Judges from South and South East in Bloom tour Fareham and Gosport

JUDGING From left, judge Linda Jones with Geoff and Bridget Thickett in their Sarisbury garden. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (131944-1)
JUDGING From left, judge Linda Jones with Geoff and Bridget Thickett in their Sarisbury garden. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131944-1)
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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THIS time of year there can be no nicer place than relaxing outdoors surrounded by pretty pansies, fabulous fuscias and luscious lavender.

Look around as you take a trip down Fareham’s West Street and you’ll see hanging baskets bursting with colour at every turn.

If you are in Gosport, places like the Falkland Gardens are full of glorious blooms.

Gorgeous displays like these don’t happen by magic, they are down to the hard work of volunteer groups and the borough councils.

The ultimate accolade for any town is to be awarded gold by judges in the South and South East in Bloom competition.

And it’s not just about the flowers, the judges are looking for community participation, environmental responsibilty as well as horticultural achievement.

Fareham has won gold for the last nine years and for the last two years Gosport has been awarded silver.

Over the last three days, judges Barry Newman, a retired government officer and chairman of the national vegetable society, and Linda Jones, a volunteer for 20 years at the prestigious Dixter Gardens, near Hastings, have been making their way around gardens, schools and community spaces in both towns.

Barry, 64, said: ‘It has been a real privilege to be in this part of the world.’

Linda, 70, said: ‘It has been an extraordinary experience of excellence.’

Both judges remained tight-lipped as to their favourites as they still have the last of the large town category to visit — Crawley.

Parks and landscape officer at Gosport council, Sian Jones, said: ‘We keep trying to beat Fareham but it hasn’t happened yet. If we can maintain our silver we’d be happy.’

Horticultural development officer at Fareham council, Matt Wakefield, said: ‘It is not just about flowers, it is an environmental campaign.’

Executive member for leisure Cllr Connie Hockley said she was confident that Fareham would retain it’s gold status.

Cllr Hockley praised the hard work of the volunteers at Fareham in Bloom.