FORRES has again been named as one of the prettiest towns in Britain.
Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Britain in Bloom UK presented five accolades to volunteers Forres In Bloom (FIB) at an awards ceremony in Llandudno, North Wales, including joint winner of the ‘Town’ category, with Halstead, Anglia.
Forres also won a Gold medal and an ‘Overcoming Adversity’ award, while longtime FIB servants Ian and Sandra Maclennan won ‘Community Champion’ titles.
“Nae bad for the furthest north entrant!,” said Sandra. “These awards recognise the amazing community of Forres - we all pull together and exhibit immense pride-of-place.
“We were overwhelmed to receive five, especially category winner - the only Scottish entry to do so.
“The standard is exceptionally high in a nationwide competition and climate difference is crucial.”
Forres won the Overcoming Adversity award for taking on the run-down nursery at the Grant Park squash courts and growing 30,000 bedding plants after Moray Council stopped supplying them in 2013.
Sandra said: “The award was recognition for the efforts made to maintain the standards set before budget cuts forced the closure of the greenhouses in Elgin.
“And for the immense amount of voluntary work to upgrade the site to make it fit for purpose.”
FIB thanked local firms BAM Nuttall, Tesco, Lidl, Moray Waste Busters, James Jones & Sons and AJ Engineering for supplying materials for the upgrade. Financial support was also provided by the Forres Common Good Fund, Forres Area Forum, Forres Rotary Club, Berry Burn Community Trust, The Budge Trust and the Co-op Community Fund.
“People and pounds are our main secret weapons,” said Sandra. “Residents are extremely generous and we have received substantial legacies and donations.”
FIB has a dedicated group working every week, while a ‘Sunday Squad’ meet between 11am and 4pm.
Several members adopt areas of the town to maintain in their own time and Champion Gardener Jackie King and mum Marion plan, purchase and oversee the growing on and planting of the formal beds at Grant Park and Market Green.
RHS judges visited 78 finalists over the summer to assess against three key criteria: community participation; environmental responsibility; and horticultural achievement. Depending on the standard reached, a Gold, Silver Gilt, Silver or Bronze medal was awarded, with a winner in each category and discretionary awards for achieving excellence in particular fields.
This year’s finalists planted over a million trees, bulbs and other plants, transforming villages, towns and cities into green havens that lift people’s spirits and improve their wellbeing.
Judges chairman Roger Burnett is proud of the efforts to make communities clean, green and beautiful.
He said: “We saw an incredible diversity of different planting schemes, including wildflower meadows for wildlife, community food growing and plants chosen to cope with our changing climate.
“This year, the standard was as high as ever but what really stood out was the creativity and ingenuity that groups showed in tackling the specific challenges of their particular areas, whether that be lack of funding, local social issues or tricky site conditions.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross has congratulated FIB: “The town always looks fantastic and this is thanks to the hard work and dedication of these volunteers.
“The flowers and the park showcase Forres to the visitors who come here and volunteers are out every evening throughout the summer watering the spectacular hanging baskets on the high street.
“I also regularly see the group hard at work in Grant Park and I know they do a lot with local schoolchildren who are members of the Wee FiBees, inspiring a new generation.”
Boosting the local economy via tourism and visits remains one of FIB’s main aims.
“Winning these awards in front of 79 entrants and an audience of 750 keeps Forres in the public eye,” explained Community Champion, Sandra. “They make it a must-visit for gardening enthusiasts, apart from anything else, to suss out the opposition.
“A few people said they had not heard of Forres - they have now!”