Town centre blooms get the chop

Barnstaple’s ‘world famous’ floral displays will not be planted this year

BARNSTAPLE’S world-beating bloom displays are to be nipped in the bud this summer.

Uncertainty over funding and a lack of sponsorship, coupled with a hike in watering costs, mean that the town will be without its floral finery for the first time in 20 years.

In an announcement on Monday, the Barnstaple in Bloom committee confirmed there will be no displays in the High Street, outside the museum, the library or on Bridge Buildings. The only buildings likely to retain their displays will be the guildhall and the pannier market.

Joint chairman, Irene Hockin, said the increase in fuel prices had had a “dramatic” knock-on effect on watering costs.

“We don’t know what money we have coming in and on that basis, and because of the costs of watering, we’re unable to place any orders with our growers,” she told the Gazette.

“The Bridge Trust has intimated that there will be no money forthcoming and one of our main sponsors has decided to support a different charity this year.

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“We no longer get anything from North Devon Council and Barnstaple Town Council has promised us between �3,000 and �4,500 but we won’t know whether we’ll get that or not until next month.

“We have had pledges of donations from our stalwart supporters and for this we are grateful as this support means that at least the roundabouts will be planted and maintained.

“However, with most of the displays not on automatic systems, they require attention every day and the quote for watering this year is almost �7,000, an amount far beyond what we can raise.”

Barnstaple in Bloom’s floral displays have earned the town national and international recognition since the committee’s inception in 1990.

The town has won its category in the South West in Bloom competition 13 times and has collected the national Britain in Bloom award in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2003. Barnstaple found global fame in 1996 when it won the Nations in Bloom and Entente Florale competitions, and in 1998, when it won the World in Bloom accolade.

Its success brings many thousands of visitors to the town, with coach parties arriving every day throughout the summer to see the flowers.

Mrs Hockin said: “As a group of seven committed to enhancing the town, we will be looking at whether we can place sustainable planting anywhere, thus reducing the need for watering.

“This, however, will not alter the fact that the coaches of visitors who come to Barnstaple to view our award-winning floral displays – and for the residents for whom the colourful town centre displays raises smiles – there will be disappointment this year.

“With jobs being lost, money being short and the future looking bleak for many local families, it would be understandable that the fact that there will be no floral displays in Barnstaple this year would be the last thing that people would want to worry about.

“However, we, the committee of Barnstaple in Bloom, are sad that with so little to raise spirits, the whole town will be void of colour for the first time in many years.”

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