren in gardening at Geoffrey Field Junior School in south Reading and from students at the University of Reading.
The judges summarized Reading’s entry: “From the town centre BID, The Oracle shopping centre, the gardening and street teams along with community groups, schools and a very committed Borough team and Reading in Bloom committee…..The support demonstrated has highlighted that Reading is going from strength to strength and this dedication has been reflected in awarding of a RHS Britain in Bloom Gold Medal.”
Marc Allridge, Reading in Bloom’s Chairman, said: “The whole Reading in Bloom committee is delighted with this result – it is an amazing achievement.
“I am particularly pleased as this is my first year as chairman. Reading really did blossom this year from the private and community gardens to businesses and allotments and the judges saw a town that really embraces its green spaces. We may be a hi tech city in all but name but we still allow nature to flourish. We thank all who contributed to our success even in a small way, and to our sponsors and supporters. Everyone can be very proud.”
Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “This is an fantastic accolade for Reading and one we should be extremely proud of. To achieve Gold in the national awards for the first time is wonderful news for the town. I’m particularly pleased the judges noted the work we’ve carried out on sustainability and biodiversity throughout the borough.
“This achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of many organisations and individuals and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved. Our success is a testament to the great partnership work between the Reading in Bloom Committee, local residents, schools and Reading’s gardening community, alongside our business community and Reading Council, all pulling together to show our civic pride at its best!”
This is Reading’s first ever Gold in the RHS national ‘City’ category, following its Silver Gilt Award in the national competition in 2018. Reading also achieved an overall Silver Gilt First in Category Award in the 2019 Regional Award Thames and Chiltern (City Category).
In the regional competition Reading was awarded a Judges Discretionary Award for business involvement. Henley Road Cemetery received a Silver Gilt Award in the Regional Parks and Open Spaces category and Ridgeline Trust Therapeutic Garden, Erleigh Road Community Garden and Southcote GrowAllot all received ‘Outstanding’ awards in the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood Category’.
Both the Forbury Gardens and Caversham Court Gardens, which were singled out for praise in the national award, have also been awarded a Green Flag and Green Heritage Award this summer. The Green Flag award recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the UK.
Notes to Editors
The Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Britain in Bloom competition is the largest horticultural event in Europe and attracts nearly 2,000 entries from cities, towns and villages across Britain. www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/britain-in-bloom
Now in its 55th year, the nationwide competition pits rural villages, urban corners and city centres against one another across a range of criteria that includes horticultural know-how, community engagement, efforts to bolster biodiversity and climate change adaptation. Finalists are put forward to the national finals based on their progress locally and will be scored by a team of RHS judges this summer.
The main aim of the competition is to encourage and celebrate local communities that strive to improve their local environment. Reading’s entry and bloom initiatives are undertaken in a partnership between Reading Borough Council and the voluntary Reading in Bloom organisation.
2019 marking criteria
The UK Finalist marking criteria has been updated for 2019 to reflect the increasing importance of community involvement and environmental stewardship. From this year, 40 per cent of all marks will be awarded to efforts in horticulture, with 30 per cent each devoted to community and environment, instead of the previous split of 50, 25 and 25.