Cheers as town strikes gold in national awards

Britain in Bloom judges visiting Wigan town centre - Nigel Bishop and Brendan Mowforth
Britain in Bloom judges visiting Wigan town centre - Nigel Bishop and Brendan Mowforth

Wigan is officially blooming brilliant after scooping a gold medal and category victory in Britain’s most prestigious horticultural contest.

The borough’s entry won the Large City category and the top Gold rating in the final of Britain in Bloom at a glamorous ceremony in Birmingham last night.

Wigan competed against Belfast City and Ealing in London, having won the North West competition to become the region’s representative on the national stage.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which organises Britain in Bloom, said the award confirmed Wigan as “one of the greenest and most beautiful large cities in the country”.

The prize is the latest sensational achievement for the borough in the competition, with Wigan having to punch well above its weight against major urban centres due to its population.

A delegation led by Wigan Council travelled to Birmingham to receive the award at a prize-giving hosted by TV gardening expert Chris Beardshaw.

RHS judges spoke of how impressed they were by the range of floral displays, open spaces and havens for wildlife there were in the borough after taking a tour which included allotments, schools, parks and the town centre.

They also looked at community involvement and met local In Bloom volunteers and business supporters at a showcase event in Believe Square at the top of The Wiend.

The judges’ report said: “Wigan has undergone a transformation in both physical terms and the approach being taken. Improved standards have been achieved with new methods of working, involving the community in both planning and physically carrying out projects.

“This is creating physical improvements but also improving community cohesion and creating pride in Wigan. The Deal is a brand Wigan Council uses to work with the community to improve the environment.

“The council also offers staff the opportunity to volunteer for two days each year.”

There were further celebrations as Wigan was awarded an RHS Britain in Bloom Environment Award in the discretionary prizes given out last night.

A total of 72 finalists made it through to the Britain in Bloom awards, with prizes being given out to villages, coastal communities, urban neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

Entrants were vying for gold, silver gilt, silver or bronze medals, with the discretionary awards given out for excellence in particular fields.

Participants were assessed for how well they got communities involved, took responsibility for caring for the local environment and the quality of their floral displays and horticultural achievements.

Judging panel chairman Roger Burnett said: “This has been a truly outstanding year for Britain in Bloom with local communities devoting tremendous amounts of time and effort into greening grey areas and sharing the many health and social benefits of horticulture.

“The judges were very impressed by the way communities refused to let the many challenges they faced hold them back. It’s fitting that their efforts are recognised and celebrated.”