On Friday 12th July, judges from East Midlands in Bloom came to Belper to view our blooming marvellous flower displays and gardens, and see how we measure up against other competitors.
The judges were Joyce Slater, the Chair of East Midlands in Bloom, and Sharon Sutton.
The competition judges the whole town, including many spaces which might not be expected. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only the council maintained gardens which are seen and assessed. A non-political group of representatives from many Belper organisations and groups combine to organise our In Bloom entry for the competition, deciding what the judges should be told about, and what they will see. Not all of the spaces included to showcase Belper are seen in person by the judges.
The judges started their tour at St. John’s Chapel, where they met our visitors from our Twin Town, Pawtucket. The Pawtucket delegation were able to tell them about how Belper inspired them to take the competition all the way to Rhode Island, with Blackstone Valley holding its own contest this year, Blackstone in Bloom. Blackstone Valley is their equivalent of Amber Valley, these two boroughs are also twinned.
The Gardening Club had decorated the Peace Memorial on the Market Place early, especially for Belper in Bloom. These blooms will be replaced for the Peace celebration centenary next weekend.
Then the judges visited the Memorial Gardens. Although Belper Town Council has responsibility for the displays in the Memorial Gardens, it is the work of the Grounds and General Services team – Stewart Hopkinson, Andrew Sanders, and Jake Howard. The credit for the beauty and creativity of these displays belongs to these three men.
This year, the Memorial Gardens were the chosen relocation for the ancient pagan water blessing ritual of the Well Dressings (although there is no water in the Memorial Gardens). So the judges got to see the additional decoration of the Well Dressings in this location, instead of in the River Gardens, which are about to become a building site due to the imminent rebuilding of the Swiss Tea Rooms.
The judges also enjoyed Transition Belper’s rewilding and sustainable planting at Belper Train Station. Transition Belper, who maintain the station gardens throughout the year, had volunteers present to speak to the judges, who asked them about the sustainable aspects of the planting, which include hand weeding to avoid the use of weedkillers going into the water system, and planting that allows survival in the substrate without watering, relying on ecological knowledge and rainfall.
From there they went to St. Peter’s Church to see the community garden, and the rewilding which contributed to the church winning an eco-award last year, and becoming a stop on Belper Open Gardens.
Joyce Slater told us that they can’t give us any clues about what they think. The judges said that they have to take on board everything that is available, and that online resources about floral Belper are really helpful, as are the packs which are created for them by the Belper in Bloom team, along with their own notes, and photographs.
The judges have a lot of towns and gardens to visit, and will then deliberate their decisions until September, when the results will be published.
Photographs by Jim Bell and Clare Washbrook