Ards and North Down In Bloom Community Competitions were launched in 2020 to encourage everyone who lives or works in the Borough to think about their local environment and how attractive flowers, plants, trees and gardens can enhance it. The initiative has been developed with three overlapping objectives which are: horticultural excellence, community participation and environmentally sustainable practices. These are in line with objectives of Translink Ulster in Bloom and other regional award schemes.
Ards and North Down In Bloom’s main purpose is to encourage and assist all stakeholders in the Ards and North Down area to increase their civic pride by visually enhancing the natural resources of the borough. This involves improvements for those who live and/or work in the borough, as well as visitors to the borough through the implementation of four core objectives: to increase environmental responsibility; to strive for horticultural excellence in public, business, and residential areas; to encourage community participation; to support endeavours to achieve regional and national awards such as Ulster in Bloom
In order to achieve these objectives, Ards and North Down in Bloom shall: manage and promote an annual community horticultural competition and awards ceremony; provide a funding mechanism for local groups to carry out ‘In Bloom’ activities in their local areas; encourage the widest participation possible in all its activities by cooperating with other organisations and individuals; contribute to and encourage sustainable environmental improvements within the Borough.
General categories were: Best Kept Front Garden; Gardening for Wildlife Award; Volunteer of the Year; Best Kept Commercial Premises; Best Kept Community Planting Scheme.
Young people’s (entrants aged 16 and under) categories were: Best School Gardening Project; Painting Competition; Tallest Sunflower Competition; Young Volunteer of the Year.
In 2020 the competitions attracted over 300 entries; a successful return given the challenges of that year.
In 2021 this has already more than doubled to over 600 participants from across the borough. Each year winner and runners-up attend an award ceremony where they are presented with prizes that can be used to further enhance their areas. Every entry into the young people’s categories are presented with a certificate of recognition, regardless of where they place.
To support the work of volunteers, Parks Service also provide a funding stream of up to £1000 each year, to used by qualifying village groups, community associations etc within the Ards and North Down Borough to enable the purchase of bedding plants, shrub and tree material for planting within local villages or towns. In 2021 this was in excess of £21,000.
Ards and North Down Borough has a reputation for leading the way in its floral displays. It has won national and regional competitions with a common theme of hard work and enthusiasm by staff and local communities.
Ards and North Down In Bloom group was proposed to act as the co-ordinating body to promote excellence, community involvement and environmental improvement. The aim was to make the borough greener, cleaner and more diverse.
The idea was conceived following discussions with some existing in bloom groups as a way of expanding scale and impact of their work by harnessing ideas and resources. By adopting a more co-ordinated approach everyone would be working towards common objectives and align with community area plans.
There are three overlapping objectives - horticultural excellence, community participation and environmentally sustainable practices. This aligned with Ulster and Britain In Bloom.
Wider benefits included increased visitor numbers within towns and villages, shops and businesses experienced increase in business, people perceived areas to be more attractive which in turn would create employment and economic growth.
Another dimension was that of health and healthy living. Gardening was a very therapeutic activity good for body and mind and in this very health-conscious age gardening provided wonderful exercise in fresh air.
Allotments or plots were increasingly being sought not only as vehicles for exercise, but as a means of growing and producing fresh fruit and vegetables grown organically or otherwise.
To coordinate this campaign, it was proposed that a central committee shall be formed and made up of one representative from each constituted group that presently existed, and that officers from the Council Parks and Cemeteries Service would act as the Committee’s secretariat. The committee would be tasked with getting the whole Borough involved in environmental improvements by working with statutory bodies, local groups, organisations, businesses and residents to stimulate interest in looking after their area, develop and support ideas, facilitate partnerships and help make things happen.
It was proposed that the Ards and North Down In Bloom Community Competitions would be organised by Ards and North Down Borough Council. Everyone who lived in the Borough area had the chance to think about their local environment and how attractive flowers, plants and gardens could enhance it. By actively supporting this competition, residents would not only make their garden or business more attractive but also assist the Borough’s entry into the Translink Ulster and Britain In Bloom Competition.
The biggest challenge has been getting knowledge about the competition into circulation. Being a brand new initiative, a sustained media campaign was required to advertise the scheme and its objectives. Often direct contact was also required to advertise the scheme and its objectives.
- Number of entries.
- Amount of money given out.
- Number of volunteer projects funded.