The residents of Elswick, a village in Lancashire, are celebrating after being named Champion of Champions in the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Britain in Bloom UK Finals, seeing off competition from 77 other communities across the UK.
The coveted title recognises Elswick, a former agricultural village which at the turn of the century was uncared for and blighted by litter, vandalism and antisocial behaviour, as one of the cleanest, greenest and most beautiful places in Britain in 2017.
Dubbed ‘The Village of Flowers’ by locals, Elswick represented the North West region in the ‘best of the best’ Champion of Champions category and battled against Aberdeen, Harrogate, Hillsborough in Northern Ireland, Oldham, Portishead and St Peter Port in Guernsey to scoop the prestigious award.
This year, 78 Britain in Bloom groups were chosen to fly the flag for their region or nation in the UK-wide RHS competition following success in their respective areas the previous year, competing in categories including Champion of Champions, Urban Community and Business Improvement District.
As well as winning their category, Elswick was awarded a Gold medal, reflecting the exceptionally high standard reached across the three key criteria that groups are marked on: horticultural achievement, community participation and environmental responsibility.
Elswick’s entry impressed the RHS judges with its high impact floral displays, attention to detail and 1,000 strong support base which has translated into a wealth of stunning front gardens and business premises.
The group, which involves Elswick Parish Council, village organisations and around 50 volunteers who put in 30 hours each a year, has also made significant efforts to bring back the village’s lost heritage. They have recreated a community orchard with nearly 50 fruit trees and bee hives, a wildflower meadow and the ‘Avenue of Trees’ from scenes depicted in Windmill Land, a 1916 book about the area.
In the last year alone, the group has re-planted 600 native primroses, planted 2,000 crocus corms, 500 tulips and a further 1,000 bluebell bulbs, and installed additional bat and bird boxes and bug hotels. The group also provides ‘outdoor classroom’ areas for the local primary school and takes part in an innovative Christmas tree recycling scheme where discarded trees are used to help stabilise sand dunes on the nearby coast.
Elswick’s first appearance in the national RHS Britain in Bloom competition was in 2011 when they were awarded Silver Gilt. This was followed by Silver Gilt again in 2013 and Gold in 2014, before winning a Gold and the Village category in 2016.
Roger Burnett, chair of the RHS Britain in Bloom judges, said: “It’s clear that for the people of Elswick, Britain in Bloom is not only a competition but a way of life. Their entry was fantastic, very well thought through and of the highest standard.
“To be awarded Champion of Champions is a tremendous achievement. The group and its many volunteers should be applauded for how they’ve turned the village round into somewhere that is clean, green and beautiful and a source of pride for the whole community.”
Elswick in Bloom picked up their award at the RHS Britain in Bloom awards ceremony that was held last night in Llandudno, North Wales, and hosted by TV presenter and renowned garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair.
Britain in Bloom is now in its 53rd year and, for the first time, a new BBC Two series following the quintessentially British competition is set to air in spring 2018.
Image credit: RHS / Mark Waugh