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Prisoners Capture Britain In Bloom Title
by Jennie Lowe
October 7, 2001


A gang of prisoners from a gaol near Dundee will learn today that they've helped a Highland village win one of the UK's most prestigious honours.
Inmates from Castle Huntley Prison, which houses offenders at the end of long sentences, have designed and built a Celtic cross, park benches and signs for the community of Comrie - enabling it to win the title of Best Large Village in the Britain in Bloom competition, jointly organized this year by Tidy Britain Group and the RHS.
Working in the relaxed atmosphere of the prison's Fabrication Welding Unit, prisoners have learnt or developed a range of metalwork skills, which have then been used to help charity and community projects across Scotland. For three former prisoners, the experiences they learnt have recently helped them into full-time employment. 
"Horticulture and caring for your neighbourhood has traditionally been seen as the sole concern of the respectable middle-classes" said Alan Woods, Chief Executive of Tidy Britain Group who along with the Royal Horticultural Society organises Britain in Bloom. "The work these prisoners have done has thankfully smashed that myth and been both a positive example to the rest of the community as well as helping the inmates in their quest to find work and become responsible citizens."
Britain in Bloom urges communities up and down the country to improve the appearance of their environment. Since it began in the early 1960's, it has become the biggest horticultural competition in Europe.
Comrie are a typical Britain in Bloom winner in that theirs was a whole community effort. Aside from the help of Castle Huntley, local businesses, residents and school children all played a part. The crowning glory of their effort was the transformation of the derelict white church into a community centre.
Among the other winners at the Britain in Bloom Final today was Dungannon in Northern Ireland - who by stunning judges with their grasp of environmental issues, won the Town Category. And Port Sunlight in the North West of England, the site of William Hesketh Lever's first soap factory, won the Urban Community Award.

The winning finalists were:

Nottingham

Large City

Bath

City

St Helier, Jersey

Large Town

Dungannon

Town

Sidmouth

Small Town

Pitlochry, Perthshire

Small Country Town

Comrie

Large Village

Thorpe Salvin

Village

Port Sunlight

Urban Community

Leeds

Inner City

The Britain in Bloom awards were handed out by BBC Gardeners' World presenter Nigel Colborn at a gala ceremony - traditionally know as the "Gardening Oscars" - at Dumfries October 3, 2001.
From the 4th, the Campaign will be organised by the Royal Horticultural Society - and its future looks brighter than ever. "Britain in Bloom is an outstanding campaign of community involvement, good gardening practice and cleanliness initiatives, that result in some truly inspirational improvements to local areas across the UK. We look forward to supporting the efforts of all community entries that make Britain in Bloom the relevant, vibrant campaign that it is" says Rebecca Bowen, Head of Regional Development at the RHS.

Biographies of winners

Nottingham - Large City
Nottingham was awash with colour when the judges visited in August. The Council House and Market Square in the City Centre were a welcoming sight for visitors but what particularly grabbed the judges was the bedding displays at Nottingham Castle. The figurine of Robin Hood added colour and a sense of fun to the area and the message on one display, "Save the Environment" was poignant and visually pleasing. Children from Middleton School played their part, as did the residents of Hyson Green - who continue to transform their community in such an enthusiastic way. Nottingham University also built a Millennium Garden - described as a minimalist creation by staff and students. 

Bath - City
Bath was described by the Britain in Bloom judges as: "Floral bliss!" And while the professional approach to maintaining the parks and other public areas won high praise the most eye-catching site had to be - a three-dimensional floral sculpture of Bob the Builder!. Children from Widcombe Infant School and Western Saints Primary School were also cited for their efforts as were the community of Moorland Road who's shops and houses were literally covered in flowers.

St Helier - Large Town
The Channel Islands have a long standing reputation for horticultural excellence and St Helier with its outstanding high street floral displays, continues to make a huge contribution. The all round involvement of the community in this year's effort greatly impressed the judges, with local businesses and children at La Rouge Bouillon's School playing an important part. The bold bedding displays and coloured coded posts carrying baskets were described by the judges as "of Herculean proportions", while the work undertaken by the NatWest Bank which transformed their premises into "something like a flower show.. made even banking a pleasant experience!" 

Dungannon - Town
After its performance in this year's competition, Dungannon can lay claim to being one of the most environmental communities in the whole of the United Kingdom. From the start of the tour the judges were struck by the town's impeccably clean streets. They also saw plenty of evidence of recycling facilities and willingness on behalf of the community to use them. Residents had also thought about natural resources and had introduced a controlled, self watering scheme for the Marketing Square and surrounding streets. Roadside planting of shrubs and bedding had been planned and carried out by local schoolchildren. Concluded the judges, "Dungannon was once renowned for its linen industry. Now that has gone, the town has forged a new reputation as a centre for environmental excellence." 

Sidmouth - Small Town
The International Folk Festival was in full swing when this picturesque Devon town was judged. And when it came to horticulture, Sidmouth had plenty to sing about. There were lavish but tasteful displays of flowers decorating homes, hotels, guest houses, pubs and businesses. The Connaught Gardens were also a riot of colour. But pride of place went to the three dimensional carpet of flowers that formed Fred - the peacock! Fred can be seen at Blackmore Gardens along with a series of scuttling tortoises on a nearby lawn.

Comrie - Large Village
The Britain in Bloom judges spoke of the "unbelievable enthusiasm, dedication and devotion to the village" demonstrated by the residents of Comrie. This was typified by local children who designed a fence around their school and created hugely impressive school garden. The new Millennium Rose Garden and the many flowerbeds around the village also caught the eye as did the natural woodland surrounding Comrie. 

Thorpe Salvin - Village
Thorpe Salvin has a population of 400 and is situated in South Yorkshire close to the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, it is home to Thorp Hall and has just one pub - The Parish Oven. As one of the judges noted, "In the true spirit of the British village everything seems to happen in the church or the local hostelry." The quality of floral bedding, herbaceous perennial and shrub planting was described as "exceptional" as were the residents' gardens, deemed, "by far the best in the category."

Port Sunlight - Urban Community
Situated in Merseyside, Port Sunlight is a picturesque 19th century village built by William Hesketh Lever for his soap workers. And true to his ideals, Port Sunlight remains a delightful place to visit and live. The judges were truly impressed by the permanent planting in the village timed to look good whatever the season. Port Sunlight is home to 15 hectares of grass, 2.5 hectares of shrubberies, 2,150m2 of Rose Beds and 1,050m2 of bedding plants. All are kept in beautiful condition. 

Leeds - Inner City
"Striking" "bold" "tasteful". These were the words used by the judges to describe the flowers and planting schemes in the successful and vibrant modern city of Leeds. Particularly of note, was the new £12 million Millennium Square and the East Gate Fountain where a former 1930's petrol station has been transformed to create a water feature with gardens making an impressive entrance to the city. The judges also liked the disabled person's garden in North Street.

Discretionary Award Winners

The Britain in Bloom Floral Award - Bath For producing the best floral displays

The Permanent Landscaping Award - St Helier As they produced the highest quality new and extensive landscaping

The Bob Hare Award - Forres, Highlands of Scotland Presented to the Applegrove Primary School for their outstanding contribution to their community's Britain in Bloom effort

Commercial Award - Southend-on-Sea To KeyMed a town centre business that offered outstanding support to the seaside town's entry into the competition.

Tidy Britain Group Trophy - Newcastle-upon-Tyne Awarded to the community who did most to improve their local environment and keep it free of litter, dog fouling, graffiti and vandalism.

Tourism Award - Lynton and Lynmouth, Devon Presented to the community who did most to give the visitor a pleasing view and a warm welcome.

Best Public Park Award - Dumfries Awarded to the Crichton, which was deemed to have the highest standard of maintenance well managed facilities and beautiful horticulture.

The Going for Green Trophy - Tatsfield, Surrey Presented in the name of one of Britain's leading environmental campaign, this is given to the finalist that has displayed a sound grasp of green issues.

John Govier of Sidmouth, Maysie McCambridge of Keswick, Winnie Goodwin of Cheswardine in Shropshire and Frank Holt of Congleton, Cheshire were also cited for their individual contributions to this year's Britain in Bloom.

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