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News from across Berkshire this March 2014

PUBLISHED: 11:20 21 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:20 21 March 2014

The atrium at South Hill Park, Bracknell

The atrium at South Hill Park, Bracknell

Archant

Three of our favourite places - Bray Village, Henley on Thames and Bracknell - have made it to the 2014 finals of Britain in Bloom. How will they fare?

Beautiful Bray will be out to impress the judgesBeautiful Bray will be out to impress the judges

Britain in bloom: We’re going for gold

As the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) celebrates his 50th anniversary, there’s been an announcement eagerly awaited by towns and villages across the UK. Last year they came under scrutiny in regional judging competitions and then it was simply time to keep the fingers crossed.

Would they be shortlisted for the finals, chosen for their efforts to engage the local community, demonstrating an exceptional commitment to helping the environment and for horticultural achievement?

The fantastic news is that we have three finalists. Ted Smith Chair of the Thames & Chiltern in Bloom region says: “It’s really great to see the benefits that Britain in Bloom brings to communities in our region, benefits that go far beyond simply brightening up an area with flowers, but more importantly brings people together with the common aim of improving the locality where they live.

Together with all those in the Thames & Chiltern Region I want to wish our entrants all the very best in this year’s finals.”

And so do we. In July and August two RHS judges will tour local projects. They’ll be looking at everything from bedding displays to conservation and recycling initiatives.

Each of our towns and villages will be hoping to hear they have won Gold when the results are announced in Bristol in October.

So for the next few months, our chosen trio of Bray Village, Henley on Thames and Bracknell will be doing everything in their power to ensure the judges are impressed on the day. Let’s take a look at the opposition with our very own Floral Form Guide.

***

Bray Village

Bray’s Conservation Area is in the Small Village category and has every reason to be hopeful as it took gold in 2013 and received a special award for floral input.

The rivals:

Great Whittington in Northumbria... and Tresco, which is actually a holiday island within the Isles of Scilly.

Great Whittington is a farming and commuter village near Hexham and has won Northumbria in Bloom three times on the trot as well as taking the RHS Silver Gilt award at its first attempt in the contest. The village’s website, www.greatwhittington.com, announces: “Cunning plans are now being formulated to make sure that next

year we bring home the trophy.”

Tresco, meanwhile, is more known for its beautiful holiday cottages and The New Inn. It’s privately owned by Robert Dorrien-Smith, who together with his wife Lucy runs the Tresco Estate, while living at Tresco Abbey. Tresco Abbey Garden is internationally renowned for its flora and fauna.

Three very different entrants – good luck Bray

***

Bracknell

This is a real accolade for Bracknell, recipients of a Silver Gilt award last year, which continues to undergo a transformation into a town which is sure to win awards for years to come. Bracknell is in the Small City category, and while we know it’s a town, this does mean it faces some stiff opposition.

The rivals:

Bath, Chorley, Crawley, Derry City, Harrogate, Tamworth and Loughborough. How do you judge Bracknell against spa towns such as historic Bath with its world famous architecture, or Harrogate with its Georgian heritage?

The good news here is that 10 million pretty postcard buildings won’t guarantee you the top prize. This is Britain in Bloom and while they are already sorting out the hanging baskets in Yorkshire (see www.harrogateinbloom.org.uk) the people of Bracknell have had plenty of recent practice when it comes to showcasing their town.

Small City winners Shrewsbury are not finalists this year, so come on Bracknell, turn that silver into gold!

***

Henley

Henley gained a Silver Gilt award in the Town category last year and this time they face competition from all corners of the UK.

The rivals:

Bridgnorth in Shropshire, Dalton with Newton (Cumbria), Immingham (NE Lincolnshire), Linlithgow (West Lothian), Shevington & District (Wigan); Thornbury (S Gloucestershire) and Halstead in Essex.

Once again it’s a mixed bunch. Halstead has previously been a Champion of Champions gold winner. Bridgnorth, in the Severn Valley, like Henley has a bridge, and also boasts a funicular railway and a ruined castle which sits on a tilt courtesy of damage incurred during the English Civil War.

Historic Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh and was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. But let’s face it, none of them are Henley – sitting astride a county border on the Thames. Bring home that prize!

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Raise your glasses to the team at Royal Windsor racecourse

No wonder they are celebrating at Royal Windsor – attendances in 2013 were up nearly 30 per cent. We’ve always said it’s hard to beat Monday meetings there if you are looking for a magic mix of evening racing with a bit of sparkle, and it seems a lot of you share our opinion.

The figures have been released by the Racecourse Association and show that at courses across the country attendances rose by two per cent in 2013. Windsor did have five more meetings in 2013 than in 2012, but with 109,700 attending, it is worth raising a glass to (preferably sparkly and in the bar there).

It also means that racing retains its spot as the second most attended sport in Britain, with football the top choice. Windsor is now owned by Arena Racing Company (ARC), the largest racecourse operator in the UK. Their 15 courses also include Chepstow, Fontwell Park and Brighton.

Stuart Dorn, newly appointed Executive Director at Royal Windsor, says: “It shows the enormous support the racecourse receives and what a great venue it is for an evening out. We are working hard to get ready for the 2014 season and can’t wait to welcome every one back.”

Don’t worry Stuart, we’ll be there – and so should any of our readers who haven’t enjoyed this experience yet.

Royal Windsor opens its gates for racing on Monday, April 7 for the first fixture of the season with Monday Night racing from April 28 featuring Chas & Dave live. Tickets, packages and annual membership are available online at www.windsor-racecourse.co.uk. Look out for weekend family events where the children have a fine old time while you pick a winner.

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