Stony Stratford in Bloom 2013 Second Half

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1 December 2013

Planting has begun for the Big Tree Plant in Stony Stratford

On Sunday, 1 December the Big Tree Plant began in Stony Stratford – near the Rowans Centre, Fullers Slade, to be more precise. Keith Tilley had collected the six apple trees that were to be dug in from the Buckingham Nursery on the day before and a small group of local residents and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers met on that crisp, blue-skied Sunday morning to prepare the ground and pop them in after Keith had marked out where they had to go.


Later in the week Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers, Rowans Children’s Centre staff, children, parents and child-minders joined together to give the young trees a sound watering in. The Rowans Centre is keen to be involved and has kindly offered to help maintain the trees in the future. Once the trees start to fruit the children and families will be able to crunch into the apples for a healthy eating option!



The following weekend, 7–8 December, more tree-planting took place – this time in Slade Lane and around Queen Eleanor School. Fourteen fruit trees of various kinds were planted on the Saturday, and twelve on the Sunday, and Keith took responsibility for delivering the trees and sorting them out. Once again, a couple of local residents and a number of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers came to do the digging. On the Saturday Cllr Dick Skellington was there at the beginning to give moral support, and on the Sunday, Cllr Mick Lewis came to take some pictures at the outset. Geraldine West, a local resident and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteer, offered hot drinks and mince pies at her house on the Saturday, but the planters were too busy to avail themselves of her generous offer.

The last tree planting before Christmas will be on Saturday & Sunday, 14 & 15 December, and the aim is for there to be a festive, Christmas spirit in evidence as the volunteers do their tree planting. On that weekend the venue will be the rear of the new Galley Hill play park, where twelve apple trees will be planted.

Details of the Big Tree Plant in Stony Stratford are available on Keith Tilley’s ‘The Big Tree Plant’ website.

30 November 2013

Stony Stratford in Bloom had the great honour of switching on the Stony Stratford Christmas Lights

Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers are always enthusiastic participants in the Switch-on Day for Stony Stratford’s Christmas Lights, when the town is abuzz with throngs of residents and visitors. It’s always particularly good when there’s a crisp blue sky and some sunshine to give that perfect Christmas feel – which was how it was this year.

At 8.45 am Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers were setting up the table for selling calendars and displaying all the trophies and certificates that the town has won in 2013. It’s also a time to try to gain more volunteers and this year to let people know about planting dates for the Big Tree Plant. By the end of the day sixteen calendars had been sold, which, when taken together with the forty-four sold earlier, earned just over £200 for Stony Stratford in Bloom funds.

A first this year was helping the MySpace Children’s Centre Santa’s Grotto in the Library with a children’s planting activity - either while they waited for Santa, or, more often, after they’d had their visit to the kind old man! They were very keen to plant the pansies and primulas which had been kindly provided by Brittons Nurseries on the Saturday market for half price.

Stony Stratford in Bloom was very honoured this year to have its work for the town recognised by the Christmas Lights Committee, by being asked to switch on the lights. Judy Deveson, Chair of the Committee, pulled the lever on Stony Stratford in Bloom’s behalf. The Christmas Lights Committee does a fantastic job, and the town looks stunningly beautiful with the new, ecological, LED bulbs.


Winter working parties – Weeding in wellies on watery days

As all gardeners know, it doesn’t all stop when the sun goes in and summer gives way to autumn and winter. Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers get out their winter woollies and wellies and set out to weed, prune and tidy the perennial beds around the town. The Bluebell Wood needed a good weed so that the bluebells in spring would not be suffocated by ivy and Queen Ann’s Lace, and volunteers also made a bug hotel while they were there to encourage wildlife. The North End ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Group have been working regularly on the Queen Eleanor Garden and Millennium Bed to keep them in trim, And there have been several sessions at the Four Seasons Garden and at the Sensory Garden on London Road to cut back the buddleia and thin out and replant the Rudbeckia.

Some horticultural jobs definitely need to be left to winter, such as planting shrubs and trees, as that’s when there’s enough rain to give them a sound watering in. On Wednesday, 13 November Stony Stratford in Bloom joined forces with York House Community Gardens and Mind volunteers to plant a native hedge to border the gardens. Fiona Trinder had applied for the hedge whips for free from the Woodland Trust.

Mulching is also a task for this time of year – so another November job was mulching and weeding the Library beds. Volunteers have noticed a law of nature that whenever we mulch it always pours.

18 November 2013

Fun and fund-raising at Re:Love Fashions for Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and friends

Following the very successful spring fundraiser at Re:Love Fashions in the Stratford Arcade Stony Stratford in Bloom and Jackie Allen decided to arrange a Christmas shopping event on Monday 18 November, so Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and their friends could have fun trying on clothes, buying a few Christmas gifts, and quaffing a glass of wine. Jackie kindly gave 10% of the takings from all items sold to Stony Stratford in Bloom, and provided a couple of prizes for the raffle. All who came said how much they’d enjoyed the evening, and the tidy sum of £58 was handed over for Stony Stratford in Bloom coffers. Another of those win–win situations where Stony Stratford in Bloom supports a local business, which in turn supports Stony Stratford in Bloom!

4 November 2013

A Convivial evening at the Calcutta Brasserie for Stony Stratford in Bloom supporters

For the third year running the stunning Calcutta Brasserie was the venue for Stony Stratford in Bloom’s winter fund-raiser; and as the 119 guests found their seats they breathed in the wonderfully aromatic spices wafting from the kitchen. The food laid out was a feast for the eyes as well as a treat for the taste-buds.

It’s not just about having mouth-watering food though – it’s also about sharing a convivial evening with friends, and helping Stony Stratford in Bloom to keep Stony Stratford looking as lovely as ever. Calcutta Brasserie kindly gave Stony Stratford in Bloom £5 from every £15 ticket sold, and when taken together with raffle ticket sales, and some donations from those who couldn’t come but wanted to give anyway, the grand total was a fantastic £839.

The Stony Stratford in Bloom Committee would like to thank the Calcutta Brasserie for helping to make this such an enjoyable occasion, and the many guests who showed their support by coming. It’s always satisfying when having a good time and doing something worth while can be so happily combined!

Judy Deveson (Chair of Stony Stratford in Bloom)

26 October 2013

Crocuses and daffodils for the ‘Wild About Gardens Week’

A good crowd of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers, young and older, gathered in the Wolverton Road Recreation ground on Saturday, 26 October 2013 with spades and trowels to take part in the national ‘Wild About Gardens Week’ organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. Stony Stratford in Bloom’s contribution was to plant a hundred wild daffodils and five hundred crocuses to ensure a beautifully bright spring in the Recreation Ground next year. Meanwhile, the Stony Stratford and Wolverton Rotary Club were planting more crocuses on the bed they’ve sponsored on the Wolverton Road, and the North End Pond Project ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood Group’ were planting five hundred more crocuses around the pond and the Millennium stone. We were lucky that the rain held off, and it was good to see the enthusiasm of the children for playing their part in digging and planting.

17–24 October 2013

Four steps to a transformation of the town from summer to winter

This year Stony Stratford in Bloom and the Stony Stratford Business Association decided that it would be best to complete the changeover from summer to winter planters in four stages. On Thursday, 17 October volunteers emptied the planters and it was one of those golden autumn days when it’s a joy to be outside. On the Friday, Mary Sarre and Pat Kyd met up especially early at the York House bed to gather up the winter plants which had been resting there over the summer, and they brought these plants down to the Market Square, where Alex Ballance from Blooming Marvellous Nurseries had deposited the new plants. There was an excellent turnout, and all went very speedily until some dreaded vine weevil was spotted in one of the Heuchera that had been kept over winter. Mary sped off to a garden centre to get vine-weevil treatment solution, and after all the suspect plants had been hauled out, volunteers did a lot of dunking in the solution so that vine weevils didn’t destroy more plants. Then back the volunteers came to plant up the planters once again. It was a long day, but when all was done, the planters looked very attractive in their autumn/winter garb.

As soon as the pelargoniums were pulled out on the Thursday they were taken to Theresa Kellaher and Theresa Wedderburn, who were waiting at a table in the High Street, to hand them to passers-by who could give them a good home. Residents were delighted by this recycling of plants, and donations amounted to the useful sum of £33.33.

Stage 3 began on the following Wednesday (23 October), when the pelargoniums were removed from the barrier baskets and three-tier planters. As these are not planted up for winter and still contained colourful blooms, they had been allowed to remain just a little longer cheering up the Stony Stratford streets. Again the uprooted pelargoniums were available for passers-by to take home, and donations for the plants amounted to the tidy sum of £40.

Finally, Thursday (24 October) was the day when Ray and David Odell’s team of Stony Stratford Business Association volunteers and the ‘Christmas Lights Group’ rolled up their sleeves to complete the task of bringing down all the baskets, and taking them together with the bus-stop, barrier and three-tier planters back to the nursery. Again, the weather was good, but the team felt pretty exhausted when the day was finally done.

13 October 2013

Rainy, but fun – Apple Day 2013

Visitors at the Apple Day (organised by the Town Council) didn’t let a shower or two dampen their spirits, and all seemed to enjoy what has become an annual Stony Stratford event. (And the sun did put in a watery appearance later in the afternoon.) Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers were helping Keith Tilley to sign up potential volunteers for the Big Tree Plant in different parts of the town, talking to visitors about sponsoring a tree, and selling the apple trees that had been bought for the community orchard in Mortimer Park, which cannot now be planted there because of Anglia Water’s planned pipe-drilling. All the while they breathed in the delicious smell of a vast array of different apples laid out in the marquee, and also the mouth-watering aroma of the cooking demonstrations that were part of the attractions of the day. There was also a Punch and Judy, competitions, Morris Dancers – never put off by a muddy field – and stalls selling an enticing number of country products. One stall highlighted the importance of wild-life – a Royal Horticultural Society theme this year.

8 October 2013

Queen Eleanor School pupils enjoy their crocus-planting afternoon

On Tuesday, 8 October six enthusiastic Queen Eleanor prefects helped Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers to plant over 300 crocuses near their school. Mary Sarre explained what needed to be done, and then they set to with great eagerness to dig the crocus corms in. One pupil took particular delight in making little ‘nests’ for the corms in the ground. First they planted in the Brownie bed immediately in front of the school, then further afield in the verges by the roadside, so that in the spring they will see a glorious gold, purple and white carpet of blooms as they make their way home from school. And these are the colours the bees love too!

20 September 2013

Sponsors and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers celebrate a successful year

This year the annual Stony Stratford in Bloom party to thank sponsors for their support and to celebrate all the hard work of the volunteers during the year was held on Friday, 20 September in the attractively refurbished Swinfen Harris Hall, which the Greek Orthodox Church had kindly offered to Stony Stratford in Bloom for free. Guests were very impressed by the recently re-designed flower beds.

The newly opened Woodstock Artisan Bakery obligingly provided their delicious French bread for free, and most of the other tasty refreshments were provided by the volunteers. Sponsors were able to see a rolling spool of pictures of working parties, flower beds and Stony Stratford in Bloom events over the months, and to admire the Small Town Trophy, Gold Award, and Regional Community Award, which were displayed prominently at a table at the front.

In her speech of welcome and thanks to the gathering Chair Judy Deveson emphasised how delighted Stony Stratford in Bloom had been to win the Regional Award for Best Community Involvement as community engagement is the secret of Stony Stratford in Bloom’s success, and something we all hold dear.


18 September 2013

Stony Stratford wins Gold for the fourth year in succession!

Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers were thrilled to learn at the Thames and Chilterns Awards Ceremony in Reading on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 that they had won the Thames and Chilterns Small Town Britain in Bloom Trophy for the fourth year running – and once again with a coveted Gold Award! And they were equally delighted to win the Regional Award for Best Community Involvement.

In addition Russell Street Primary School gained a Mark Mattock Schools Commended Certificate, Galley Hill ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Group gained a Level 2 award, York House Community Gardens a Level 3 award, and the North End ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ Group spear-headed by Mary Robinson and Robin Parsons, shot to Level 3 at the first time of entering.

The judges in their report praised Stony Stratford in Bloom for reaching out to the whole community, and they were especially impressed by the sustainable flowerbeds throughout the town – particularly the Four Seasons bed (on the corner of Calverton Road and Augustus Road) and the Queen Eleanor Garden at the north end, which they described as ‘both delightful and striking’.

They were very pleased by the continued partnership between Stony Stratford in Bloom and the business community reflected in the 170 hanging baskets. As well as giving the Mark Mattock Commended Certificate to Russell Street School, they commented that St Mary   St Giles School provided ‘a fantastic example of teachers, children and the chef coming together’ with the aim of teaching about plants, growing them, and using the vegetables and fruit within the school.

Stony Stratford in Bloom was delighted by their observation that ‘Stony Stratford oozes with community pride, and this is evident by the lack of litter, dog-fouling, graffiti, etc.’; and by their final comment that ‘the enthusiasm and friendliness shown by the bloom committee, together with the community involvement, makes Stony Stratford a joy to judge.’

Stony Stratford in Bloom would like to thank all those volunteers, residents, sponsors, the Town Council, schools, the Business Association, the Futures Group, churches, youth groups and other voluntary groups who help Stony Stratford in Bloom to win this prestigious competition year after year! It’s the community coming together that makes Stony Stratford what it is – a wonderful place to live and to visit!

You can read the report in MK News about the many successful entries from Milton Keynes, including those from Stony Stratford, by clicking here.

14 September 2013

Stony Stratford receives Buckinghamshire Best Kept Village awards

There was a good turn out from the Town Council members, Charles Brindley, Ian Reed, Tony Higgins, Fr Ross and representatives of volunteer groups on Saturday morning. (Ray Cobley was there representing the Futures Group.) We were all surprised and delighted at the number of dignitaries, judges and sponsors who arrived in a big bus outside the Parish Hall. The commemorative sign was already in place in the church gardens. The Michaelis Cup for the best kept small town and Sword of Excellence, which was awarded to Stony Stratford as as the best overall winner, were presented to Rob Gifford, with some kind words, by the Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, who is also President of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils.

Stony Stratford is allowed to keep these awards for a year only, before passing them on to next year’s winners. However, we were also presented with plaques which we can keep permanently. Refreshments were enjoyed by all in the Parish Hall, and thanks are due to Joan Walker for preparing these. The party from Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils were particularly impressed with the sympathetic design of the Parish Hall, and also took the opportunity to view the church interior with Fr Ross providing a history of the church.

19 July 2013

Pig Roast at York House

After the success of last year’s Pig Roast, we held another one at 6.30 pm on Friday, 19 July at York House.

6 July 2013

Golden Gardens presentation

Despite the cold spring holding back our garden flowers, members of the judging team viewed a wonderful succession of front gardens in Stony Stratford, Galley Hill and Fullers Slade on Thursday, 27 June 2013. Some gardens had been entered for the competition by owners, some nominated by neighbours or passers-by.

The gardens were very varied in style, size and aspect, and were judged on the impact on the neighbourhood and passers-by, the overall design and use of space, choice and suitability of plants, hard landscaping and maintenance.

We are very grateful to Mr Michael George, of Acorn Nurseries, Emberton, for sponsoring Stony Stratford In Bloom by donating the prizes. These were presented by Anne Kempson, a regional Royal Horticultural Society judge. We are very grateful for her interest and support.

Third prize winner was 95 Malletts Close (Grace Macmahon), a small front garden filled to the brim with roses, climbers, shrubs and colourful perennials, all set off by an immaculate green lawn and white picket fence, giving real ‘wow’ factor in the neighbourhood.

Joint Second prize was awarded to 51 The Limes (Raymond and Bertha Wilson) and 36 Park Road (Gudrun and Ken Stober). The garden at 51 The Limes has a traditional design: an immaculate lawn sets off borders packed with beautiful flowering shrubs and perennials, and against the house an unusual trellis of pots overflows with bright colours. In contrast, 36 Park Road has an overall natural design, with interesting shapes and shades of green, highlighted by the colour of perennials. It is a plantsman’s garden with sun and shade areas planted beautifully with appropriate and unusual trees, shrubs and perennials.

First prize went to 87 Wolverton Road (Karen Parker) for the most creative front garden which has floral impact beyond its small size. In a very small space clematis, scented sweet peas, honeysuckle and roses cover the well-designed enclosure and give pleasure to the passer-by. On looking into the garden there is great attention to detail: an array of unusual boxes and containers is filled with edible plants and vegetables, and every bit of space has interest.

In addition to these winners, there were many gardens awarded Highly Commended certificates; very few marks separated the ‘Highly Commended’ gardens from the prize winners, such was the quality of the gardens overall.

This is the fourth year of the competition and the gardens seem to get better every year. Everyone in Stony Stratford, and visitors to the town, are grateful to the owners of all these beautiful gardens for their improving our neighbourhood, and making us smile.

1 July 2013

The sun shines on Judging Day

As Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers crept out of their houses early on the morning of 1 July to pick up that last piece of litter that might have been dropped since the Community Tidy Day on Saturday, they were amazed and pleased to see the sun shining down, adding an extra gleam to the planters, and opening the petals of the plants.

After a presentation in the library, which provided the judges with some of the pictures and projects that couldn’t be squeezed into the portfolio, the judges were taken by car to the Queen Eleanor Garden at the North End, which has matured so beautifully since it was first designed and planted three years ago. The judges also seemed impressed by all the work of the North end ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood Group’ in clearing below the bridge, creating the pond and the wild-life area there.

At Russell Street School, where Zena Flinn and Susan Haynes have provided gardening sessions for the first time, the children raced off with wonderful enthusiasm to show the judges the runner beans and peas they’d been growing – and excitedly told them all about the newts that could be found in the pond. And at St Mary & St Giles the pupils were keen to tell them all they knew about what plants needed to grow. They also insisted that the judges should see the bugs helping to make the compost!

The dragonfly pond in the Nature Reserve was looking particularly serene, surrounded by lovely wild flowers – and Babs Dore and Mary Cater were able to explain all that had been discovered in the recent Bio-Blitz.

The permanent beds were looking their best, with beautiful purple salvias in the Four Seasons bed on Calverton Road; a crescent of gorgeous blue hardy geraniums in the Sensory Bed on London Road, and a colourful array of blue catnip, purple perennial wallflowers and more hardy geraniums in the new beds by the Ousebank Way play area, which Brenda Dunlop looks after so attentively.

In all the beds we pointed out the edibles – the Royal Horticultural Society’s theme this year – and wherever we stopped there were residents who chatted to the judges about the beds in their part of town.

At the end of the tour the judges were taken to the Calcutta Brasserie, where the management kindly provided coffee and tea, and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers the cakes and savouries.

As always, we won’t know the result until the autumn – 18 September – but in the meantime we can all enjoy those beautiful perennial beds, those sizzling hanging baskets provided by Stony Stratford Business Association, the dazzlingly colourful planters and the explosion of colour in the church gardens, lovingly tended by the church volunteers.

Here is the route that the judges took:

To see how we prepared for Judging Day in the first six months of 2013 go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2013 First Half.

To see what we did in 2012 go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2012 Second Half and Stony Stratford in Bloom 2012 First Half.

To see what we did in 2011 go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2011, to see what we did in 2010 go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2010 and to see what we did in 2009 go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2009.

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