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Even though awarded Gold Standard, for the second year in a row Usk just missed winning Britain in Bloom in the national Large Village class.   The winners were Hillsborough in Ulster.  Usk's work on heritage was also short listed for a discretionary award, loosing to Scotland's Pitlochry.  Chairman Tony Kear said that being invited to take part in the UK competition was an accolade in itself as well as a huge challenge.

Usk Church in Wales School was short listed for a judges award but narrowly missed out to joint winning schools in Dalton, Cumbria and Norwich.



Marion's front garden 2014

Usk has won the Small Country Town class for Wales in Bloom 2014 for the 33rd year in succession.  This year Usk was in a new class, Small Rural Town.  Marion Powell, an Usk gardener and Usk in Bloom volunteer has won the award for the best front garden in Wales.



See more pictures of Usk in July ...

After the privilege of hosting HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as part of the the RHS 50th Anniversary of Britain in Bloom, The Volunteers at Usk in Bloom now face an anxious wait for the results of the Wales and Britain competition entries. Usk will actually be hosting the Wales in Bloom National Awards ceremony on Thursday 18th September at the Glen Yr Afon Hotel with the Britain in Bloom gala dinner taking place in Bristol on 16th October.

The judges gave incredibly positive feedback and particularly praised the support of the business community in the difficult economic climate as well as the huge community spirit that exists which makes Usk stand out from the other competitors.

UiB chairman commented "The tireless work of our volunteers has produced some amazingly colourful quality displays this summer which we are very proud of. Twyn Square is particularly stunning supported by businesses there. It's been a challenge keeping the flowers in such condition given the extreme weather experienced - at one point over 5,000 litres a day was being used from the bore hole to water the plants".

"I would like to pay particular thanks also to the team at Monmouthshire County Council who contributed so much in the days up to judging sweeping, tidying and removing weeds".

On the back of Usk Open Gardens, the whole of the Town has looked incredible. The Town Competition results have just been announced and the awards ceremony is being held on Sunday 26th October at the Glen Yr Afon Hotel when it is hoped that a guest from the RHS will present again the awards.
 


Usk in Bloom hosted a visit by HRH Duchess of Cornwall.  We showed her all that we do as a community for "In Bloom" and why we have won Wales in Bloom for the past 32 years.

So far this year's weather has been challenging!  The boxes in Twyn Square grew ahead of plan in the greenhouses at The Willows Nursery so a hastily reorganised planting day coincided with atrocious weather as was the following week.  Our volunteers though came out in force and all we need now is some warmth and sun to help the plants on their way.  The boxes on the Bridge have has a revamp thanks to the blacksmiths at Llangibby and a few coats of Hammerite.  Our thanks go to Peter and Jan Clarke for their sponsorship of the Bridge displays provided by Usk Garden Centre.  

The response from the business community has once again been brilliant and the take up of our hanging basket service bigger than before has been a huge success.  Thank you to Kada Europe, the Three Salmons Hotel, Roberts and Co and The Hall Inn for their generous sponsorship of specific beds. We also have had sponsors who wish to remain anonymous.  We are grateful for the newly reformed Chamber of Commerce for asking us to join the Group given our mutual aims of promoting our town.  

We have continued to replace the old rotten tubs in Twyn Square and outside Clare Court with only a few more to complete the refurbishment plan.  With self watering plastic containers, we should have virtually eliminated all repair costs for future years. The bed outside The Curtain Studio has been replaced as well.

 We have been in close discussions with Monmouthshire County Council and Usk Town Council about the concerns of Twyn Square as the centre piece of Usk and of course our displays.  Cobbles are being replaced and removable bollards put up outside Gallery in the Square. The car park has a new exit to allow easier walking to the benches, cobbles are gradually being reset, signs being replaced and the seats will be repainted.  BT and the Post office stepped up to the mark and we organised post and phone boxes to be repaired and repainted. The bench has been replaced by a new one made from recycled plastic. These were areas where we lost marks in the competitions last years so ist isn't all about flowers!

The Committee are busy planning for three competitions. Wales in Bloom is 18th July. The Town Competition date is set for 21st July and Britain in Bloom is 5th August.  This year we step up into the Small Town category for Wales in Bloom as our electorate is now over 2000.  We remain in the Large Village category for Britain in Bloom!




Planting boxes and preparing tubs

Preparations for the summer are well underway. The metal baskets from the bridge have been sand blasted to remove rust and flaking paint, then repainted. Poppies have been seeded opposite the primary school to mark the centenary of the outbreak of WWII. The Usk in Bloom team will be meeting at the Willows nursery to plant up the smaller containers for the square. These will be positioned and the larger containers around the town made ready and planted on the evenings of May 28th and June 4th.  The colour scheme has been chosen - Purple, Pink and Cream. 

One of the Royal Horticultural Society’s “buzz words” for 2014 is “pollinators” - plants attracting bees, butterflies and other insects. In line with this Monmouthshire County Council will be seeding the beds adjacent to the car-park with a flower seed mix and this will be copied in the WI bed adjacent to Priory Court.

In addition to these horticultural endeavours we are also trying to tidy other areas of the town including the repair and painting of waste bins and benches. Various Public Works are anticipated on some of the cobbled areas of Twyn Square.

As ever volunteers are always required for planting, display maintenance, DIY type projects, and administrative requirements. You don’t have to attend committee meetings or commit to a definite schedule. Please contact Tony Kear at uskinbloom@gmail.com or on 07824 810182 if you are able to offer any help.



Over 60 locals packed the Nags Head in Twyn Square for Usk in Bloom's Annual auction that saw over £5,700 raised to prepare for another summer floral campaign to support Usk's local trade and economy.

Over 130 lots were donated by local businesses and supporters with well known character auctioneer Chris Brain being kept on his feet for over 2 hours. Bidders enthusiastically competed for a huge range of items ranging from a holiday in West Wales, lunches and dinners at local pubs and restaurants as well as antiques and numerous bottles of wine and champagne. Usk's HSBC staff, Heather, Jayne and Emma tallied up the bids and efficiently balanced the books at the end of the successful evening.

Chairman Tony Kear commented "we have yet again be overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone in donating and bidding on the night and are enormously grateful to them as well as Simon Key and his team at the Nags. We are now just starting to gear up for our summer plans as we prepare for our Wales and Britain in Bloom campaigns and this money raised is a significant catalyst. We hope the incredible hard work of our volunteers will continue to bring visitors to our beautiful Town to enjoy the floral displays boosting the local economy."


This summer marks the 50th Anniversary of the RHS and Usk in Bloom are excited to be well into the planning stages for their Wales and Britain Campaigns - despite the atrocious weather!


Bulb Planting ready for 2014.


Volunteers potting up.

The 2500 daffodil bulbs planted in November are just starting to make themselves known in the beds and the colour scheme has been chosen - Purple, Pink and Cream with Usk's heritage chosen as the theme. Please do follow the colours - it makes a big difference in the judging. In addition we will be plating red poppies to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Word War one. We'd love you to contribute in this way also - and hopefully we can get your pictures later in the year.

Chairman Tony Kear and Campaign co-ordinator Carys Davies travelled to the Stadium of Light - home of Sunderland Football Club to meet the Britain in Bloom Judges and hear of more tips and best practices from the organisers and fellow contestants. After 600 miles and 12 hours it was along day but lets hope the conference will bring Usk home in first place when judging takes place in late July with a new revised tour of Usk. We are delighted Wales in Bloom have appointed a Mentor - last years judge John Woods - to assist us.

As ever we are always looking for volunteers.. Please do email us on uskinbloom@gmail.com or ring chairman Tony Kear on 07824810182. We'd love to hear from you.