Elswick in Bloom
​"The Village of Flowers"


Elswick is a small village with a population of 1200 (904 on the electoral roll) and is situated in the heart of the rural Fylde plain, midway between the towns of Blackpool and Preston. Whilst it possesses many of the characteristics of a typical village i.e. a village shop, a church and two public houses it has no school* and arguably suffers from the lack of a village green or obvious village centre. This and the fact that the village was until quite recently a working agricultural village has often put the village at a disadvantage when competing with its more picturesque neighbours in competitions such as the Lancashire Best Kept Village competition or Britain in Bloom. 

In recent years however a transformation has taken place. Twenty one years ago the then Director of Leisure and Amenities at Fylde Borough Council visited the village in response to a Parish Council initiative to improve the village and he suggested at a public meeting that Elswick should enter the North West in Bloom competition. Most people laughed at the idea as it seemed that the village had absolutely no chance in the contest. Not only was it relatively unattractive, but it was also not particularly well cared for and had achieved absolutely no success in the Lancashire Best Kept Village Competition, despite having entered for over 30 years.

The Director assured those present that the competition would have a cumulative effect as any work undertaken would encourage villagers to do more with their properties and gardens and would eventually instil a community sense of pride. This is precisely what has happened in Elswick. The competition has galvanised the whole community with all sectors working together to provide a better environment for all. Whilst we are delighted to have been judged the ‘Best Village in the North West of England’ for the past four years, it is not the prospect of winning competitions that drives us on but the fact that we are proud to live in such a lovely environment with a very supportive community.    
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Village History
No one knows how old Elswick is. The first mention of the village occurs in the Domesday book in 1086 when it was referred to as Edelswic, a hamlet with 300 acres under cultivation. The name of the village denoted that it was the wick or dwelling place of someone known as Ethyl and this is reflected in later references when the name of the village was recorded as Ethelswick.

Whilst the entry in the Domesday book indicates that the village is at least 1000 years old several local place names around the village are of Viking origin and suggest that the village is even older.

Over the years Elswick has had a turbulent history. In 1485 the 15th century equivalent of avian flu (recorded as sweating sickness) wiped out half the village and a similar catastrophe occurred in 1565 when sore sickness hit the village.

*Although situated just outside the village boundary in the hamlet of Copp, the village school has been a major participant in the village's Britain in Bloom activities.

In 1643 the Earl of Derby stayed in the village with his troops during the Civil war. After capturing the town of Preston for the Royalists his troops plundered and burned the village. Five years later fortunes were reversed when Oliver Cromwell overcame the Royalist army at the Battle of Preston. One battle was fought at the rear of Grange Farm in Elswick where in recent years a cannonball has been unearthed during ploughing.
The following year Charles 1 was beheaded and the first Nonconformist church in Lancashire was founded in Elswick. This was at a time of great religious persecution and it is particularly remarkable that the church has survived to today considering that Parliament passed many acts at the time such as The Five Mile Act which made it illegal for Nonconformist ministers who refused to take oath of allegiance to the king (Charles the Second) to go within 5 miles of any city, corporate town or borough.

As the cradel for nonconformity in Lancashire the church is rightly famous and as such attracts visitors from all over the world. Each year the church celebrates its anniversary (this year was the 367th) and always attracts a large attendance. In 1933 the event attracted 1500 people.
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1906 Anniversary Day
At the turn of the 20th century, when this photograph was taken Elswick, was also renowned for its orchards and spring blossom as documented in Windmill Land, a celebrated book of the area written in 1916.(see Community Orchard project). In more recent times the village is  famous as the home of Bonds ice cream, arguably the best ice cream in Lancashire and for shale gas, being the nearest village to where shale gas extraction is planned.
Elswick in Bloom History
The Elswick in Bloom Committee was formed in 1995 and comprises a committee of 8 members with additional representatives from Elswick Parish Council, Elswick Woman's Institute, Elswick United Reformed Church, Elswick Village Hall Committee, Elswick Youth Club and Elswick Businesses. In total we have approximately 50 volunteers who average around 30 hours each per annum, in addition to time spent distributing newsletters and attending meetings.

When the village first entered the North West in Bloom competition in 1996 community involvement was minimal. Despite this, the village won the Best New Entry Award. This was followed the year after with the 1st prize for New Landscaping. Eight long years then ensued before 2006 when the village was judged third (second runner up) in the Large Village Class. This latter award was quite remarkable considering that the gardening contractor went bankrupt in the second week in June leaving the village at that late stage with no plants.

In 2007 we were again placed third in the large village class and realised at the presentation ceremony that we had been competing in the wrong class over the years. The rules of the competition define a large village as having more than 1000 people on the electoral role whereas Elswick only has 904. In 2008 we entered the correct Village class and were placed joint second, the position that we also achieved in 2009.

In 2010 the North West in Bloom Committee revised its judging criteria and aligned its awards with those of the national competition. That year Elswick received the Gold Award as well as the Clean Sweep Award. The village was also judged to be the Best Kept Village in Lancashire in the Lancashire Best Kept Village competition- after 50 years of trying. Since 2010 our achievements have been awesome and have improved every year.
They are-:

2011 Gold in North West in Bloom and retention of the Clean Sweep Award. . Silver Gilt in 
         our first appearance in the national Britain in Bloom Competition   
2012 Gold in North West in Bloom and Best North West Village Award.
2013 Gold in North West in Bloom and Best North West Village Award. Silver Gilt in the
         national Britain in Bloom Competition.
2014 Gold in North West in Bloom and Best North West Village Award. Gold in the national
         Britain in Bloom Competition in which we were judged Gold in all three categories and
         nominated for two discretionary awards – Conservation and Wildlife and Pride of    .
2015 Gold in North West in Bloom and Best North West Village Award. Our village co-
         coordinator Paul Hayhurst was also presented with the 2015 Outstanding Achievement   

We are obviously very proud of our record having achieved six consecutive Golds and been judged the Best Village in the North West of England for each of the past four years. The village is becoming quite famous for its flower displays through glossy magazine articles and was even featured on regional TV last year. We regularly receive comments praising the flower displays in the village and even had a letter from a non-resident who commutes every morning from Thornton Cleveleys to Manchester. He says that most mornings he makes a detour on his way to work simply to see the flowers as it makes him feel much better. Another person told us that he cycles to Elswick three days a week during the summer months to sit and eat his lunch in the wildflower meadow. Throughout the Fylde Elswick is often referred to as the ‘village of the flowers’. A description which we feel is most apt.
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Review of the Past year and Calendar of Events
July                Judging for North West in Bloom
                       Judging of Elswick in Bloom Garden and Hanging Basket competitions.
                       Article in ‘inFocus’ magazine
August          Judging of Sunflower competition.
                       Presentation of prizes for Elswick in Bloom Best Garden, Hanging Basket and Sunflower
September  Tour of village by committee members and Parish Council identifying where
                       improvements can be made for next year.
                       Meeting to discuss plans for 2016.
October       Pruning of damson trees – Training session for Friends of the Orchard with Steve
                       Edwards, Lancashire Countryside Officer.
                       Site meeting for bee hives.
                       North West in Bloom Awards at Southport – Awarded GOLD for the 6th year in
                       succession and judged the Best Village in Lancashire for the 4th successive year.
                       Nominated to represent the North West of England in the National Britain in Bloom
                       2016 finals.
                       Village co-ordinator Paul Hayhurst presented with 2015 Outstanding Achievement at
                       North West in Bloom Award Ceremony.
November  Elswick in Bloom featured on Lancashire TV.
                      Articles in the Blackpool Evening Gazette and Rural Fylde Express.                     
                      Summer bedding cleared and beds prepared for spring/summer planting.
                      Elswickian newsletter issued.
                      Article in ‘inFocus’ magazine
                      Planting of winter bedding at entrances to the village, including 600 natural primroses  
                      and 500 hundred tulips.
                      A further 1000 bluebell bulbs planted in the Avenue of Trees by volunteers.
                      Further planning meeting for 2016.
December  Article in ‘inFocus’ magazine.
                      Sponsorship applied for under Tesco Bags of Help scheme.
January       Village Christmas Trees collected by volunteers for sand dune conservation project.
                      Newspaper article in Blackpool Evening Gazette
                      Advised successful in Tesco Bags of Help Scheme.
                      Attended Britain in Bloom 2016 briefing in Birmingham.
                      Submitted Management Plan for Green Flag Award.
February    Purchased two ploughs for new heritage beds.
                      Finalised plans for 2016 bedding and placed order with local nursery.
                      Construction of new flower bed planned.
                      Tesco Bags of Help appeal voting commences.
March          Grant of £8000 confirmed in Tesco Bags of Help award.
April             Elswick in Bloom 2016 launched.
                      Public meeting held in the village hall with over 30 residents joining the volunteers.
                      Village litter pick held.
                      Annual wildflower seeds sown in the meadow and areas surrounding the orchard.
                      Ploughs sandblasted and painted by volunteers.
                      Willow pods in the meadow rebuilt by volunteers.
May              Green Flag judges visit.
                      Lancashire Best Kept Village AGM held in Elswick Village Hall.
                      Village beds prepared for planting.
                      Natural primroses replanted in the Avenue of Trees by volunteers.
                      Tulip bulbs stored for replanting.
                      Volunteers meet two nights per week for planting and painting.
                      Flower bed reconstructed at Staffords Close.
                      Ploughs added to flower beds on Beech Road.
June             Beds planted out throughout the village.
                      Reconstruction and replanting of Village Hall flowerbed planned with assistance from       
                      Trevor Mackey of Lytham in Bloom                           
                      Plant list drawn up for Village Hall bed and plants sourced and purchased.
                      Bus shelter planting planned – Greening up a Grey area.
                      Some plants saved from existing village hall bed.
                      Elswickian distributed with Sunflower seeds for Sunflower contest.
                     10 bird boxes and 10 bat boxes ordered from the Blackpool Centre for Independent Living.
                      Street furniture renovated and painted by volunteers.
                      Corner railings painted by village scouts.
                      Carpet bedding planted by volunteers.
                      Boot and Shoe display planted by volunteers.
July               Bus shelter planting completed by volunteers.
                      Village hall bed rebuild completed – bed prepared and planted by volunteers.
                      Railings surrounding village hall bed painted by volunteers.
                      Main bee colony introduced to hive in the orchard.
                      Wild bee nest found in Orchard.      
The Committee and volunteers never really have a break. At the end of the each flowering season (i.e. spring or autumn) the Committee meets to plan and prepare for the same season the following year. Whilst most of the practical work takes place during the summer months the bulk of the planning takes place during the winter.

This has been our busiest year ever. In our last appearance in the national final in 2014 we achieved an overall gold and gold in all three judging categories but were narrowly beaten into joint second place. This year we have redoubled our efforts and have studied all the judges’ reports from the last few years (both national, North West and Green Flag) and have attempted to comply with all of their recommendations. This has resulted in us undertaking seven new projects with an eighth planned to start at the middle of August. They are-:

  • Ploughs introduced in the centre of the Beech Road beds to commemorate the agricultural history of the village.
  • Hedging reintroduced in the village entrance bed and clipped to spell out ELSWICK.
  • A small wildflower bed constructed in front of the Britain in Bloom finalist banner.
  • Troughs and tubs sited in and around the central village bus shelter – Greening up a grey place.
  • A carpet bedding display to commemorate the Queens 90th birthday.
  • A flowerbed in the centre of the village rebuilt.
  • Bee hives introduced in the community orchard.
  • New paths constructed around the orchard.
  • Installation of a further 10 bat and 10 bird boxes in the wildflower meadow.
  • The village hall rockery completely dug out and replaced with an herbaceous bed containing over 400 new perennial plants.
  • Virtually all these projects have involved considerable work by volunteers and many of the projects would not have been possible without this community support. Immediately following judging work will start on our eighth project which is the complete refurbishment of the wildflower meadow.

Horticultural Achievements

Floral Displays
For ten months of the year Elswick is a profusion of colour. The display starts in January with snowd rops in Beech Road signalling the start of the end of winter closely followed by crocus. In February the display starts in earnest with daffodils along the hedgerows in the village fighting it out with the natural primroses to see which can provide the first real flush of colour. Then as the daffodils start to fade the tulips push up through the primroses. (see photograph) Sadly they are short lived but as the tulips begin to look forlorn the village erupts in a mass of flowering cherries which illuminate the village through to the planting of the bedding displays at the end of May. Throughout June, whilst the bedding plants get established, we are treated to a display of lilac and red hawthorn at the village crossroads.

Long before Britain in Bloom was thought of Elswick Parish Council laid the foundations for this display with cherry trees at the bottom of the High St. The Council was inspired by a book entitled 'Windmill Land' which was written in 1916 at the time when the world was changing, particularly across the Fylde plain. The Fylde was known as Windmill Land due to the fact that virtually every town or village had a windmill. In 1916 these were starting to disappear and the book narrates a cycle tour of the Fylde plain. In the book Elswick is described as a pretty village all gardens and greenery and the author Allan Clarke details riding through the beautiful avenue of trees and later leaving the village passing the post office (then in the High Street) and the blossom in the post office orchard. The planting of the cherry trees at the bottom of the High Street forty years ago was an attempt to recreate this scene as the orchards in the village have long since disappeared. The following photographs show the success of this as each year for one month the village is illuminated by blossom from the cherry trees.
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Allan Clarke’s book was also the inspiration for our new community orchard which has been designed to recreate what the village has so sadly lost.
Every year we approach judging week in Britain in Bloom with trepidation as virtually every year disaster strikes just before the judges arrive. In previous years we have had to endure thefts of plants and an accident which resulted in a car ploughing through one of the flower beds. Ten years ago was probably our worst experience as in the second week of June we discovered that the gardening contractor had been made bankrupt and that he had cancelled the nursery order for the 9000 plants that we had ordered.

It is at times like this that the community spirit generated by Britain in Bloom is most apparent. Six months planning suddenly becomes meaningless. At the eleventh hour our committee was tasked with finding 9000 plants at a time when most nurseries had sold out. Busy Lizzies had bolted and lobelia had gone leggy. Two of us spent two weeks visiting nursery after nursery to prevent our entry becoming Elswick in Gloom. Flowers had to be purchased immediately they were located and beds redesigned on the hoof as any hesitation in purchasing plants meant that what was possible one minute wasn’t the next as the plants had been sold.

Adversity often breeds opportunity, which is exactly what happened in that we managed to locate Andrew, a gardener in the village who agreed to work with the committee and volunteers in planting out and maintaining the beds. The result was an amazing miracle as although the designs and displays were not what we originally planned, they looked magnificent and we achieved a third place in the Large Village class. We eventually managed to persuade Andrew to work part time for the village and since then Elswick has been successful every year. For Andrew the work is a labour of love as he regularly puts in more hours than that for which he is paid. For early risers he is a familiar sight as he can often be seen shortly after dawn repairing any damage or replacing the odd plant. Six years ago he was persuaded to also take on the village lengths man role, a role which he took to with the same enthusiasm and commitment as the gardening work. So much so that in the last few years the village has scooped the pool with prizes, finally winning the Lancashire Best Kept Village Award after 50 years as well as taking gold in North West in Bloom for the past five years and the Clean Sweep Award in two of those years.. In recognition of Andrew's efforts the Parish Council conferred Honorary Citizenship of the Village* on him in 2011 and presented him with an illuminated scroll. This award is the village equivalent of a Freeman of a Borough or Town award.

The quality and impact of the horticulture will be evident on the tour of the village but the following photographs provide a preview.
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One of the beds that we are most proud of is the Elswick bed at the main entrance to the village on the B5269. Ten years ago the committee decided that in view of its location it would be appropriate to try to spell out the village’s name in carpet bedding. None of the committee had any experience of such work but nevertheless the committee members agreed to attempt it themselves. Previously the bed had been built up using stone sets and as a much steeper incline was required the committee decided to construct an experimental bed using timber logs. These were laid at the back of the bed and an additional six tons of topsoil were deposited in the bed and graded into the incline. All this work was undertaken by the committee, as was the planting which required 1200 bedding begonias. The following year box hedging was planted to form the lettering and as the hedging became established it was clipped into the name Elswick. When we won The Lancashire Best Kept Village competition in 2010 we replaced the timber backing with stone setts and provided a feature to house the winner's plaque
Unfortunately after several years the box hedging fell victim to box hedging blight and it had to be removed resulting in us resorting to bedding begonias once again. Two years ago the national judges Sue Wood and Kim Parish suggested we should try permanent hedge planting again with an alternative to box hedging. We eventually decided to use ilex crenata and planted it last autumn. It is now beginning to thicken out and whilst it may be some time before it matches the impact of the begonias (see photograph) it has already saved the use of several hundred bedding begonias and natural primroses.
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​​Horticultural Improvements
We are constantly seeking ways to improve and this year have worked harder than ever with five new horticultural improvements. The largest scheme and the most important has been the complete refurbishment and redesign of the village hall bed. We feel that although we received a Gold award in the national final in 2014 the state of this bed clearly hindered our chances of receiving the Best Village award as the judges remarked that the bed was overrun with montbretia and had clumps of mares tail. Whilst from a distance the bed looked quite good we had been aware for some time that something had to be done but we were not sure what to do. We tried digging out the montbretia but this was a forlorn task as the bed had been constructed as a rockery and contained a number of huge boulders which were impossible to move. Thankfully help was at hand.

We are fortunate to live close to Lytham which in the past has won the Champion of Champions national title. The two groups have met up on several occasions during awards ceremonies etc. and have always offered each other help and advice but have never taken up the offer. That is until this year. We have long admired an herbaceous border in Lowther Gardens, Lytham and we enquired who had designed and 
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maintained it .We were put in touch with one of their members Trevor Mackay who they said was their technical adviser. (We later learned that Trevor had studied at Askham Bryan College in York and has an HND in horticulture). Trevor was a revelation. Not only did he design the bed for us but calculated how many plants we would need (over 400), told us where to get them and then actually joined a dozen or so of our volunteers in helping to plant them. We are indebted to him for his help as he saved us hours of work and hundreds of pounds. The total cost of the project was £5000 which was met by the parish council. The work comprised digging out the old bed to a depth of 2 to 3 feet, removing all the old vegetation and soil, removing the rocks, constructing a retaining wall to enable the bed to be levelled, refilling the bed with over 40 tons of new topsoil and adding two tons of mushroom compost as mulch. Volunteers helped by digging in the mushroom compost and preparing the bed before undertaking the planting under Trevor’s direction. One nice touch is that we were able to transplant several plants from the old bed into the new. Whilst £5000 may seem like a lot of money the parish council view is that it will be a good investment if it lasts as long as the previous bed which was planted out almost twenty years ago. We hope to have eliminated all the montbretia but are on the lookout for any re-emergence of montbretia or mares tail. We have been given a maintenance programme by Trevor and the Women’s Institute Gardening Club has agreed to weed the bed which has never looked better The good news is that it will improve even more as the plants become established.

Another new initiative this year is a carpet bedding display to mark the Queens 90th birthday. This has been entirely designed and planted out by volunteers – all 2400 plants. Four years ago we constructed a new bed in the village on the advice of the national judges who suggested that we should have a feature in the village to display in bloom awards. We chose to plant a bed of lavender flanked by a rosemary hedge with a wall as a backcloth documenting the village’s success in Britain in Bloom over the years. The bed was entirely funded by sponsorship and is designed to be sustainable whilst at the same time bee and butterfly friendly.

Two years ago  the committee faced a dilemma as the members wanted to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Britain in Bloom but had no space left in the village to construct a new feature. After much deliberation it was decided that the best place for such a feature was this ‘Britain in Bloom bed’. It was agreed that an attempt would be made at carpet bedding.

We have to confess that after taking advice we cheated .Although the committee designed and planted the bed we received sponsorship for the project and engaged a specialist company to design the display which came in ready assembled trays. A wooden base was constructed to provide a slightly raised bed and the plants were simply slid off the trays. The effect was quite stunning. This year we have chosen to do all the work ourselves (design and planting) and we believe that we have produced as good as if not a better effort than the specialist company. (see photograph)
Other new projects this year are -:

  • Troughs and tubs around the main village bus shelter.
  • A small wildflower bed in front of the Britain in Bloom Finalist banner and
  • The rebuilding of a flowerbed in the middle of the village.
  • The bus shelter was identified as a feature that could be improved two years ago by the national judges who suggested that a mural would brighten it up. A local artist agreed to work on the project with a group of children from the local school but sadly had to pull out due to pressure of work. We therefore decided to work on it as our ‘greening up a grey area’ project and two volunteers took on the work. – see photographs. Whilst there is no doubt that the planting has brightened up the bus shelter we nevertheless still intend to pursue the idea of adding a mural.   
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The flowerbed at the centre of the village has been completely rebuilt replacing wooden sleepers with stone setts and reducing one of the sides to make the bed symmetrical. The anchor slot for the village Christmas tree has also been moved from inside this bed in order to allow for sustainable planting to be planted next year. The intention was to introduce the sustainable planting in the current year but building work delays and the work on the village hall bed have meant that he work has had to be postponed.
Residential Gardening
Each year the village holds a best kept garden and a best hanging basket competition which is sponsored by Fylde Borough Council. Judging this year will be taking place on July 30th and the following photographs show a few likely contenders.
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Community Gardens and Facilities
The village is rightly proud of its village hall gardens/bowling green and playing fields which almost always win prizes in the Best Kept Village Competition. Two years ago we received a Green Flag Award for the Village Hall Gardens and understand that we are just one of a handful of parish councils in the UK to have received such a coveted accreditation. Wherever possible the parish council operates the site on a self-management basis with user organisations working together to manage the site. This has proved extremely effective with people taking ownership of the site and virtually eliminating any vandalism.

This policy has also boosted fund raising for new equipment. Twelve years ago a brand new children’s playground was constructed on the site and is very popular with children from Elswick and neighbouring villages. The SITA Trust and Fylde Borough Council provided most of the funding for the facility but to secure the grants the village had to raise £6500. Excellent support was received from local businesses and a door to door envelope appeal around the village actually raised more than double the balance required. 
Despite heavy use the playground is still in immaculate condition. (see right)

Two years ago the village also secured funding from Sport England and Fylde Borough Council for a new rebound fence for the much used Multi Sports Area and this year we have been awarded a grant of £8000 under the Tesco Bags of Help scheme. This latest grant will be used to completely refurbish the Wildflower/Wildlife meadow.
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Business Areas and Premises
The businesses in Elswick have always supported Elswick in Bloom by sponsorship and putting on excellent floral displays. This year is no exception with them collectively agreeing to put on floral displays depicting their businesses. - see following photographs.        
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The village has problems in providing sustainable planting areas due to the location of most of the flower beds. The beds in the village are generally in grass verges close to the road and are therefore susceptible to winter gritting. Most are also located in Beech Rd and the High St which run west to east and provide a wind tunnel for the strong prevailing westerly winds. The combination of weather conditions and gritting has defeated several attempts to introduce sustainable planting in these beds and as a result we have to leave these empty from November to May. Only a few sheltered beds are planted with spring bedding.

We are committed to increasing the element of sustainable planting wherever practical and two years ago we experimented with sustainable planting in a bed in Grange Road. This bed is set back from the road and is sheltered from the winds by a high hedge. In the bed we planted a hardy fuchsia hedge and filled the bed with dwarf buzz buddleia and lavender. The bed is starting to get established and is proving a magnet for bees and butterflies as well as a fragrant experience for anyone taking advantage of the seat. (see photograph opposite)
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Our best example of sustainable planting has for many years been the village hall bed. This was constructed almost twenty years ago by a villager Terry Hindle who asked if he could be allowed to look after the bed. We were only too pleased to accept his offer and Terry set about renovating the bed using entirely sustainable planting which he provided himself. Sadly Terry died a few years ago and whilst the bed has always looked good from a distance on closer inspection it could be seen that it was riddled with montbretia and clumps of mares tail. The recent extensive renovation and reconstruction of the bed has transformed the bed into a sustainable herbaceous garden which is already looking stunning.

The Bowling Green gardens which are also largely sustainable (see below left) have been entirely planted and maintained by volunteers, largely recruited from the bowling club Another bed entirely planted out and maintained by a volunteer is the magnificent Stafford Close bed which is looked after by Beryl Smith the Chairman of the Elswick in Bloom Committee. This is the place where the village stocks used to be but the scene today is much more tranquil and less intimidating. (see below right).
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Green Spaces   

The village sadly does not have a village green but has impressive playing fields at Roseacre Rd which are owned and maintained by the Parish Council. Summer football is played here twice a week and children use the area as a general amenity area.


Whilst this year we have undertaken a number of horticultural projects much of our effort in recent years has been devoted to conservation and improving community participation. In 2011 the committee decided to turn a piece of wasteland owned by the parish council on the edge of the village (see photograph below) into the sort of scene which the author Allan Clarke saw and described in his celebrated book Windmill Land at the turn of the 20th century.

We enlisted the aid of the experts and a number of meetings and site visits were held with Lancashire County Council's Ecology Department, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, The Lancashire Environmental Trust, Copp school and Elswick Parish Council. Eventually it was agreed that the Lancashire Wildlife Trust would draw up plans for the proposed community orchard and wildflower/wildlife meadow and that a bid for £15000 funding would be submitted to the Lancashire Environmental Trust with Lancashire County Council (£3000) and Elswick Parish Council (£5000) providing additional funding.
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The plans were discussed, amended and finalised at a public meeting held in the village in March 2011 and we were notified at the end of the month that we had been successful. Tenders were sent out to contractors and the quote from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust was accepted. As wildflowers do not generally prosper in fertile land tons of top soil had to be removed. This proved useful in levelling the land for the adjacent orchard which required drainage work.

The meadow (see opposite) was seeded in autumn 2011and formally opened in August 2013 by Bill Blackledge Chairman of North West in Bloom. It is proving extremely popular with people coming from miles around to see it so much so that we have had to erect new signage in the village.
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Unfortunately despite the fact that the parish council entered into a contract with The Lancashire Wildlife Trust to manage and maintain the meadow the arrangement has not worked. The Council felt that by engaging the experts any teething problems with the meadow would be addressed before becoming an issue. Sadly this has not been the case. The intention was that the Trust would train members of the Friends of the Meadow to manage the meadow but the Trust has not fulfilled this role and has only sent people to the meadow in autumn to cut it. Even this has not been satisfactory as their visits have got later and later every year and have generally been undertaken in late October. The result is that couch grass has recolonised the meadow. We have tried seeding with yellow rattle and rotovating and reseeding areas but this has made little or no impression. The decision was therefore taken earlier this year to completely renovate the meadow and we have been successful in obtaining funding for the scheme under Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative.

Work is due to start on the meadow in mid- August and will involve stripping the vegetation and top soil, refilling with sub soil and re-seeding. A Green Flag judge who manages wildflower meadows in East Lancashire has offered to help with the project and we have engaged a specialist landscape company from the village to do the work for us. The only decision that we still have to make is whether to reseed with just a wildflower mixture or a wildflower/meadow grass mixture.

Our intention is to encourage wildlife in the meadow but the imminent work in renovating the meadow has meant that we have not been able to undertake any ground level work this year. We have therefore confined our efforts to increasing the number of bat and bird boxes and have added ten of each to the existing six bird boxes, four bat boxes and a bee nester. These have been commissioned from the Blackpool Centre for Independent Living Display a centre proving employment for adults with learning difficulties. We have agreed with them that further orders will be placed for bug hotels and hedgehog nesting boxes as soon as the work on the meadow is completed. Sponsored display panels have also been erected in the orchard and meadow. Our intention from the outset has been to provide a sanctuary for endangered species such as hedgehogs and bees and we were therefore delighted to be approached last year by a North West in Bloom judge, Alan Hulme, who is also a member of the Blackpool Bee Keepers Association. After judging our village last year Alan saw the potential for a bee colony in our orchard and earlier this year set up a colony of bees. It is somewhat ironic that in the same week that Alan brought his bees to Elswick a wild bee colony was discovered at the base of one of the apple trees. They clearly ignored the bee nester that we provided for them opting for a DIY option instead. Talks have also been held with a local hedgehog sanctuary and it is hoped that when the renovation work on the meadow is complete the meadow can provide a haven for their clients.

An initial audit of the wildflowers in the meadow was undertaken by the Lancashire Environmental Trust two years ago. We recognise that several of the species have now died off as a result of the problems in the orchard and we have therefore not undertaken a further audit. It is however our intention to complete annual audits of both the wildflowers and the wildlife when the meadow is re-established.
The site includes a teaching and assembly area as Copp School uses the site as part of its curriculum. (see photographs overleaf) Whilst the school is a third of a mile outside the village boundary it is nevertheless the school which serves the village and we are delighted to have them on board as the schools eco pedigree is second to none.    
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Copp school was one of the first European Eco Schools (there are now almost 16000 in Britain and there are 46 countries around the world that run the Eco-Schools programme), a government initiative to make all schools sustainable by 2020. Schools work towards gaining one of three awards – Bronze, Silver and the prestigious Green Flag award, which symbolises excellence in the field of environmental activity. Copp has won four green flag awards as well as bronze and silver awards. 

The school has an ongoing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and in accordance with this initiative has fitted solar panels, smart meters and energy monitors. Recycling has been a feature for over 34 years and the school currently recycles paper, cardboard, clothes, foil, stamps, cans, batteries, ink cartridges and carrier bags.

Jam jar lids are collected to help in the propagation of endangered orchid species. These lids are sent to an orchid conservationist who grows orchids from seed. Rare and endangered species can then be saved when their habitats are threatened or destroyed. The lids are used to cover jars containing growing medium for the germination of the seed. The orchid seedlings are then sent out to orchid growers to grow the plant to maturity. Some seed pods are later returned to the conservationist who begins the cycle again.

Copp operates a healthy tuck shop and encourages children to eat healthily by teaching them to grow their own food in the gardening club.The school has four compost bins for fruit waste with the gardening team reusing the resulting compost around the garden beds. Whilst the school already has a wild flower garden it is committed to working with the village to provide the facility at Roseacre Road and holds lessons in the meadow every summer. The school also participates in the annual Elswick in Bloom painting competition.
Perhaps it is the influence from the children but Elswick has also caught the recycling bug. The village is part of Fylde Borough Council which is proud to be one of the best authorities in England for recycling performance with over 51% of waste recycled. The Borough provides an integrated waste service of green waste and cardboard, paper and dry recyclables one week and non- recyclable residual waste the second week. Unfortunately the Council does not keep separate records for each area but it is thought that Elswick is one of the best performing villages in the Borough. Many of the items that the Council does not collect for recycling are taken by children to the school at Copp or dropped off at Tiddlywinkles the village nursery where shoes and clothes are taken for recycling. As well as the weekly collections Elswick residents are able to use the Lancashire County Council household Waste Recycling Centres in nearby Lytham and Garstang. The Village hall also has operates a recycling policy requiring users to take their rubbish home for recycling.
The prize for the most unusual recycling project must go to the village. Each year the bells for letting in the New Year have hardly stopped ringing when the committee is out collecting Christmas trees in support of a conservation scheme to rebuild the sand dunes in Lytham St Annes and protect the flora and fauna. Well over 100 trees are collected every year from the village and these are normally taken by Fylde Borough Council to St Annes where volunteers plant them to stabilize sand dunes as part of a £500000 scheme funded by DEFRA to restore the native flora and fauna in the Site of Scientific interest.

Unfortunately the project last year was hit by Council cuts with Fylde Borough Council refusing to collect the trees. Local businessman Martin Molloy of Bonds of Elswick stepped in to save this vital project using his company’s vans to ferry the trees to St Annes. (see photograph)
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The Parish Council is committed to reducing demand on natural resources and uses    recycled products wherever possible. An example is the children's playground at the Village Hall Gardens where the Parish Council asked contractors to specify the percentage of recycled materials in the project and subsequently chose the company quoting the highest.

The Council also stipulates when tendering for bedding plants that the use of peat must be kept to a minimum and requires contractors to provide details of the percentage used. This is an important factor when the Council is awarding contracts and the council is pleased that. 67% of the material used in the current bedding plant contract is recycled loam.

Similar consideration has been given to other projects in the village with stone sets used for many flower beds and the meadow/orchard scheme where the setts have been used for much of the site furniture. These setts were rescued a few years ago by an alert member of the committee who in his employment as an HGV driver visited Liverpool docks one day and saw them being ripped up to make way for a new development. He was told that the setts which had probably stood for hundreds of years were simply being dumped. He asked the relevant authorities if we could have them and they agreed if we would take them away. We therefore hired a wagon and several committee members converged on Liverpool docks and spent the day handballing them into the wagon. It is a sobering thought when walking through the meadow or the High St that these setts may have been walked on slaves or the passengers of the Titanic when it left the port on its ill-fated voyage.

Other initiatives this year include - over wintering of cordylines and canna lily’s, replanting the natural primroses used as spring bedding in the Elswick bed in the Avenue of Trees and replanting tulip bulbs.
Waste Minimization

Just as important as recycling is waste minimization, an area again in which Elswick scores well. In the past few years both Fylde Borough and Lancashire County Council have tried to promote waste minimization by providing low cost garden compositors. The Council's records show that there has been a very healthy response to this initiative from the village with over 20% of households taking up the offer. Elswick Parish Council also operates a very popular compost heap at the village hall site. (see photograph) Whilst this is mainly intended for Council gardening waste anyone in the village is free to use it and many do. Each year the compost is used to fill the flower tubs and some of the village flower beds.     
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Local Heritage

Reference has already been made in this document to the creation of the orchard and wildflower meadow to recreate village scenes described by the author Allan Clarke in his celebrated book Windmill Land. In his book Allan describes the village scene in 1916 and tells of entering the village from the east 'through the beautiful avenue'.

This is clearly a reference to what we now know in the village as the ‘Avenue of Trees’. The age of this Avenue is not known but the photograph opposite was taken before the road was metaled (probably around the time Alan Clarke rode through the village) suggests that it was already a well-established feature at that time.
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Thirty seven years the Parish Council decided that it wanted to preserve the heritage of the village and chose to make a start with the ‘Avenue of Trees’. The Avenue had been a feature for well over a hundred years but had started to lose its renowned dark canopy following the loss of many trees, through disease or wind damage. The Council decided to remedy this by replanting the gaps and commissioned Fylde Borough Council's parks department to undertake the work. The Council also asked Fylde to plant the flowering cherries in the grass verges to try to recreate the effect of the orchards that the village had lost.

Unfortunately, as the Parks Superintendent later admitted, he didn't know one tree from another. The result was that flowering cherries were planted in the ‘Avenue of Trees’ alongside 60 foot limes and oaks and horse chestnuts were planted in the narrow grass verges throughout the village. Naturally Lancashire County Council's Highways Department was not amused and decreed that the trees had to be switched. The difficulty was that it was June when the error was discovered and a long hot summer of the type that we used to enjoy.
Bill Thistlethwaite a local farmer had the answer and every night loaded a trailer with milk churns which he filled with water and watered every tree. Amazingly despite the long hot summer every tree lived. Bill who had suffered ill health from a young age often commented whilst watering that he would never see the trees mature but he did live to see the trees fill the canopy. 

Since then the Parish Council has kept a watching brief on the Avenue. Four years ago several new gaps appeared in the Avenue following a series of severe winters which had taken their toll on the trees. To remedy this, the Parish Council and the Britain in Bloom committee arranged for Bill Thistlethwaite's grand children to plant six new trees (ash and horse chestnut) in the Avenue, almost thirty years to the day since Bill started to water the trees. These trees are thriving but sadly two of the trees that Bill nursed through the summer months thirty seven years ago have died this year and a further two are clearly dying. As ash trees it would appear that they have fallen victim to chalara or ash dieback. We have notified the Forestry Commission and Lancashire County Council and are currently awaiting the removal of the trees. We are also watching anxiously whether the young trees planted four years ago will also be affected. We will be replacing the dead and dying trees in the autumn but with ash, oak, chestnut and elm trees all subject to new diseases the problem is what to plant? Lime or linden trees seem to be the answer.
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Another major heritage imitative is the Community Orchard. As previously stated this was designed to restore to the village an area of orchard of a type which the village used to be famous for and which are detailed in Windmill Land. The committee undertook extensive work with Lancashire County Council's Ecology Department to identify and track down suppliers of the types of apple, pear, and plum trees that used to grow in this area. Of particular help was Steve Edwards the County's Countryside Officer. Steve largely designed the orchard for us and we accepted his advice in incorporating a line of damson trees along the western boundary of the site to protect the rest of the orchard from the prevailing winds. We understand that this was common practice in this area. Steve has formed a group of volunteers to look after the orchard and has run a series of pruning workshops. (see photograph below) It is hoped to hold a gardeners question time with him during the winter months as a fundraiser.
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Other heritage work which is being undertaken in the village by the Elswick in Bloom volunteers and the Parish Council is hedge planting. Two schemes are underway. The first is the replacement of ugly chain link fencing by hedging. Young trees are planted next to the fence and allowed to grow through the fence eventually hiding the fence when mature. This is an ongoing programme of work which was started a few years ago and which is now producing results in that hedging has now replaced the fence alongside the football pitch and at the village hall entrance in Roseacre Road. This hedge was laid in autumn 2014.

Similar work is also being undertaken on the field side of the football pitch. This work is not simply designed to replace the chain link fencing but also to recreate the hedge that was there before the pitch was widened, approximately 20 years ago. Following recommendations from the Green Flag judges we have also created a new dog enclosure area this year with volunteers planting a hedge along the fenced off area –see photographs.
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With both the orchard and wildflower/wildlife meadow getting established the committee this year intended to publish a heritage /horticulture guide for the village as Elswick has a rich history. It is the home of Bonds ice cream (famous throughout Lancashire for 75 years), has the oldest non-conformist church in Lancashire and for most of the 20th century was the isolation centre for Lancashire with both a smallpox hospital and a TB Sanatorium. In more recent times it has received national publicity due to the controversial method of gas extraction known as fracking. Just a few yards outside the village is a gas well which was fracked twenty years ago and has been producing gas ever since.

Sadly although most of the work of compiling the guide has been completed our plans have had to be put on hold due to a number of unforeseen events. The intention was to use Bonds ice cream parlour as the main distribution point for the leaflet as the kiosk attracts over 1000 customers to the village every weekend. Unfortunately we received the shock news earlier this year that the business will be closing and will be replaced by housing. Our oldest building, a 16th cruck framed barn with a clay and wattle wall, has also been rebuilt after eventually receiving planning permission following years of neglect. Whilst the historic features have been retained they are now no longer visible from the exterior. With these changes we have decided to change the emphasis of our leaflet to largely concentrate on our work at the orchard and meadow and will time the publication of the guide to coincide with the re-opening of the meadow next year.     
Local Environment Quality
Local Environment Quality has improved enormously in the village during the past few years largely due to the village's involvement in Britain in Bloom and the appointment of Andrew Atkinson. Having a clean and tidy village with beautiful floral displays and extensive community involvement clearly has a real effect making people proud of their environment where they live. Graffiti and litter are no longer a problem and people now actually pick up litter and put it in a bin if they see it in the street.

Dog fouling and fly tipping are not a problem. The village has 19 litter bins/dog waste bins which are extensively used and emptied as required by Andrew our lengths man. Andrew keeps a constant eye on the village and ensures that it is kept immaculate at all times. His work is supplemented by a monthly mechanical sweep of the village streets by a private contractor under a contract with the Parish Council.

Evidence of the commitment that Andrew puts into his work is not only provided by the North West in Bloom Clean Sweep Award* which the village won in successive years 2010 and 2011 but also by the annual village litter pick. This has to be abandoned every year as despite an army of volunteers spending a couple of hours scouring the village for litter, hardly any is ever found.

Village pride also seems to rub off on the children in the village as can be seen from the children's playground. Despite heavy use over the past seven years the playground is still in pristine condition. The playground meets both British and European safety standards and is inspected regularly by a Play Grounds Maintenance Supervisor who is a qualified Children's Play Ground Inspector.
Pride of Place
This section has been touched on in the preceding paragraphs. The best means of accessing the obvious pride that the residents have in the village is for the judges to see for themselves when they visit.
​* This award is for the cleanest place in the North West of England

Community Participation

Development and continuity
Virtually all village organisations are represented on the Elswick in Bloom committee which in turn is supported by the Parish Council. The organisation raises money and manages the work of volunteers to supplement the floral displays provided by the Parish Council and provide new features. Such are the improvements brought about by the local in bloom campaign and the resulting support in the community, that the sustainability of the campaign is assured. Elswick has been transformed by the initiative, not just visually, but on a community basis with all sectors working together to improve the environment. Pride is endemic in the village as is a feel good factor with people considering they are lucky to live in such a beautiful environment with a strong community.

There are many ongoing projects such as the community orchard/wildflower and wildlife meadow, the upgrading of the website, the maintenance of the ‘Avenue of Trees’, the reintroduction of hedging in the village, the project to extend wild flowers into the village and the production of a heritage leaflet. We are proud of our success in both North West in Bloom and the national competition and the fact that our efforts have also been recognised with the Green Flag award for the Village Hall Gardens. We are constantly seeking to improve and during the next twelve months will be completely refurbishing the meadow with the Tesco Bags of Help funding, introducing more features in the meadow to encourage wildlife, replacing any dead or dying trees in the Avenue of Trees, publishing our heritage/horticulture leaflet and converting our rebuilt bed in the centre of the village to a herbaceous border similar to the one at the village hall. 

Sustainability of the campaign is greatly boosted by the fact that the Parish Council has entered into agency agreements with both Lancashire County Council and Fylde Borough Council to undertake work in Elswick on behalf of both Councils. Under these arrangements the County Council pays the Parish Council to cut grass in the village and to look after the maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways. Fylde Borough Council in turn pays the Parish Council to sweep the village streets and pavements. It is the income from these sources which provides the finance for the Parish Council to employ Andrew Atkinson the village lengths man. Both the Borough Council and the County Council have statutory obligations to undertake these functions and have tested the value they get from operating agency agreements with parish councils. The conclusion reached is that the parishes not only do the job better but also cheaper.

Elswick Parish Council funds the existing flower beds in the village from the parish precept and periodically tests the support for this arrangement via a Parish Plan which is updated by a questionnaire and is circulated to every household in the village. The plan was last updated In 2015 and over 65% of the village responded. Of these, 95% said that they felt that our involvement in Britain in Bloom had helped to keep the village looking pleasant and tidy and a similar number supported our continued involvement in the competition.
Communication and Education
Great strides have been made in this area over the past twelve months. Having Copp School involved in the Wildflower/wildlife project is a major boost as is the fact that the school includes the meadow in the school’s curriculum. The children love their visits to the meadow and the feedback is that it is the event that they most look forward to.

The committee has also run a poster competition for children depicting Elswick in Bloom. We would like to think that it was the children's support for Elswick in Bloom which was the reason for the huge interest in the competition but we are realistic enough to accept that the local ice cream parlour's offer of a free ice cream for every entry might just have influenced things.

The village has been kept informed of developments in the local campaign via two local newsletters, 'In Focus' and the ‘Elswickian’ and by regular updates on village noticeboards. The ‘Elswickian’ is the village newsletter which is published quarterly by the Parish Council and 'In Focus' is a monthly community newsletter which covers Elswick and a number of neighbouring villages. The committee has tried to time news items so that the gap between ‘Elswickians’ has been filled by articles in 'In Focus'. We have also had several articles in the local press and glossy magazines and in November we were featured on local television.
Community Involvement
All sections of the community and all ages have been involved in our campaign from preschool toddlers at the village nursery (Tiddlywinkles) through to the residents of the elderly person's bungalows in Lees Close.

In April a public meeting (see left) was held in the village at which all residents were invited to attend. Such is the enthusiasm for Britain in Bloom that the village hall was packed and a further 30+ people volunteered on the night to help our efforts. It was noticeable that many of the people who volunteered that night had only recently moved to the village and said that they had done so because of the immaculate floral displays and tidiness of the village.

Most village organisations are represented on the committee and are active members. Those that are not help in other ways. i.e. the Historical Society is working with the committee to produce the heritage leaflet and has provided information and photographs to help the project.
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The following is a selection of some of the work activities undertaken in the community on behalf of the campaign-:
The 1st Elswick Rainbows, Brownies and Guides have planted a wildflower garden at Elswick United Reform Church to attract birds and butterflies. (see opposite).

The Elswick Bowling Club members have planted the gardens and tubs surrounding the green.

The youth club have helped with painting benches on the High Street.
Young church members replanted tulip bulbs and surplus bedding plants in the church grounds. (see photographs below)
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Several villagers have agreed to adopt a flowerbed ensuring that the bed is kept weeded and watered. Many villagers are growing sunflowers for the village sunflower competition which is due to be judged at the end of August.

Two groups have been formed.  Friends of the Orchard and Friends of the Meadow to look after the respective areas. The Friends of the Orchard are receiving regular training sessions on pruning and looking after the orchard .The Friends of the Meadow have rebuilt the willow pods.

Volunteers have met regularly during the past twelve months and the following photographs provide some examples of the work undertaken.
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Year Round Involvement
The calendar of events listed earlier in this portfolio and these photographs record just some of the many Elswick in Bloom activities and illustrate the breadth of community involvement throughout the year. The committee and volunteers simply never stop. The entire year is spent planning, preparing, planting, pruning, painting, preparing and distributing newsletters or cleaning.
Funding, Support and Sponsorship
The success of the village in both the North West and national in Bloom competitions and the resultant publicity has not only had a marked effect on residents but has also helped the village secure sponsorship and grants from many businesses and organisations. We are very grateful to the following-:

  • Sport England - a grant of £22388 towards the replacement of rebound fencing for the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area). 
  • Fylde Borough Council - grants of £5000 towards the MUGA fencing, and £450 for the village gardening competition.
  • The Lancashire Environmental Fund - a grant of £15000 towards the community orchard and wildflower/wildlife meadow.
  • Lancashire County Council - a grant of £4000 towards the Community Orchard and staff time to plan, research and maintain the project.
  • Elswick Parish Council - £10000 for the MUGA fencing and a guarantee of £1700 towards Elswick in Bloom.
  • Dobbie's Garden Centre- Donation of the seeds for the sunflower competition.
  • Two £500 grants from our County Councillor.
  • Derek Sandiford – for providing and constructing the carpet bedding frame.
  • Michael Emmington for allowing use of his land for the ‘celebration’ flowerbed. .
  • Glasdon UK –donation of two new litter bins for the orchard and meadow.
  • Tesco for the £8000 Bags of Help grant.
  • A donation from the Ship public house.
  • Refreshments and lunch from Bonds of Elswick on judging days.
Future Development Plans
We have already mentioned some of our plans for next year in this document but the following is our full action plan:-   

  • To continue to hold regular meetings with businesses and organisations in the village to consolidate the support that we have received from them this year.
  • To once again transplant the natural primroses used in spring bedding.
  • To undertake the complete refurbishment of the meadow.
  • To organise training sessions for the Friends of the Meadow.
  • To continue training sessions for Friends of the Orchard with Steve Edwards.
  • To publish the heritage/horticultural trail pamphlet.
  • To continue on-going programmes such as hedge planting, tree planting etc.
  • To replace the dead and dying trees in the Avenue of Trees.
  • To maintain Green Flag Award status for the Roseacre Rd Village Hall recreation area.
  • To undertake further work to encourage wildlife in the meadow.
  • To hopefully conclude arrangements for rehousing hedgehogs from the hedgehog sanctuary.
  • To work closely with Alan Holmes with a view to possibly extending the number of bee hives in the orchard.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It will be amended and added to throughout the year as circumstances arise and RHS initiatives are announced.
In Elswick Britain in Bloom is not a competition but a way of life. Whilst we would obviously like to win, it is not the competition which motivates us. Twenty one years ago the village was a very different place. We had a few tatty weed infested flowerbeds, litter and dog fouling was a problem and as fast as graffiti was removed from the bus shelters it would reappear again. Vandalism was also rife and used to cost the Parish Council £3000+ (at 1990 prices) every year. What changed the village was Britain in Bloom. Just as the Director of Leisure and Amenities had predicted the competition had a cumulative effect. As improvements were made people started to notice and pride began to grow. The effect was slow to begin with but the pace gradually accelerated and has speeded up dramatically since Andrew Atkinson came on the scene.

And so, win lose or draw, this village is a clear winner in Britain in Bloom.