As winners of the Ulster in Bloom Large Village category in 2018, Cullybackey was nominated to join other high achieving communities across the UK in the RHS Britain In Bloom 2019 finals.
RHS judges Geraldine King and Jim Goodwin arrived enjoyed a tour around the village and met with community representatives.
Highlights of the tour included Ballymena Road, Main Street, Shellinghill Park, and Maine River Bridge.
Along the Millennium Path judges joined Mid And East Antrim Council’s CES Bird Ringing Programme and were delighted to see a beautiful kingfisher and learn about wildlife along the river.
Judges finished the morning at the picturesque Arthur Cottage where they were treated to a bread baking demonstration and brunch with community volunteers.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Maureen Morrow, said: “I am delighted that Cullybackey has made it this far in the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom competition and is competing with the best of the best across the UK, for the second time.
“Here in Mid and East Antrim we have established a reputation as an award winning borough, thanks to our Mid and East Antrim In Bloom campaign which encourages everyone who lives in the borough to think about their local environment and how flowers, plants and gardens can enhance it for people and wildlife. By actively supporting our ‘In Bloom’ campaign, residents not only brighten our borough but can help boost the economy and tourism.
“Cullybackey is a prime example of this. Businesses are very supportive of the volunteers who give up so much of their time to plant floral displays, improve areas for biodiversity, keep the town clean and tidy, and ‘green the grey’ by brightening up forgotten corners. The results speak for themselves with more visitors than ever visiting the village, which has been great for local traders.
“Special thanks must go to the Cullybackey Community Partnership. This is an ambitious and passionate group, who actively seek out funding and new partners, to continually improve the village. We are delighted to have such a good working relationship and long may it continue.
“Thanks also to our staff who are wholeheartedly committed to ensuring our borough is the best it can be for the local community, visitors, and wildlife, all year round. The village is really blooming and it is a real credit to everyone involved.”
Ruth Orr, Chairperson of the Cullybackey Community Partnership, said: “Thank you to everyone in the local community who has supported Cullybackey Community Partnership this year with special thanks to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
“I must thank Bertie McNeilly, Elizabeth Boyd and Paul Christie, whose ideas, planning, knowledge and enthusiasm have created what you have seen today, Margaret Murphy who underpins all that goes on, and Joanne Brown Kerr, the Community Manager for Bann Maine West Cluster Group who’s help has been invaluable.
“Thank you to the 9.30 club, to Rikki Peters and Buick Memorial Primary School, the Cullybackey Guides, Scouts and Cadets, our village churches, John Cummings of NISA who finances the printing of The Village Voice and Mary Hunter for all her artistic endeavors.
“Finally, thanks to Karen McCooke from Perfect Day Wedding Cars NI for driving the judges in their beautiful vintage car, and to Jane’s Kitchen for a delicious brunch.
“The judges commented on the high standard of hospitality here in Cullybackey and especially enjoyed using the ‘best china’. The rain did not dampen Cullybackey’s community spirit today and we were rewarded with the sun finally coming out for the last leg of the judge’s tour.”
The group’s first community organisation was formed in 1990 under the name of Cullybackey Environmental Improvement Association, with the idea of improving the area for the people who lived in the village and surrounding district.
The name has changed over the years but the ethos is still the same they’re still continuing to work to improve the village all year round.
Britain in Bloom is the UK’s biggest community gardening campaign – up to 300,000 volunteers are involved in transforming our villages, towns and cities into greener and more pleasant places to live. The results of the 2019 competition will be announced at an awards ceremony in the autumn.