Forty years of Sidmouth in Bloom successes

Glorious golden awards to celebrate 40 years of Sidmouth in Bloom

FOR 40 years a small group of green-fingered flower lovers, dedicated to providing floral displays for Sidmouth, have enjoyed varying degrees of success in Britain in Bloom competitions.

You only have to look at plaques at the entrance to the town’s gardens to see some of Sidmouth in Bloom’s wins.

Sidmouth first became involved with Britain in Bloom in 1971 when it was decided, at a meeting of Sidmouth Urban District Council, it should enter the competition. Then, it was sponsored by the British Tourist Authority.

The idea of an inter town/village/city competition originated in France, where a similar contest had been running for many years, started by President De Gaulle.

A public meeting was called in Sidmouth by Councillor R Webb, OBE, then chairman of Sidmouth EDC, and a local committee, under the chairmanship of John Govier, was set up.

Now Joy Seward, the committee’s president, is the only founding member left after John retired in 2009 – the year Sidmouth didn’t enter the contest because of a change in the rules by the Royal Horticultural Society and the loss of key committee members.

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In 1972 Sidmouth had a trial run without entering the competition, and when it did, the following year, it won best small town in the South West.

The committee had a fabulous year in 1975, winning best town in the British Isles and the Entente Florale Cup for the best town in Europe.

The Sidmouth Herald rightly featured these achievements on the front page, and congratulations flooded in, as well as visitors to see what special displays had won the town these accolades.

At the time John thanked everyone who “took part in adding this triumph to Sidmouth’s great natural beauty.”

With his and the passionate determination of Joy, the Regency town has become renowned for its floral displays, which have increased in number and size over the years.

It was winner of Britain in Bloom coastal category in 2001 and 2005 and in the UK finals gained silver in 2003.

A 2001 judge, Maurice Baren, said of Sidmouth’s entry: “A powerful impact was created by floral displays in all corners of the town, created by a wide variety of contributors, Sidmouth residents, hotels, guest houses, pubs and business premises, as well as the local council, had made a huge effort to quite stunning effect.”

He acknowledged the hard work put in by the committee in planning, planting, fund-raising, weeding and watering.

In 2006 Sidmouth won the Preece Cup and entered for Britain in Bloom’s finals. That year, the editor and photographer from a Russian gardening magazine came to Sidmouth to see its displays.

Russia in Bloom began in 2003, thanks to Enterprise Russia, based near Ottery St Mary.

The Sidmouth committee, which certainly needs a boost in numbers now East Devon District Council has stopped producing plants for the displays, has triumphed again this year, being named top small town in SW in Bloom awards, winning gold and the Preece Cup and gold and the Plantscape Coastal Trophy for its Seaworld 3-D display at the Three Cornered Plot.

The trophies on show at Fields have been hard won. Faced with vandalism to displays and the decimation of busy lizzies forming Fred the Peacock’s tail, after Herald readers and gardeners rallied to keep him in the town this year, many lesser folk might have thrown in the towel.

But Joy and the committee are a determined bunch. She says: “I am passionate about flowers and about Sidmouth. We are working together to make Sidmouth a beautiful place, not only for residents, but for visitors, who are most important to our economy.”

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