Town proud of gold in elite floral contest

SMELLING THE ROSES: Volunteers, councillors and Halstead in Bloom committee members.
SMELLING THE ROSES: Volunteers, councillors and Halstead in Bloom committee members.
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The floral displays across Halstead once again drew esteemed recognition as the town was commended for its efforts on a national level.

Competing in the Champion of Champions section of Britain in Bloom for the first time, Halstead collected a gold award at the weekend.

The achievement caps a remarkable year for the town, which only set up an in bloom committee in 1999.

Julia Smith, who founded the group with Michael Portway – now honorary president – was at the awards ceremony on Saturday.

“It was very exciting and although we are a bit disappointed not to have won the overall top award of champion of champions, we are delighted with gold,” said Mrs Smith.

“We spoke to the judges after the results were announced and they said it was very tight. We were not too far away.”

More than 1,000 communities across the country entered this year’s Britain in Bloom, with Halstead among a select group of five at the pinnacle of the contest, with Lytham in Lancashire named as the overall winner.

Mrs Smith, treasurer and secretary of Halstead in Bloom, said the town had been invited into the elite category of the floral contest last year, after scooping the prize for the best entry in Anglia in Bloom.

“It was the first time we had been in this section and it was a real honour,” she said.

“We will not be in it next year as the RHS likes to have a different five in the champion of champions, but hopefully we will be invited back again at some point.”

Around £10,000 was spent on displays across the town, with volunteers putting in an estimated 4,360 hours to get the area looking its best.

Halstead Town Council and Braintree District Council both played a role in supporting the committee.

In their report on the town, judges praised the effectiveness of this approach.

“The partnership agreement is clearly working to the benefit of residents and visitors, with beautiful floral displays throughout the town,” they said.

Halstead mayor David Hume said the community spirit associated with the competition was what made taking part so special.

“It was a fantastic achievement to get gold and that owed a lot to our huge band of volunteers,” he said. “Hopefully this will attract more people to the area.”

During the ceremony, Mrs Smith was also presented with a RHS community champion award for the work she has done with Halstead in Bloom over the last 14 years.

“I had no idea at all that I was going to be given the award,” she said. “It was a complete surprise and I was in shock when they put my name up on the board.”

Last month, Halstead clinched the best town award for Anglia in Bloom for the second year running.