No blooming contest for Sidmouth

SIDMOUTH in Bloom will not compete in this year s South West in Bloom contest - its first break since its formation in 1971.

SIDMOUTH in Bloom will not compete in this year's South West in Bloom contest - its first break since its formation in 1971.

A change in the competition's judging criteria has led the group to withdraw. Announcing the decision at Monday's meeting of Sidmouth Town Council, Councillor John Hollick described some of the Royal Horticultural Society's criteria as "unbelievable", adding: "Sidmouth prides itself on floral displays, not growing cabbages."

Councillor Mary Jolly added: "The rules of entry each year have become more and more complex, with barely 50 percent of the points needed to obtain gold coming from flowers and floral arrangements."

President Joy Seward told the Herald: "We voted to take a sabbatical for a year, get more members and we hope to enter again in 2010.

"I think the RHS is treating us as a lot of experienced people, we are not, we are keen amateurs.

"The committee wants to keep Sidmouth looking at its best. I think there will be a lot of small towns coming out of the competition because of their demands.

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"Sidmouth has a lot of elderly people. It is all very well to say get young people on the committee. Where do you get them from?

"I would rather stop when we have won gold (in 2008) than try to do things we can't to fulfil the judges' requirements."

The committee recently lost its chairman John Govier, who retired after 38 years (see pg 9), secretary Caroline Carroll who resigned and Anne Bagwell, organiser of the Secluded Gardens, who died from leukaemia.

Stephanie Eynon, RHS community horticultural manager, said she and Vic Verrier, chairman of SW in Bloom, were sad to hear Sidmouth would not be entering the competition and offered Sidmouth in Bloom support if needed.

Of the criticism over its rule change, she said: "The overwhelming response is it is much better, simpler to understand and more accessible. Sidmouth is opposite to everyone else's view, a bit of an anomaly.

"Groups do take a break to trial new ideas and building better links with the community."

With community participation being one core element; the others being horticultural achievement and environmental responsibility, she thought it would give the committee the "opportunity to do less work rather than more" by encouraging the community to carry out some of the tasks involved.

*Jane Sutherland-Earl is new chairman of SIB with John Hollick vice-chairman , Mrs Jolly treasurer and Pat Luxton secretary.