The floral queen of Castlecaulfield hails enthusiasm of villagers
A Co Tyrone woman who has been recognised with a surprise honour for making a real difference to her community has praised Castlecaulfield's children for the pride they take in their blooming marvellous village.
Bernie McKenna was announced as a winner at the annual Translink Ulster In Bloom competition, which celebrates the best in floral displays across Northern Ireland.
Now in its 41st year, the competition aims to encourage towns to look their best and boost civic pride with stunning floral displays.
Londonderry took home the top prize for the Best City/Large Town while Ballymena scooped the honour for Small City/Large Town.
Other winners included Antrim for the Best Town and Randalstown for Small Town.
Ms McKenna, from the Castlecaulfield Horticultural Society in Co Tyrone, was named as winner of the Ulsterbus Tours Community Champion Award in recognition of her "lasting and positive difference" she has made to her local area.
Castlecaulfield also received a special youth award for efforts to include young people.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
Speaking after yesterday's awards ceremony in Mossley Mill, Newtownabbey, Ms McKenna said she was overjoyed by the unexpected honour.
"I'm absolutely delighted, I didn't even know I was nominated," she said.
"We love keeping our village clean and tidy, we really do take pride in where we live. We're a mixed group as well and were delighted to see our children winning a prize.
"They're a mixed bunch who come to us every Saturday to do gardening and litter picking along with other activities."
Ms McKenna, who was invited to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding for her community work, added the group were committed to tackling issues like social isolation.
"We have a group of women who can't garden but they knit patterns which we use for yarn bombing," she said.
"Older people are often lonely, but we're out and about and people know we're in the walled garden for a cup of tea every Saturday."
Praising her green-fingered colleagues, she said: "We have girls who are great planters. They are so dedicated to it and know what colours catch the eye.
"There's a lot of thought and hard work that goes into In Bloom. We really do our best to entertain people driving through the village so they have something nice to look at."
Further nods in the long-running competition went to Cullybackey, Donaghmore and Ballynure. Maghaberry and Stewartstown were recognised with most improved titles, while Quinn's Bar in Newcastle, Ballycastle Garden Centre and the Duke of York bar in Belfast all received special awards for outstanding floral presentation.
For community engagement, Castlecaulfield and Donaghmore each received a special youth award. And Whitehead Train Station proved a hit with commuters and the judges alike, winning the best floral station title.
Translink board member, Dr Mark Sweeney OBE, congratulated the participants yesterday.
"You have created the most stunning plant and floral displays, showcasing your areas and making Northern Ireland a more attractive place to live, visit and work," he said.