VOLUNTEERS who created a garden at a seaside community centre are nothing if not inventive. Alongside a gravel bed with lobster pot and anchor they celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee with a “60 years on the Throne” planter in the shape of an old toilet bowl planted with red, blue and white flowers.
“We were delighted with the planter and everybody took the joke,” said Mike Dungworth, a management committee member of Seaton Sluice community centre in Northumberland.
A redundant lawn mower was also planted in jubilee colours.
The garden was one of 130 projects across the North East which were celebrated on Thursday at the It’s Your Neighbourhood awards ceremony at Spennymoor Town Hall in County Durham.
Representatives were presented with framed certificates by the Royal Horticultural Society.
The awards, under the umbrella of Northumbria in Bloom, encourage people to take action to improve their locality.
This year projects in the awards, which were launched three years ago, have involved more than 1,000 volunteers.
The 130 entries this year were well up on last year’s 46, while the number of community groups involved rose from 37 to 127.
“This year we have had a phenomenal response,” says Eileen Burn, chairwoman of Northumbria in Bloom.
Of the Seaton Sluice project, judges said: “ We liked the way they commemorated the Jubilee in a humorous way.”
It’s Your Neighbourhood is a non-competitive campaign which is open to any voluntary group in the Northumbria in Bloom region.
There is no entry fee, and anyone can enter. There are entries as varied as allotment groups, cemetery gardeners, school gardeners, cul-de-sac carers, church groups and Friends of parks.
“It is open to any group that has a particular part of their community that they want to improve by gardening and caring for their environment,” says Eileen.
The campaign has five levels of award – Establishing, Developing, Improving, Thriving and Outstanding. This week 42 Outstanding certificates were awarded.
“It is very encouraging to see how many groups are moving up through the different levels, and how well the new groups are doing,” says Eileen.
“I think the participation this year reflects the fact that so many people understand that local authorities are suffering with cutbacks in the current economic climate but they still want to make the best of where they live. This campaign allows these groups to be recognised for the responsibility they are taking for specific areas within their own communities.
“By making these extra efforts to transform often neglected areas through gardening, they achieve great results.
“We give every possible encouragement to communities who want to grow together .
“Gardening is the shared enthusiasm of all the people who came to this year’s Neighbourhood awards.”
Liz Lazenby, from Gosforth in Newcastle, who has been a Northumbria in Bloom judge for more than 30 years, says: “The neighbourhood awards are very much about people.
“Those who are just starting out and are developing are just as important. The people who take part in the awards are from all walks of life and are doing something for their locality.”