Regional award leaves Belper’s golden gardeners blooming with pride

Beautiful blooms on Derby Road.
Beautiful blooms on Derby Road.

A week after achieving yet more success for the town, it was time for reflection for the gardening team that do so much to ensure Belper blooms.

A sense of pride in their work was palpable, as well as perhaps a tinge of regret over just missing out on the top award at last week’s East Midlands in Bloom presentation in Mansfield.

Andrew Sanders and Stewart Hopkinson

Andrew Sanders and Stewart Hopkinson

Still, another gold award - continuing the ‘gold rush’ the town has experienced since 2010 - is nothing to be sniffed at, and the men were justly proud of their efforts.

Andrew Sanders said: “Yes, I am proud of it - we’ve an extremely good year with it this time around.

“The amount of compliments we get from members of the public is amazing - and not just people from Belper as well.

“People from Derby come and say how much better our flowers are - theirs are a bit lacking I think.”

Andrew Sanders on the Market Place

Andrew Sanders on the Market Place

“I like that you get the sense that you have looked after it - that your time and love and care has gone in to them and they end up looking like this.”

Only two of the three strong team were present on Monday - Stewart Hopkinson and Andrew Sanders - with their colleague, 21-year-old apprentice Jake Howard, taking a well-earned rest in sunnier climes.

The three men planted 13,000 plants over three weeks in June in preparation for the judges’ visit and are also responsible for maintaining 194 hanging baskets around the town - all of which must be watered twice a week.

“They’ve gone off a bit now - but they still look pretty good,” said Andrew.

A basket outside Strutts Mill.

A basket outside Strutts Mill.

“When I first started we were just winning silver awards and then when we started winning golds we haven’t really stopped since - I don’t want to go back.

“It’s not just gardening though, says Stewart.

“We have to clean the toilets and empty litter bins as well, so it’s not all so enjoyable!

“It’s just about keeping it nice for people really.”

Andrew Sanders and Stewart Hopkinson on Field Lane.

Andrew Sanders and Stewart Hopkinson on Field Lane.

The three operate year-round from their office-cum-workshop on the town’s Coppice car park.

The first meeting for next year’s competition will take place in just a few weeks time with another, bigger meeting happening in November when the whole town can have an input.

Also present for the tour was Belper Town Council leader and Belper in Bloom committee chairman, John Nelson, who is full of praise for his team’s efforts.

“They work hard these lads - and everybody who comes here says Belper is gorgeous.

“But it’s not just them - we have had so many volunteers it is unbelievable. If I was to thank everybody I would be here until tonight.

“We also get a tremendous amount of sponsorship which I must mention as well - all the different beds have different sponsors and that is a great help.”

Committee chair,  John Nelson

Committee chair, John Nelson

Such is the success of the town that John is keen to share some of the expertise they have amassed over the years they have been competing with other towns in the area.

“If any other councils want to contact me about getting involved I would be more than willing to help them,” he says.

“It’s all about making the town nice for the people and you get a great benefit from it so I would like to see more places do it.”

Despite his obvious pride in the town’s efforts - it is clear that John coveted the top prize and would dearly love to compete for the national award again after their famous success in 2012.

“If we get nominated for the national award next year we will definitely win it,” he says.

But win or lose - the results are clear for all to see.

“People think it is wonderful - that’s why they want to come here.

“But it is not just about flowers - it is all the other things that go on here like the award-winning shops on the high street and all the artistic things as well.

“Belper is a great place.”

The memorial gardens

The memorial gardens