Exeter comes under the spotlight today as judging starts in this year’s RHS Britain in Bloom competition.
The city is a National Finalist representing the South West Region in the ‘small city’ category – and the judging programme starts on Monday, July 4, and ends when the National Judges make their final assessment on Monday, August 1.
The first day will see the judges in St David’s ‘Village’ from 9am starting at St Nicholas Priory and then go on to St James ‘Village’ in the afternoon, starting in Bury Meadow Park. The following day, Tuesday, July 5, the judges will start at 9am in Pinces Gardens for the ‘Bloomin’ St Thomas’ group before heading off to Wonford ‘Village’ in the afternoon.
Michael Foy, the lead judge from Penzance, is the doyenne of SW in Bloom and is looking forward to meeting all the volunteers and community groups from across the city who donate their time to improving their streets, parks and neighbourhoods.
Judging on July 19 raises the stakes higher with Exeter’s entry for the SW Tourism Cup to be judged by Barry Cruse of Bath and Tom Sharples of Sutton Seeds. The four hour judging tour takes them from St Thomas, through the City Centre, Rougemont Gardens, Northernhay Gardens, up to Duryard Valley and through the University grounds. They will be assessing the quality of Exeter’s horticulture, the environmental achievements (including cleanliness and biodiversity) and the contribution made by the community.
They will meet community groups and sponsors at Reed Hall (University of Exeter) at the end of judging for informal discussions and photographs. The results will be announced at the SW in Bloom Regional Awards to be held at Taunton Cricket Ground on Thursday, October 6.
And this leads to Exeter’s biggest challenge – the National Finals judging on August 1. Exeter is the first of ‘small cities’ to be judged, which include Harrogate, Canterbury, Derry, Rugby, Loughborough and Colchester. The visiting National judges will be taken round Exeter in a prototype Electric Land Rover Defender, sponsored by ‘Exeter City Futures’, and hosted for lunch at the University, sponsored by Cathedral Financial Management.
Hanging floral displays in the High Street are sponsored by The Exeter BID and administration costs (including the creation and management of the Exeter in Bloom Website) are supported by The Exeter Board (Exeter City Council + Devon County Council).
The results will be announced at the National Finalists event in Birmingham on October 14.
Exeter re-entered RHS Britain in Bloom in 2013 after a 25-year absence. Since then the success of the participating community groups has pushed the city up the league-table to the position of regional representative in the small city category.
In 2013 Exeter had six small community entries in the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ category. This year Exeter has 28 plus four self-proclaimed ‘Villages’ in the Pennant category plus the SW Tourism Cup entry for the City+University and the National Finalist entry.
This comes at a time when parks and green spaces budgets have been slashed in local authorities right across the country, including Exeter, and local community groups are making real efforts to maintain the standard of these important public spaces.