Harborough digs in to defend East Midlands in Bloom title

Margaret Richards, Ann Bird show Diane Moore and Ian Cooke East Midlands in Bloom judges the rose garden with Ken Hook in Welland Park
Margaret Richards, Ann Bird show Diane Moore and Ian Cooke East Midlands in Bloom judges the rose garden with Ken Hook in Welland Park

It was a corner of town that most passers-by wouldn’t even have noticed.

“It’s a patch of ground off Rockingham Road, near Jewson’s,” explained Market Harborough in Bloom co-ordinator Margaret Richards.

“It was completely overgrown, so we got the team in and now it’s been transformed.”

Finding virtually ignored verges – even on the very edge of town – and giving them some gardening TLC, has become a bit of an obsession with the Market Harborough in Bloom volunteers.

You see, last year the town won a gold award in the “large town”category of the East Midlands in Bloom contest.

“It’s taken us ten years to win back the trophy,” explained Margaret.

“And we don’t want to give up our crown easily!”

The truth is, when the steely-eyed Bloom judges stroll purposefully around town this summer, it’s little corners like the bit off Rockingham Road by Jewson’s that might make all the difference.

“We only won by a couple of points last year, and we’re in the largest category, and it’s so tight,” said Margaret.

So in the last few weeks the volunteer team, a core of 22 people, have been working all over Market Harborough.

They’re not only sorting out the usual planters, but also improving all sorts of areas you didn’t think needed improving, until you saw them improved.

Margaret said: “We’ve been at Market Harborough railway station too.

“We’re renewing the planters there, obviously, but we’re also looking to put some wild flower seeds on either side of the ramp up to the northbound platform.”

The team has been working on the rose garden in Welland Park, which is also cared for by district council staff.

And they have also been across the river on the St Joseph’s Primary School field – where the annual November bonfire is – clearing the overgrown river banks.

“That job’s taken us nearly a month, and now we’re waiting for it to be rotavated so we can plant there too.”

Then there’s the pond on the left as you go into Welland Park from the main Farndon Road entrance.

“The Welland Rivers Trust is getting machinery in to get about three feet of silt out of that pond,” said Margaret.

“We’re getting the banks built up in different levels, and we’re working with a Beaver Group to get a bug hotel there.”

You probably haven’t walked down the town’s St Mary’s Road thinking “they could do with some half-barrels filled with flowers down here”.

But Market Harborough in Bloom people have, “because there was nothing down there” explained Margaret.

She said: “We’ve moved seven of the barrels that were on The Square down to St Mary’s Road.

“And we’ve got ten big new containers to go on The Square, paid for by the Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity.”

The Bloom judges visited Market Harborough last July, and the awards ceremony was held last September.

That was where Market Harborough won a gold award and was the category winner in the “large town” sector – for areas with a population between 12,001 and 35,000 people.

Although Harborough had won several gold medals in recent years, it was the town’s first outright win for nearly a decade. The town had won East Midlands in Bloom for four years running between 2002 and 2005, but had then been a runner-up on many occasions to Belper and Buxton, both in Derbyshire.

Margaret has been working with the town’s Bloom team for more than ten years.

“It’s a good way of keeping fit, and you really make a difference,” she said. “So it’s good for you, and the town.”

And a well-planted, pleasant-looking town has all sorts of practical knock-on effects.

Margaret said: “If a place looks cared for, there’s less graffiti and vandalism.

“A pleasant town to look at brings in shoppers; it brings in businesses; it helps to keep house prices high.

“So, ultimately, we don’t do all this to win competitions; we do it because we like Market Harborough.”

If you want to know more about Market Harborough In Bloom, you can follow the team’s progress via its Facebook page. Search for ‘rhsbloomharborough’.

Meanwhile, in other Bloom news, the town’s team has recently been invited to the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious BBC Gardeners’ World Live flower show at Birmingham’s NEC in the summer, from June 11 to 14.

The Harborough volunteers have been selected to design a “barrier box” display, suitable to perch on a railing.

The aim of the displays is to inspire NEC visitors, by showing them how to brighten up even the smallest of spaces or streets through the art of container planting.

The title of Harborough’s entry will be “Bee Friendly”.