Castlecaulfield just champion as village sets gold standard at Britain in Bloom event
Village sets gold standard at Britain in Bloom event
A gold Champion of Champions award for a Co Tyrone village at the Royal Horticultural Society's Britain in Bloom ceremony has been hailed as a victory for the whole community.
And while success has been blooming for Castlecaulfield in recent years, the latest honour has been described as the biggest achievement so far.
"We're very active in the village," Horticultural Society co-chairman Bob McClure said after receiving the award at a gala ceremony held in RHS Lindley Hall, London, on Friday night.
"The support the community has shown has been magnificent."
Bob said the award was a fitting honour for the scores of people who have helped bring out the best in the village.
"We're a cross-community group and everyone has come together to shape the village into a better place to live. It's wonderful to be receiving recognition for all the hard work," he said.
Fourteen members of the group made the trip to London for the RHS awards night, where Castlecaulfield narrowly lost out to Scottish city Perth for the overall top honour.
"We thought we'd make a weekend of it," said Bob. "We're all in this together and that's why the group has been so successful."
Co-chairman Bernie McKenna said that when the society embarked on their plans to transform the village, awards success was never on their agenda.
"Of course you think it would be nice to get recognition for your efforts, but we never expected this," she said.
"This was about bringing the community together in a positive way.
"We've managed to get so many people involved and we work with seven schools around the area. They have all been a brilliant support to us." The society has a core of 38 members, but that is boosted by the 'eco buddies' from local schools and scores of volunteers.
So much so that one of the young eco buddies has also now been honoured by the Royal Horticultural Society.
And at just 11 years old Jake Sinnamon, a P7 pupil at Walker Memorial Primary School, was among the nationwide winners of the Young Community Champion Award. "Jake wasn't able to make the trip to London, he's been busy doing his transfer test," said Bernie.
"But we were in contact with his family and the school. It's a great achievement and I know Jake wowed the judges when they came over in July."
Castlecaulfield impressed the judges with its community spirit and green credentials, including wildflower meadows and re-vamped woodland conservation area. The "exemplary" walled garden and three-dimensional floral figures around the village were other standouts.
"It's a big operation when you look at it that way," Bob admitted. "And we have over 100 people now involved in some way."
The group has also been making waves on the international stage and was recognised at the 2017 Communities in Bloom in Canada.
The villagers were previously honoured with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.
Several more Northern Ireland locations were among the winners in London last weekend.
Londonderry was successful in the Small City category.
Cullybackey (Large Village) and Randalstown (Small Town) in County Antrim, along with Donaghmore (Village) in Co Tyrone all took home gold medals for the exceptional standard of their entries, while Antrim (Town) picked up a silver gilt award.