Blooming Melrose best of British

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MELROSE has taken gold in the prestigious Britain in Bloom awards for the first time.

The town lifted the top accolade in the large village category of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) competition.

Melrose in Bloom fundraiser Val Miller said: “We are absolutely delighted!”

Mrs Miller, plus other group members Pam Rowlands and Vivien Chisholm, attended the prizegiving ceremony on Guernsey at the weekend when BBC’s The One Show’s Matt Baker presented them with the gold award.

Melrose is a regular winner of the large village category in Scottish Borders Council’s annual Floral Gateway competition. In 2005 it won a silver gilt in the national Britain in Bloom competition and last year the town scooped Beautiful Scotland’s best large village.

Mrs Miller continued: “We were invited to take part in Britain in Bloom and because it’s Melrose in Bloom’s 10th anniversary this year we decided to give it a go – and that’s why we are so especially delighted that in our 10th anniversary year we have struck gold.

“A great deal of work goes into it all year round. We have meetings with Scottish Borders Council, because we want to co-ordinate with them, and with Borders College as the students give us a great deal of very useful hands-on work.

“And we have regular work parties and, of course, we have Rosie, our watering vehicle – we couldn’t do anything without Rosie.”

The volunteer group organises up to 40 “waterers” and Mrs Miller explained: “There is a great deal more to it than flowers. It’s very much a team effort and we have got community involvement at all levels, from nursery to the older people in Priorwood Court, all involved doing their bit.”

She said the group had spoken to some of the judges on Sunday morning, adding: “Overall, they had thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Melrose and one of the judges said they would certainly be back to visit.”

But Melrose was assessed by judges following heavy rain, the weekend Jedburgh town centre was closed because of flooding.

Mrs Miller said: “We were in despair, but then the sun came out and we bought them welly boots because if they left here with soaking shoes and muddy trousers they were not going to be very happy.”

More than 1,200 UK communities, from villages to cities, take part annually in the RHS campaign to green-up and clean-up Britain. Of these, 72 finalists were chosen to represent their region or nation in the finals, with Melrose representing Scotland.

RHS judge Jim Goodwin said of Melrose: “This lovely town was a pleasure to visit.

“On first entering there is no doubt the impact which the local ‘Bloom’ campaign is achieving – an extremely clean and colourful community. A good balance between traditional floral displays and more permanent sustainable planting is being achieved.

“The wonderful treescape is a real asset.”

Judging panel chairman Roger Burnett and 14 other volunteer judges toured the UK in July and August visiting finalists and marking against three key criteria – horticultural achievement, community participation and environmental responsibility.