Flower power celebrated at 19th Scottish Borders Gateway Awards

Westruther's floral gateway group picked up the champion of champions award.
Westruther's floral gateway group picked up the champion of champions award.

Blooming lovely towns and villages have been celebrated at the 19th Scottish Borders Floral Gateway awards.

A total of 18 communities were recognised for helping to keep the region looking at its best at last week’s ceremony, held at Scottish Borders Council’s headquarters in Newtown.

Representatives from Hawick, Westruther, Coldstream and Coldingham pick up their awards from Councillor Sandy Aitchison and Sandy Mcvitie, one of the judges.

Representatives from Hawick, Westruther, Coldstream and Coldingham pick up their awards from Councillor Sandy Aitchison and Sandy Mcvitie, one of the judges.

Westruther was pick of the bunch after its blossoming horticultural group rose to the occasion to be named champion of champions.

Green-fingered volunteers there claimed the top prize, having won the wee village category last year after taking on maintenance of all its bedding plants and grass-cutting.

Grace Donaldson, a member of the Westruther Floral Gateway group, said: “It is wonderful to win this and to get some recognition for all the volunteers.

“It is a community effort. We have around 10 of us, but without the help of farmers and others we couldn’t do what we do.”

The other main prizes went to Jedburgh for best town, Lauder for large village, Ayton for small village and Birgham for wee village, and several community awards were presented to towns and villages in recognition of their flower power too.

Lauder and Eyemouth were also congratulated for picking up Beautiful Scotland Awards earlier this month.

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said: “We need to thank the various in bloom groups across the Borders who do fantastic work to help maintain our region.

“It is also great to see the extra efforts made by some groups to improve their communities which have led to national recognition, while the overall winners, Westruther, have shown tremendous initiative to become largely self-sufficient in terms of maintaining their community.”

Referring to the neighbourhoods review published earlier this year, which included a reduction in grass-cutting frequency and bedding plant provision, Mr Aitchison said things had to be done differently in response to “significant financial challenges” the council is facing, and he called on community groups to come forward with help or ideas.

Local groups are also calling for more volunteers to help plug the gap.

Hawick in Bloom chairperson Marion Short said: “We were highly commended this year. The judge was very impressed with the walled gardens, the park, and all our planters but felt that community involvement could be improved upon.

“I think the judges would have liked to see more shopkeepers and businesses in the high street putting their own displays out, but businesses here can’t always spare the money for that.

“What we really need is more volunteers to come and help us as the council withdraws more and more. Soon ours will be the only displays in Hawick.”

That call for volunteers was echoed in Kelso, which came third in the town category.

Town provost Dean Weatherston said: “Well done to Kelso in Bloom, who work tirelessly to enhance the beauty of our town.

“Sadly, we lost points for lack of community involvement. Compared to other Border towns, Kelso in Bloom has a very poor turnout of volunteers.

“If anyone is going to take up a new year resolution, why not make it to pledge an hour a month to your community?”