Top award is a blooming big surprise

INCREDIBLE: Julia Smith and Micheal Portway with the trophy.
INCREDIBLE: Julia Smith and Micheal Portway with the trophy.

Twelve years of precise planting and painstaking pruning paid off with a prize that members of Halstead in Bloom never dared to dream of.

Those who make up the group say they are still coming to terms with the surprise of winning the best town category in Britain in Bloom.

The town achieved the contest’s gold standard and beat off strong competition from Newquay and Nantwich to win the award during a ceremony in Guernsey.

Chairman Michael Portway, who has been part of the team since it formed in 2000, said volunteers and the town council had created the best floral display Halstead had ever seen.

“Being named best town in Britain is something we never dreamed off,” he said.

“It is a fitting reward to everyone involved and testament to the community spirit.”

The town was announced as the overall winner of Anglia in Bloom in September, but the team did not envisage repeating its triumph on a national scale despite planting 10,000 plants in preparation for this year’s event.

“We didn’t expect it, but we hoped,” said In Bloom secretary Julia Smith, who was one of six members to make the trip to Guernsey.

“It was a great thrill to win and the tension on the day was incredible. When the results were announced, it was unbelievable and we were straight on the phone to everyone back home so they could have a good party.”

The success has led to a steady stream of visitors descending on the town to catch a glimpse of the colourful displays.

“We have already had lots of people coming, but they need to be quick as we start preparing for next year in about two weeks,” said Mr Portway.

Halstead is now through to the Champion of Champions Britain in Bloom next year.