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South & South East in Bloom Judging
Judging for this year’s ‘Village of the Year’ category in the South & South East in Bloom initiative took place on Thursday 12th July 2018. I was fortunate to be accompanied by Ollie Chapman and Jenny Ralph who are both very knowledgeable about village life and play key roles in the community.
As part of the entry and judging requirements, we have an hour to showcase our village to the judges. I had pre-planned a route, to take into account the many beautiful gardens, frontages and green areas throughout our parish. We met the two judges in the Community Hall car park at 10am and started our tour on foot. First of all we visited Robinson Meadow. I haven’t been in the meadow for some months but every year it gets better and better as the plants and trees mature. Although the meadow is maintained with cut paths meandering through it, it is largely left wild to encourage wildlife and natural habitat. Well, I can tell you the judges seemed pretty impressed here as there are not very many green wild spaces about, as many similar sites are sold off for development.
After the meadow we crossed to the car park, which had been tidied up and some large flower pots added ready for judging, then walked on behind the hall and into The Downs, as there are some lovely well cared for and tended gardens here I wanted to show the judges.
Next we crossed over the main road towards the shop. It seems to me that this area has seen the greatest improvement of all in the last two years. The hanging baskets on the bus shelter and shop, the renovated village sign and raised planters and seating area all looked really great and have created an attractive focal point in the centre of our village. Whilst here we had a look at some of the gardens in Bishop Jenner, again some great private gardens here too.
After this we drove up to see the gardens of the houses in the new development. This area has dramatically changed in the 12 months since one of the judges was here and it’s great to see some lovely gardens developing. The new play area is a great asset to the village and we showed this to the judges as well.
Next stop Elmstone to see the partially renovated old phone box and three lovely gardens at the bottom of Longmete Road. These look as if they come straight out of a magazine and again show the diversity and high standard of some of the private gardens in the parish. Then Church Field by Elmstone Church – another area that has greatly improved in the past two years. Some lovely flower pots were on display and brightened up the field.
Our next stop was the top of Court Lane to see the new entrance gate and the raised planter that goes with it - we also looked at the field verges that had been cut and maintained. Then up to see the natural swimming pool in the Forstal. The judges were really impressed with the creation of a natural spring water fed and solar powered pool. A real credit to the owners and ticked the judges' box for conservation, environmental diversity and sustainability.
After the whirlwind tour we went to Preston Garden Centre for a well-earned coffee and further discussions. It is worth mentioning that the judging focuses on three criteria; Horticultural Achievement, Environmental Responsibility and Community Participation. These topics were discussed at length in my judge’s report and hopefully filled in further background to the achievements and progress we have made in the community.
What happens now?
We find out how well we did on Friday 14th September at the annual awards ceremony, we scooped a Silver award last year and were just pipped at the post to win. Of course this year I hope we will be the outright winners but we will have to wait until September to find out. This year the awards are held at the Amex Community Stadium near Brighton. I am hoping a little Preston posse will be able to come along, and we’ll be sure to let you know the results ASAP.
In the meantime, I really have to thank everyone for their help and support this year, especially the Village Society who has been instrumental in making physical improvements to our surroundings. Also, many people have contributed in their own way; some with small gestures, some large, but together we have achieved great improvements to our village. The Bulb Bomb was a huge success, which we couldn’t have achieved without community support and hard work. To help carry the ‘In Bloom’ initiative forward, we plan to run a smaller Bulb Bomb this autumn, planting 2000 bulbs, provided by David Wilson Homes, in the new development so that our whole village, including old and new residents have ‘Bombed our Village with flowers’.
Finally, regardless of the outcome, I think our village looks blooming marvellous!
Chair, Preston & Elmstone Village Society
A Village Website at Last
We've been talking about a village Website for a long time now. The trouble is, even a simple one takes a bit of time and thought to get set up and everyone is pretty busy these days. Even if we used Village Society funds to pay someone to design it, all the words and information has to be created, collated and merged into the design. So we decided to save the money and do it ourselves . However, as this is all voluntary work it will always take a bit longer but hopefully it will be useful to the village residents.
Many of you will already be familiar with our Facebook page, which has been around for a few years and works well for keeping people up to date with events, as long as they are prepared to go into Facebook . But it has limitations for adding and storing reference information that doesn't change all the time. We thought it would be helpful for new residents moving into the village to have this social media information source and contact point. Facebook will continue exactly as before and run alongside our website and Preston Parish Newsletter.
What you see today is a starting point. We will be adding more information over the coming months and welcome input from any of the groups and societies that run in the parish who want to share what they do with us on our website.
Josie Leicester & Louise Perryman