They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself! Is it really ten years ago that we started Barwick in Bloom?
It seems like only yesterday when towards the end of 1995 Michael Jones, then the Chairman of the Parish Council, armed with six sacks of daffodil bulbs which he felt would commemorate his office, knocked on a few doors seeking help in planting them. And so Barwick in Bloom was born.
The aim was, of course, to improve the environment of the village for the benefit of its residents and visitors - and that aim continues today. A meeting was held in March 1996 to establish an ‘ad hoc’ committee so that the village could be entered in the Yorkshire in Bloom contest that year - but we only achieved 20th out of 21 and so there was plenty of room for improvement. It is interesting to note that for the judging that year there was only one flower bed and whilst 17 businesses were prepared to sponsor hanging baskets none was displayed because of a watering problem.
The first public annual meeting was held in the Methodist Church Schoolroom on 12 September 1996 when John Tinker was elected Chairman, John Botterill Treasurer and John Boocock Secretary with a committee of Margaret Ellison, Joan Schofield and Michael Jones. A good sign is that most of them remain very much involved today.
Whilst success, of course, owes much to the dedicated band of workers (now resplendent in luminous yellow vests!) who turn out each Wednesday and on numerous other occasions, it is the tremendous support of our sponsors and village residents which has enabled us to continue.
In those early days much time was spent planning, cutting and preparing the initial few beds and we never dreamed of what would be achieved over the next ten years. Even those who are pretty involved tend to forget just what has been done since and perhaps you will allow a little indulgence in recalling one or two of our achievements - accomplished with the help and support of the village.
We now have some 35 flower beds established throughout the village as well as over 80 hanging baskets in spring and summer. As well as this we have numerous tubs and planters. In addition we have planted some fifty trees in strategic positions (for example Long lane, Leeds Road, the village car park, etc.), planted millions of bulbs, established shrub beds, created the Millennium bed in Carrfield Road and the Heritage bed opposite the village store, planted the village car park, renovated the old farm machinery and so on…..
There is something quite satisfying in being up to your knees in ice cold water cleaning out the beck in a blizzard! Sometimes the old joke about ‘doing community service’ does wear a bit thin. However we do have a lot of fun and friendly banter - at least the writer has always assumed it to be friendly. Apart from the gardening we learn many new skills - hedge laying, footpath restoration, stone walling, leaf clearing, litter collecting and building skills under the expert guidance of Archie Jeffers - to name but a few.
Both the Parish Council and our ward councillors have been very supportive of our efforts and without their help we certainly would not have achieved all that has been done. For instance, the Parish Council purchased the village ‘entrance signs’ which we erected in 1999 and also supported our wish to change the Main Street lamp standards and funded the cost of this - following which with the help of a few very kind residents we were able to purchase and install new complimentary seats and waste bins. Hopefully, we will be able to continue these improvements in due course.
Many residents have, of course, helped us in so many ways but particular mention must rightly be made to the sponsors of our beds and baskets, those who have purchased trees for us and provided food for our ‘events’ and to sustain our judges. Also all those who have helped ‘in a thousand and one other ways’ - far too many to mention. However it would be remiss not to mention Jack and Tony Shinn who have donated all our sponsorship signs since we started ten years ago.
During that time, participation in Yorkshire in Bloom has of course added another dimension. Since the first year when we were ‘unplaced’, we have earned an award in every year including three successive years as winners of the Large Village category. Initially, because our population exceeded 2100, we were in the Small Country Town section and in 2001, despite our protestations, we were Yorkshire’s entry in this category in Britain in Bloom. Whilst we enjoyed our participation, the first line of the judges’ comments - ‘a fine entry in the wrong category’ - said it all. As most of you will know in 2005 we were Yorkshire’s entry in Britain in Bloom again this time in the Large Village category where we achieved a Silver Gilt medal - at 176 marks we were only four off a Gold, which we were pleased to note no other entry in this category had managed to achieve. Whatever you may think, we thought it was a commendable result in our little village.
Geoff Yapp, our author, plies his trowel.
During this time the Methodist Church received a special certificate for their gardens and Maypole Mews, Pear Tree Gardens and Elmwood Court have won the Ben Bailey award for developments less than five years old.
Of course, a large part of this success has been due to the support which we have received in our fund raising efforts. The annual financial commitment is now approaching £10,000 (more in Barwick in Bloom years) and these funds are all raised through sponsorship, social events, concerts, donations and grants. The social side of Barwick-in-Bloom has played an important role and we believe is much enjoyed by many people in the village. We have had some wonderful concerts, fashion shows, cheese and wine parties, coffee mornings, etc., which now play a regular part of village life. Of course, our ‘Open Gardens’ has also been very important in raising funds and bringing the community together - over the past five years almost 50 different gardens have been opened and many have opened for us on more than one occasion.
The financial success of these events has all been ‘re-invested’ in the village through the purchase of plants, bulbs, trees and shrubs - latterly with much of the emphasis on long term sustainability. Many of us like the idea of planting for the future - something for us to enjoy in our old age. We have also been able to purchase a few items of equipment to make life easier - these include the new ride-on mower acquired in the summer which has already made a difference to our grass cutting ability.
This little write-up cannot be completed without mentioning the tremendous effort residents put into looking after their own gardens (the bits we can see anyway). They do form part of the ‘judging process’ but that apart they make the whole village look so good. It is little wonder that the Horticultural Society is so popular and they are to be congratulated on their efforts to foster horticultural interest.
And so at least a million plants, bulbs and shrubs, miles of daffodils, tons of litter hours fund-raising and buckets of sweat later, we are still here after 10 years. We hope that you will think that we have contributed to improvements in the village which are appreciated by all those who live here and those who pass through it. The success of this voluntary effort is due in no small measure to the tremendous work of those involved and the wonderful support which they receive from the village residents, local business and both Leeds City Council and the Parish and Ward Councillors. If you feel moved to help in any way you will be made very welcome - just telephone John Tinker on 281 2254. You will not regret it and that’s a promise.