Royal Visit Marks Fifty Years of RHS Britain in Bloom

Friday 4 July 2014

HRH Duchess of Cornwall was presented with a bouquet of sunflowers during her visit to Usk in Bloom (Wales)

Crowds of excited residents gathered in Usk, Wales today, to greet HRH Duchess of Cornwall when she visited the town to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UK’s biggest community gardening campaign – Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom.

The Duchess was given a tour of local projects and met volunteers who over the years have done an extraordinary job keeping the town looking green, clean and beautiful. Usk in Bloom chairman Tony Kear showed HRH how the campaign has changed over the last fifty years. The tour included a visit to a school allotment where she met pupils and planted an apple tree.

Eight year old Bloom volunteer Lucy Kear presented HRH with a bouquet of sunflowers to highlight the 2014 theme of the campaign - ‘Growing for Gold’ – which saw half a million pollinator-friendly sunflower seeds sown in public spaces across Britain this April.

The unveiling of a butterfly sculpture signified the end of HRH visit to the town. The sculpture, a symbol of the way Bloom has evolved from a floral competition to the environmental campaign it is today, will act as a permanent reminder of this special visit.

Jekka McVicar, RHS Council, said: “What an absolute pleasure it was joining HRH Duchess of Cornwall on her tour of Usk – a fabulous example of what can be achieved through Bloom. I know this special day will stay long in the memories of those who attended. Indeed, her visit was a gesture of thanks to the 300,000 volunteers in towns, villages and cities across Britain who last year invested more than ten million hours to keeping our streets and neighbourhoods beautiful, thriving and friendly places to live and visit”

Usk in Bloom Chair Tony Kear commented: "We were extremely honoured and delighted to have been asked by the RHS to host the Duchess and to welcome her to Usk. What a wonderful lady she is taking the time to talk to as many people as she did. What a fantastic opportunity it was to present what Usk in Bloom has developed over many years. I know our volunteers both past and present as well as our partners were incredibly excited at the visit and it was my privilege on their behalf to showcase Usk at its very best."

Next week, at the world’s largest annual flower show - RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (8-13 July) a 400 metre square garden will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the campaign and show how it has changed since it started in 1964 as a way to market the UK through floral displays.

To find out more about the power of community gardening or to join almost 4,000 RHS Britain in Bloom groups already involved, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities  
 

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Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Ed Horne in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3356 or email edhorne@rhs.org.uk.


*RHS Britain in Bloom:

History: The idea came from journalist Roy Hay MBE who went to France during the Fleurissement de France and was enthralled by seeing the country "filled to overflowing with flowers, shrubs and trees all in full bloom".

Bloom started as a way to attract visitors to the UK by the British Tourist Authority. In 1964 Bath was the first national winner. From 1964 to 1969 inclusive there was an overall national winner. From 1970, however, the competition was divided up into a range of categories, because of the difficulty of comparing settlements of different sizes fairly.

Tidy Britain ran Bloom from 1983 until 2001 when it was handed over to the RHS. Since then, Bloom has become a major campaign which brings communities together to enhance the look, feel and pride of a place. The RHS has increased the campaign’s focus on environmental and community-based activities.

RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood: In 2006, the RHS launched a new non-competitive programme for Bloom – ‘RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood’ (IYN) which has gone from strength to strength. Aimed at small, volunteer-led communities, like youth groups, allotment groups or school gardening clubs, IYN is for any group just starting to green up and clean up their local area.

When IYN started there were 342 registrations. There are now 1985. In fact, there has been a 20% increase since last year. The rapid growth of IYN is testament to how much British people care about the environment in which they live whether it be rural Surrey or inner-city Edinburgh.

Scale and impact: There are 3,900 RHS Britain in Bloom groups (including IYN groups) and we estimate there to be up to 300,000 volunteers that belong to these groups. Bloom is helping change both the socio-economic and physical landscape of the country. Recent research shows that volunteers look after 200,000 acres of public green space, from pocket parks to conservation sites, which is the equivalent of 500 Hyde Parks. On average, groups look after 110 acres of green space each (compared to just 10 acres in 2010). It is estimated that UK-wide, Bloom volunteers have transformed 2000 football pitches of neglected land, usually crime hotspots used by fly-tippers, into community growing spaces.

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The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

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