Why blooming Biddulph is a winning town
A COMMUNITY group is celebrating its triumph in the Heart of England in Bloom 2012 competition.
Biddulph in Bloom was the overall winner, taking gold in the regional competition. It also won gold in the Large Town category.
The Biddulph entry blew the judges away with its hard work and strong sense of community.
One Britain in Bloom judge said: "Again, Biddulph lived up to and exceeded the judge's expectations with a very high quality and quite inspirational tour.
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"This unrelenting group lets nothing deter them; in fact, adversity is an inspiration to them."
Chairwoman Hilda Sheldon, aged 70, set up Biddulph in Bloom as a community group in 1991 and has worked tirelessly towards a grassroots regeneration of the town. The group became an official charity in 2005.
In 2000, Mrs Sheldon was awarded the MBE and a Heart of England award for outstanding achievement, in recognition of her work.
She said: "It's wonderful to have the hard work of our volunteers recognised in this way.
"The judges' comments were fantastic and we are so grateful to the community for all the support, moral and financial, that has got Biddulph to this point."
Biddulph in Bloom is made up of 12 full-time members, who maintain the presentation of the town through gardening, painting roundabouts, staining benches, picking up litter and removing graffiti. They also work closely with local community groups – including the Brownies, the Rotary club and the Women's Institute – on separate projects to revitalise areas of the town in need of care.
Mrs Sheldon said the area had undergone a transformation over the last 21 years.
She added: "Twenty years ago, you could hardly find a single flower in the town.
"We are an ex-coal mining community and we have a high altitude, which makes it hard for flowers to grow.
"The town does not have a great deal of business coming into it, so we are a dormitory town. This left the area looking bleak."
Mrs Sheldon, a semi-retired Biddulph high street shop owner, teamed up with building society manager Norma Slaney – now secretary of the group – in a bid to brighten up the town.
"We decided to form a community group to do some gardening in Biddulph. We ran for about ten years and decided to register as a charity.
"The town has completely changed since then. Last year, we planted around 2,000 trees and the difference it has made is incredible."
Stone was also awarded gold in the Large Town category.
Stone in Bloom secretary Jill Hood said the group was over the moon to have been awarded gold. She said: "I have had people coming up to me all day to congratulate the group on the award. The judges were complimentary of the 'courageous' use of wild flowers. We couldn't be happier."
Also scoring a gold for Staffordshire was Newcastle-under-Lyme. Councillor Elsie Bates, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: "We're absolutely thrilled to win a gold award for the eleventh year in a row."