Ballymena has been crowned one of the UK’s best large towns, taking gold at the prestigious UK-wide Britain in Bloom Awards.
The Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) annual Britain in Bloom awards ceremony was held in Belfast.
Ballymena was among five areas chosen to fly the flag for Northern Ireland following success in the Translink Ulster in Bloom competition last year.
A total of 76 groups from across the UK competed in 12 categories with each also vying for a gold, silver gilt, silver or bronze award.
On the night, Ballymena was awarded a gold medal – the highest possible and reflecting an extremely high standard.
The town was also recognised for its commitment to wildlife, including its management of woodland habitats and involvement in a bird ringing scheme to gather information on migratory birds.
Speaking after the event, Councillor Stephen Nicholl, who represents council on Ballymena Business Improvement District (BID), said: “Gold in the Britain in Bloom Awards is a wonderful achievement and is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of all involved.
“It is fantastic to see what can be achieved when communities, businesses and council work together. I am incredibly proud.
“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.”
Councillor Audrey Wales MBE said: “I am delighted that Ballymena has won this hugely prestigious title at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom competition to be named among the best of the best across the UK, for the second year in a row.
“Mid and East Antrim has established a reputation as an award-winning borough.
“Our In Bloom campaigns encourage everybody within the area 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’ campaigns and community competitions residents not only brighten our borough but have enabled our towns and villages to go on to achieve great success.
“A huge thank you to all our volunteers and local businesses 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 previously forgotten corners.
“Special thanks must also go to the Ballymena Business Improvement District for supplementing and supporting the work of council, and to the many businesses in the Borough who maintain the town’s roundabouts and support the In Bloom campaign through sponsorship initiatives.
“I would also like to congratulate our wonderful network of volunteers, including those at Berries and Blooms Allotment in Drumtara, the Friends of Ecos Nature Park, The Base for their incredible community garden and our CES bird ringers.”
Finalists are judged on their horticultural achievement, community participation and environmental responsibility with the RHS judges visiting communities from the end of July after months of hot and dry weather.
Darren Share, Chair of the RHS Britain in Bloom judges, said: “This year’s finalists faced the most challenging conditions the competition has ever seen with much of the country under snow and ice at the start of spring followed by the joint-hottest summer on record.
“That so many groups have walked away with top medals is remarkable and a reflection of communities’ hard work, ingenuity and horticultural know-how.”
The 54th Britain in Bloom awards ceremony was held at Belfast Waterfront. Finalists collected their awards from Chris Bavin, presenter of BBC Two’s Britain in Bloom TV series and guest speaker.
The full results for RHS Britain in Bloom 2018 are here: www.rhs.org.uk/bloomawards2018