Flower power groups help Horsham district blossom into more pleasant place

JPCT 180614 S14250933x Horsham In Bloom,  Human Nature Garden in Horsham Park -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140618-120723001
JPCT 180614 S14250933x Horsham In Bloom, Human Nature Garden in Horsham Park -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140618-120723001

Many of us are perhaps guilty of taking the Horsham district’s beautiful aesthetics for granted.

Several small, community-minded groups play a major role in the upkeep of the area’s natural beauty - but, again, a lot of us are perhaps guilty of not knowing exactly what these volunteers do.

Horsham in Bloom are one of a number of local ‘In Bloom’ groups scattered across the district’s towns and villages - the likes of which include Beeding and Storrington - hoping to make the district a more attractive place to live and work.

The Horsham team, currently a committee of around ten volunteers, was established when the Carfax was pedestrianised nearly 20 years ago.

Sue Brundish, chair of Horsham in Bloom, said: “Horsham in Bloom was set up as an independent charity with the idea of bringing some life into the Carfax.

“Now it is the one opportunity the community has for demonstrating its own horticultural skills, and to enhance the community for everyone.

“It is to engender community spirit and to make Horsham a better place to live, work and bring up families.”

The many years of hard work paid off for the small team of volunteers, when they were rewarded with the ‘small city’ prize in the prestigious Britain in Bloom competition in 2007.

The prolific group’s hard work that earned them the title consists of a lot more than simply arranging some flowers into pretty patterns - they were backed by Horsham District Council as the town’s streets were made immaculate for the strict judging process.

Sue said: “Having won South East in Bloom for three years, we were invited to take part in Britain in Bloom and we won - we were the best in Britain.

“Outside Park House there is a lump of Horsham Stone, and engraved on that there is a celebration of the victory.”

Despite their past successes, the hard work involved, financial backing and lack of HDC resources has halted Horsham in Bloom’s competing days in recent years.

The group raised £100,000 from the National Lottery for the Human Nature Garden in Horsham Park, and are responsible for maintaining the garden.

However, they are reliant on local businesses - particularly the soon-to-close Novartis - for funding.

Novartis has donated as much as £16,000 in a year to the volunteers and gave £6,000 last year, and Sue said ‘it remains to be seen’ whether the pharmaceutical giant’s closure will affect Horsham in Bloom.

She said: “If we can find similar amounts of sponsorship from a greater range of businesses, then we should be able to keep going.

“We have got really good reserves, and we need to replenish those.”

Also established around 20 years ago, Beeding in Bloom are similarly feeling the size of the challenge - perhaps to an even larger extent.

They too have ended their days of competing in South East in Bloom - for now at least.

Tricia Toe, secretary of Beeding in Bloom since it began around 20 years ago, explained why the group has retired from days of competing in South East in Bloom.

She said: “Although it was fun to begin with and South East in Bloom and judges were all very nice and helpful, it involved an enormous amount of work for a small number of people.

“Unfortunately, we decided after our 2008 entry, we couldn’t really cope with the additional work which was involved in entering South East in Bloom and the ever more demanding standards we were expected to reach.

“We all felt that our efforts in providing hanging baskets, containers and flowerbeds which our small group provide and maintain in order to make our village a beautiful place to live and visit was the most important thing.”

There was no shortage of success for Beeding in Bloom - they finished first twice, in ‘best small country town’ in 2001 and in ‘large village’ in 2004, after categories were reassessed.

These were amongst several second and third placed finishes.

Tricia said: “We are only a fairly small group and the trouble is it keeps getting smaller or we have problems with ill health, or other problems.

“It is a shame because it was good fun, but it is hard work and we don’t have the human resources to do it now.”

The group continues to hold poster and garden competitions, involve the local children, hold plant sales and various events.

Tricia added: “We love our village and that’s why we do what we do.”

For Storrington in Bloom, the challenges are entirely different.

They are the new kids in the block - only founded in 2012 after being inspired by florist Jo Cragg putting together an entry for the village the year before.

Cherril Castle, committee member of Storrington in Bloom, said: “Having seen her efforts, a few of us got together and said she shouldn’t be allowed to do it on her own!

“In 2012 we put in a bit more of an entry and to do that, we started Storrington in Bloom.

“It is very community minded - we want to make Storrington a better place to live and attract more visitors.”

The group has attracted great interest in a short time in the village, and is made up of a core group of about a dozen people.

Local businesses have been quick to back the project - it appears to be a group on the rise.

Cherril said: “A lot of the local traders are making contributions, and with some of the larger businesses we have applied for grants.

“We found it made a difference to the way people felt in the village.

“We get a lot of feedback by residents saying it is nice things are being done. We complain about it but we all enjoy it really!”

Squire’s Garden Centre are a major sponsor, along with The Moon Pub, Lions and Rotary Club.

The group is also hosting open gardens in the village on July 13, from 2pm to 5pm.

Storrington in Bloom could blossom into the next prize winning ‘In Bloom’ group from the area, and the first in some years, with many groups’ days of competing over for now.

Despite their differing goals, numbers and resources, the Horsham district’s various ‘In Bloom’ organisations work hard to make all corners of the district a more pleasant place to be.