Entering the Competition

At the start of 2019 Greenhavens became aware (from Brighton & Hove Green Space Forum) that local “Friends of” groups could enter their green spaces in the South & South East in Bloom competition, which is part of the famous Britain in Bloom Awards run by the RHS.

Groups were encouraged by Greenhavens to enter so we did! We entered in the “It’s Your Neighbourhood” category, although I understand we could have entered into the Parks category too.

We had no idea what the criteria was or if we even met it. In late April having completely forgotten about our entry, we received an email to say that our judge would be at the Park on a date in June. We still had no idea what was expected of us, only that we had an hour of the judge’s time to show him around the Park and give him as much information as we could.

The night before judging we arranged a litter pick and dog poo removal and chatted about the route that the judge should be taken on. A further quick blitz on the morning of the judging and Pat, Ken and David were ready. We met the judge at the entrance and Pat had already supplied him with some information about what we had achieved and our aims for the future. The judge scribbled and ticked on his clipboard, but gave no comments other than “you’re all extremely passionate about this area”. We were still none the wiser about scoring.

Awards ceremony

Following the judging we received an invitation for two of us to attend the awards ceremony in September at the Amex Stadium in Falmer, and Julie and I attended. Once we had checked in and been told our table number we headed to a “holding area” which overlooked the pitch. There were so many people, all chatting away, some were obviously very experienced. Then we were asked to take our seats and found our table was right at the front so we had a great view of the proceedings.

The “It’s Your Neighbourhood” category is the first to be awarded. When they started on the level 3 – Advancing category, it was our turn! Julie and I went up to collect our certificate and had a photo taken and then sat through the rest of the IYN category and the smaller single plots and greenspaces until lunch. After a delicious lunch we continued with the categories, working up to the National Parks, huge gardens and towns, villages and cities. There was then a raffle and one person on each table got to take home the lovely table arrangement.

All in all it was a fantastic day – full of inspiring places being awarded from across the region. It was good to see some local entries winning too including Kingston Village. We certainly came away with some great ideas for future entries and it was a great way to network with other groups.

Having now seen our judging report it makes it a better easier to understand the scoring. There are 3 sections – Community Participation which is 40% of the total, Environmental Responsibility 30% and Gardening Achievement 30%. We scored very highly on Community with 33 out of 40, 17 out of 30 on Environment and 15 out of 30 on Gardening.

We have been given ideas for areas of development which we will look into, but the outstanding comment in the whole report is definitely the judges comment that it was one of the best IYN sites he had seen where there is excellent joint working and support from interested parties.

Thanks and credits

None of this would have been possible without a lot of help from a lot of people and organisations.

Thank you to the following :

To Jo Pettitt who started this whole crazy idea off when we thought Riverside Park would be flattened for a giant waterpark. Her passion and vision for the site inspired me and the other founding members of the Friends group.

To Virginia Pullan and East Sussex County Council for having the courage to work with a small passionate group of residents and to spend the S106 funds to make the site what it is today.

To Chris Bibb and Lewes District Council for allowing us to make some radical changes to their part of Riverside Park and supplying us with an amazing play park to be proud of.

To Newhaven Town Council for their vision and support to get the park devolved from the County & District Councils and the grant aid to purchase bins, dog bag dispenser and trees.

South Downs National Park Ranger Volunteers for all their hard work with scrub clearance – we look forward to working with you later in the year to get 420 trees planted.

Bonnys Wood for their amazing work on habitat improvement including hibernacula and for the footpath which now means Riverside Park is an all year round usable area for the community.

Burleys for their support and guidance through Greenhavens Network.

The community without whose ideas we couldn’t have started with a vision.

Finally to the members and volunteers of the Friends group – this is as much for you as for the park itself.

I would urge all members of Greenhavens network to apply – it’s been an interesting and humbling experience.

Greenhavens would like to add a HUGE congratulations to Lesley and the other volunteers for this award. It’s a wonderful site, and very worthy of the award and the amazing scores and positive feedback in their very first entry to the award.

We would also encourage other groups to apply! Do get in touch if you want any support with your entries.

We attach the full feedback which may help other groups to see how the assessment works and how a project can improve!