North Berwick looks like the archetypal chocolate-box town – its high street festooned with colourful hanging baskets and the harbour’s quirky flower-filled boats and tubs. It’s all thanks to a team of dedicated green-fingered volunteers who give up their time all year round, in all weathers to ensure the town is always in full bloom.
North Berwick in Bloom has come a long way from the 1990s when the town, rather in the doldrums and needing a boost, set about improving planting and horticultural initiatives in order to encourage local businesses and attract visitors. These efforts proved successful and both visitors and residents welcomed these enhancements to the town’s natural beauty.
Since then, In Bloom has developed into an active team of volunteers, helping to improve the town and also achieving many competition successes, including being nine times gold medal winners of the Beautiful Scotland Coastal category. And in 2016, for the third time, they won the Rosebowl for the highest score across all categories in Beautiful Scotland. The team has represented Scotland on a couple of occasions, winning three Gold medals. This year they are, once again, the Scottish representative in the ‘Coastal Category with Populations up to 12,000’ facing competition from Whitby, Hunstanton, Newcastle (Northern Ireland), Sidmouth and Silloth on Solway. The results will be known at the end of October.
However, competition is not the driving force of In Bloom, led by Rosie Oberlander and supported by a small committee. The team works all year round with East Lothian Council, schools, local businesses and other groups such as Rotary to ensure that the positive, high profile of the town can be maintained. This is, of course, helped by winning accolades from prestigious national horticultural organisations.
The In Bloom year starts in September, planning the programme of planting and maintenance for the year ahead. Volunteers meet every Monday morning to ensure the main streets, the Lodge grounds, the beach and harbour areas continue to look their best. With increased awareness of environmental issues, every attempt is made to introduce sustainable planting and use plants suitable to the maritime climate in the 120 tubs, barrels, boats, carts and trains around the town. Not to mention the 95 hanging baskets on the high street which create a summer wow-factor. The team also plants containers of vegetables and a new community orchard is developing steadily.
Rosie is proud of the volunteers who are very flexible and always happy to welcome new people. There is also strong community involvement and fundraising initiatives prove popular. These include the annual Tulip Festival’s afternoon tea, a Christmas tea and volunteer Sheila Sinclair’s quizzes. “We are grateful for the interest and support shown by residents and visitors. We are a happy bunch, love what we do and are always open to new ideas and to work with others in improving the quality of the environment”.