Newcastle under Lyme wins RHS Britain in Bloom top award, Crown Arch in Queens Gardens
Written by Hitmix Local News on 24 October 2023
Newcastle-under-Lyme has crowned its landmark 850th anniversary year by winning the top Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom award for the whole country.
The national triumph comes days after Newcastle swept up at the regional Heart of England in Bloom awards, winning first place in the small city category, collecting its 21st consecutive gold award and also receiving a judge’s discretionary award for outstanding achievement.
Simon Tagg, Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, said: “It is impossible to win this prize unless the whole community pulls together: schools, businesses, community groups and volunteers have worked together to make this possible and I am so proud of this shared achievement.”
Newcastle has a long standing record of consistently high standards, as well as winning a gold award 21 times in a row at the regional awards, the Borough took a hat-trick of regional championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In recent years it’s won the national ‘small city’ title and a gold award in the Champion of Champions round – but has never before won the overall top prize.
In the RHS Britain in Bloom ‘small city’ category, Newcastle was competing against Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, Derry in Northern Ireland and the Borough of Oadby and Wigston in Leicestershire. Not only did it win, but the quality of its entry was so high, it received the Gold Award.
It also received a certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Gardening.
Such has been the Council’s consistently high standards, as well as winning a gold award 21 times in a row at the regional awards, the Borough took a hat-trick of regional championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In recent years it’s previously won the national ‘small city’ title and a gold award in the Champion of Champions round – but has never before won the overall top prize.
The national inspection took place earlier this summer and as well as seeing traditional set-piece floral displays, judges visited projects undertaken by community groups and volunteers.
Starting at the Brampton, judges toured parts of Bradwell, Knutton, Silverdale, past Keele and then round to south-west Newcastle before returning to the town centre.
Queens Gardens was planted with annual bedding on the theme of the 850th celebrations, and the entry took a sustainable approach by providing herbaceous and perennial planting on town centre roundabouts, including for pollinators, and native tree planting as part of the Urban Tree Planting Strategy.
Considerations for the judges included the extent of community involvement, the restoration of habitats and evidence of good ecological practices and year-round activity by volunteers, as well as the range of plant species and work to support wildlife.
This year volunteers have already donated the equivalent of 4,000 hours of work.
Simon Tagg added: “Taking part in the national and regional ‘in Bloom’ awards is so important: not only does it make where we live a smarter, better place, it pulls communities together to make a meaningful contribution to sustainability, recycling and energy conservation.”
Local apprentices have designed and created a unique archway for a landmark Newcastle site.
Commissioned by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and under the guidance of local sculptor Andy Edwards, apprentices from local engineering firm IAE installed the 3m high galvanised steel archway, featuring a crown at its peak, at the entrance to Queens Gardens.
The installation is the latest in a series of public works celebrating the 850th anniversary of the Borough being granted a Royal Charter, commemorating the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and celebrating the town’s successful connection with Britain in Bloom.
Picture : IAE apprentices Tom, left, and Jack, after the installation of the new arch at Queens Gardens.
Craig Skelding, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and Heritage, said: “The archway is the latest of a series of public artworks celebrating our 850th anniversary.
“We’re aware that a decorative arch, topped with a crown, framed the entrance to Queens Gardens in the 1960s and we wanted to recreate that.
“The final result is excellent and a credit to the apprentices at IAE.”
The arch’s crown is a twice full size representation of the St Edward Crown traditionally used in Coronations and the crown and its jewels are fabricated in flowers and fauna typically found in North Staffordshire.
Chris Morris, Learning and Development Manager at IAE, said: “This was a wonderful project to be involved with; it gave our apprentices the chance to show off their skills for a real life project and also delivered a fantastic sculpture for the town.
“As a company it’s great to be able to give something back to the local community and we hope that the people of Newcastle enjoy seeing the structure as they walk through the gardens. I’m sure it’s something the apprentices will remember for the rest of their lives too and we’re immensely proud of what they’ve achieved.”
The project was supported by Derek Mawby Paving Ltd and Newcastle South LAP.
As well as the archway, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has commissioned the retiling of a near subway with a unique decoration featuring images of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II intertwined with the 850th anniversary logo, and is seeking to erect a statue of Queen Elizabeth II in Queens Gardens.
Cllr Craig Skelding added: “This year is a special year for Newcastle and we wanted to mark the 850th anniversary and commemorate the life of Queen Elizabeth.
“At the same time, Queens Gardens is a centrepiece for our Britain in Bloom efforts over many successful years and we wanted the archway to reflect the community’s long-standing success and commitment to the competition by incorporating local flowers into the design.”