Green-fingered staff and volunteers alike are celebrating after Durham City bagged prestigious Britain in Bloom honours.
In place of the Britain in Bloom Finals Tour, this year, the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) expert panel considered 118 digitally submitted projects across five categories that recognise distinct aspects of community gardening. Each entry demonstrated a clear dedication to supporting, transforming, and connecting communities through the power of horticulture.
And Durham County Council-supported Durham In Bloom has been successful in the Cultivating your community: Strengthening communities and building links between diverse groups of people category, while also being given an overall Outstanding rating.
The city has been a long-standing supporter of the In Bloom competitions for over 30 years. Regionally, and coronavirus aside, Durham City has won either the Best Large Town trophy or Best Small City trophy for seventeen of the last 22 years. In recent years the whole county has developed its community involvement work in relation to the awards in order to build on its success.
The council’s Civic Pride team began the process of reaching out to the community and was able to include activities to provide positive, sustainable environmental benefits. Primarily designed around engagement with community volunteers, they support, encourage and recognise their work where possible.
- Support grants of £500 to community groups to encourage participation in the RHS’s It’s Your Neighbourhoods category
- Sought potential new groups like Gilesgate Primary School and Yellow Wellies Nursery which attended publicity planting events
- Re-establish contact with old friends like Durham Prison (the Community within the Community) and Durham Train Station.
RHS judges said: “Durham in Bloom is a fantastic example of how Bloom groups can work with community members. It is clear from your video that your projects have contributed to greater civic pride in the community.
“Along with Civic Pride investing into It’s Your Neighbourhood projects, this demonstrates how well you are doing in supporting and growing your community projects. Your partners are clearly proud of being part of your community projects, further enhancing the impact of your work across the city.”
The volunteers who help the Civic Pride team range in age from three-years-old to 93-years-old, with varying projects across the county currently ongoing.
Also praised was a new initiative at Durham University’s Botanic Gardens, in which the venue’s head gardener has used social media to engage with the community for 300 days.
Alex Taylor, from the Friends of the Botanic Garden group which helps to maintain the garden, said: “We’re all from Durham and we love the Botanic Garden. It’s a great asset for Durham.
“Coming here is a great social experience. It’s lovely to be recognised – we have great pride in our lovely city.”
Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “It is fantastic to see the work of our staff and volunteers recognised by winning these awards.
“Having such colourful and inviting displays on show gives our residents a real lift while also helping to draw in even more visitors to County Durham. This is particularly important as we bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025.”