Judgement day as Leamington goes for gold again

Leamington fought to retain its gold standard in the regional Britain in Bloom competition on Monday afternoon.

Victoria Park, which hosts the World Bowls Championship in September, Milverton Primary School's garden, Shrubland Street residents' balcony gardens and the jewel in Leamington's floral crown Jephson Gardens were highlights of the judges' tour.

But Heart of England regional judge Les Goodman hinted to the Courier that while Leamington's flowers may have been on top form, other factors may have let the town's efforts down.

Mr Goodman said: "Leamington florally is excellent, it always is.

"We had a very pleasant visit but you have to bear in mind that while it is called Heart of England in Bloom and Britain in Bloom, that only represents 32 per cent of the marks.

"Another 68 per cent are down to permanent planting, local Agenda 21, cleanliness, public awareness and community involvement.

"It's not just about the flowers and perhaps other areas could do with a little bit more attention."

But Mr Goodman said the real winners of the competition were people living in the towns which entered and who made an effort to make them pleasant places to live.

Leamington needs at least 170 marks out of 200 to get gold again.

Leamington in Bloom committee chairman John Carrier was hoping his team and Warwick District Council had done enough but welcomed the judges' visit as a 'dry-run' for next week's ultimate test - the national judges' tour.

He said: "They never give anything away.

"They will say 'that's nice' but that's as far as you get. They thought the children's train was very good and they liked the colour of the flowers outside the Pump Room, pale blue and white.

"I think we've learned a few things today that we're going to change when we take the national judges round next week. That's been useful.

"Being in the national competition gives us the opportunity within a few days to improve what we are doing. I think we've tried to squeeze too much in. There's a tendency to try to show them as much as possible."

And the council's parks and gardens manager Nigel Bishop said the Heart of England judges had given him a few tips about how to improve things before the big day on August 11.

He said: "The judges have been very helpful and constructive, they want us to win.

"We are representing all eight counties in the Heart of England region and they've come up with some really good stuff to help us."

The results will be announced on September 10 and this year the presentation ceremony will be held in Leamington's Spa Centre.