The day the judges came to town…

left to right Roger bache Syd Goodman Mark Wiltshire (judge).
left to right Roger bache Syd Goodman Mark Wiltshire (judge).

We had arrived at that time again, that date which makes every Stone in Bloom volunteer nervous, it was the day that Roger Bache and Mark Wiltshire, two of the Royal Horticultural Society Heart of England in Bloom judges visited Stone.

There was the usual banter between group members, with the men asking what are you wearing and the reply as always a little floral number, even our new driver told his wife to look out his flowery shirt, perhaps we were going a little over the top! Friday July 15th was the date when the judges would decide what (if anything) they would award our town in the In Bloom campaign. We began the route tour from Stone station and I sighed with relief to see the driver had decided against his floral shirt, maybe his wife had hidden it!

After a short presentation to the judges of what we’re all about we set off in the Green Community Bus to Stonefield Park. There we met the Stone mayor and mayoress, editor father and son of the Stone Gazette and Stone in Bloom volunteer Dawn Johnson and her group who make up Friends of Stonefield Park. The park looked really lovely and was testament to all the hard work carried out by the Friends and Streetscene, Dawn took the judges around the park and we said good morning to the U3A bowlers who had kindly turned out for a game of bowls, letting the judges know how well the bowling green is used.

Next stop was the Newcastle Road allotments site to meet with local residents Syd Goodman and Tony Hollinshead, both allotment holders. The judges said they wished they could grow produce to the standards grown by Syd and Tony. As usual we were to keep to a strict timetable worked out for the tour, it should run like clockwork but as the judges and Tony and Syd were enjoying the banter and didn’t look as though they were ever going to move we had already over-run by five minutes. The decision then is do we run over time or do we allow the judges to enjoy speaking to Syd and Tony, I made the call to stay, perhaps we would make up the time later. One of the highlights of the judge’s visit was being hosted by the 5th Stone Beavers at their newly created garden patch on Abbey Street.

The 5th Stone Beavers with Roger Bache Senior judge
The 5th Stone Beavers with Roger Bache Senior judge

The enthusiasm of the group was evident as so many Beavers and parents turned up to greet the judges even though it was a school day, (what am I saying, of course there were so many there on a school day!) The youngsters were able to chat about how they had designed and planted the bed and grown many of the plants from seed. The Beavers leaders Clancey and Hannah had given lots of encouragement but had left the work and management of the bed to the Beavers themselves. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when Roger Bache (teasing) asked one of the Beavers if he had grown any bananas. He replied with disgust in his tone and replied you can’t grow bananas here with a look that said you’re the judge you should know that! Bromfield Court was looking at its best and the judge’s comments were that the work of various residents had paid off and the gardens were looking beautiful. Just as we were walking across the Christchurch garden Sheila, one of the ladies who tend the garden came out and we were able to stop and chat about her work there which the judges appreciated.

The judges point out the finer points of the Stonefield Park display

Part of the judging criteria is community involvement and our Stone in Bloom group is always very strong in how we work with the community. This year we concentrated on working with Scouts, Cubs, and Guides and Beavers, all great young people who work very hard in helping us get the town ready for judging, lots of fun and perfect ambassadors for our town. Our group has decked the town with bunting which gives a real festival atmosphere,( the judges were impressed) and while we were putting it up there was no rain which makes a change. It occurred to me that when we go out working in the rain and we look like drowned rats it’s not the best time to say to someone why don’t you join us as a volunteer, we have great fun? They look at us with a bewildered stare as though they want to challenge that it just isn’t true, that how can you be standing there soaked to the skin, filthy dirty, mascara running down your face ( that’s just the men!) and you’re trying to convince us it’s such good fun. Maybe that’s where we’re going wrong, we should only ask for volunteers when the sun is shining!

Stone Mayor Councillor Jim Davies delivered a fantastic welcoming speech

In getting the High Street furniture ready and looking good, the painting of the benches proved to be a disaster for one of our volunteers; I couldn’t understand why she insisted on sitting down while she was painting and it turned out she had split her trousers from waist band to where the sun doesn’t shine in bending over to pick up the paint. All I can say is I recommend her washing powder, they were the whitest laundered pair of knickers I’ve seen. I hope Mark has treated Kristan to a new pair not that I can name names!

St Michael’s church has three areas of wild flowers and there are other areas around the town. We have sown a new area on the Lichfield Road with a new small mix called Pixie and it is by far the best display. Judging day has come and gone and it all seems a hundred years away now, September 15th is the day we get the results and we’re all hoping that it’s another gold. Many of us who volunteer have aches and pains which weren’t there last year which tells us we need more help.

A number are not now involved in the work parties but help in other ways. If you would like to work until you drop, pick up litter left by people enjoying themselves, or challenge those who refuse to pick up after their dogs, give up most of your summer, have aches where you didn’t know you had parts then volunteering for Stone in Bloom is for you! On the other hand if you feel good about keeping Stone’s property prices going up because Stone is THE place to live, making everyone feel they want to live work and visit Stone because they feel safe in their surroundings then that’s another reason to volunteer, just a few hours each week. Contact Stone In Bloom 077364 13097