Three judges from the Thames & Chilterns Region in Bloom competition were given a warm welcome to Henley this morning at the beautifully kept Henley Bowling Club in Mill Meadows. The judges were Mike Gass from Abingdon, Julie Graham from Bray and Sally Swift from Caversham who was one of the judges from last year. Each year the judges are a combination of a previous judge and a new judge so that one of the judges has a good perspective on what different areas and projects looked like the year before. Julie Graham is a new member of the judging panel this year – she was delighted to be asked by Kate Dagnall of the Regional Committee last year when Bray was a gold Regional and silver gilt National winner. She said, “It will be really good to be on the other side of the judging today.”
At the entrance to the Bowling Club a beautiful display of flowers and a decorated tree made by children from the Mill Meadows Nursery welcomed the judges.
Before the judging tour started, Chair of Henley in Bloom committee, Councillor Kellie Hinton made a presentation highlighting the Henley in Bloom projects and initiatives including the Gainsborough Project, the Hit Litter and Hanging Basket campaigns, the Garden Buddies and the school competitions to name just a few. She said, “Henley in Bloom is more than just about flowers, it is about civic pride”. Kellie went on to say that The Regional theme, ‘Branching Out’ has not only been about planting trees; it has been about reaching out to the community and getting people involved.
The official judging then started with a tour of Mill and Marsh Meadows including viewing the Wildlife Area managed by the Henley Wildlife Group with support from the Council Park Services. The judges then walked around the formal area of the new Twinning Beds, the Rotary Garden, the Sensory Garden and the “Henley in Blooms” Celebration Beds.
The tour then went on to Station Park and the floral engine, along the Reading Road taking in the Lions Wishing Well created by Henley Lions and turning round at the Tesco roundabout with the boat on.
The judges were then taken to Sacred Heart School in Gravel Hill where the pupils are keen gardeners and then on to the Gainsborough Estate where the entrance features two flower beds created by the residents of Gainsborough with support from Henley in Bloom.
The newly created “Incredible Edibles” bed with herbs and vegetables outside the Fire Station on West Street was the next stop on the tour which was planted by residents of West Street, the Allotment Association, Gardening Buddies and Fire Fighters using donated plants from residents and allotment holders. Also the judges were shown the new traffic island planters at Northfield End.
The tour then went down the Fairmile to the newly refurbished memorial to Sir Frank Crisp at the Fairmile Cemetery and then back over Henley Bridge to the Greencoft Allotments next to Henley Cricket ground. There the judges met with Marisa Francini, Allotment Association Committee member and Henley in Bloom Sponsorship Secretary.
The final part of the tour was a walk back across the bridge looking at Singers Park and Red Lion Lawn where the newly installed Ama mermaid statue was seen, up Hart Street looking at the Phillimore Fountain which has been renovated and planted up, before arriving back for lunch at the Kings Arms Barn which was provided by local Allotment Association member, Doug Richards.
Kellie Hinton tweeted after the judging was over later, “Our first judging day is out of the way and we are ready to focus on nationals. Big thank you to everybody involved, what a day!”