Lytham’s crowning as the floral capital of Britain has the potential to bring a bigger financial boost for the town’s traders than the Open Golf.
That’s the feeling of Lytham Business Group vice-chairman Robert Silverwood, eagerly looking forward to the prospect of hordes of extra visitors attracted by Lytham In Bloom’s winning of the Royal Horticultural Society’s ultimate prize.
Lytham was labelled “the cleanest, greenest and most beautiful location in Britain” by the RHS as it became the first town in the North West ever to be crowned national Champion of Champions.
As the celebrations continued this week, Mr Silverwood, also proprietor of the cafe at Lowther Gardens, where the Champion flag will fly, said: “I am so delighted for the In Bloom people and for Lytham generally because this really does have the prospect of being bigger than the Open Golf was for us when it was staged at Royal Lytham and St Annes last year.
“To be honest, daytime businesses got very little benefit from the golf, as most of the visitors to the event were on the course. I think it even worked the other way to some extent, with some shoppers and potential visitors being put off by the prospect of crowds and congestion.
“The In Bloom success, on the other hand, has the potential to be really big for the shops and other daytime businesses and should have a lasting effect.”
Jim Leak, chairman of Lytham In Bloom, paid tribute to the entire community and particularly an army of 130 volunteers for their efforts in earning the award.
“This is the ultimate prize and we are all so delighted,” said Jim. “All of the other four contenders for the Champion of Champions awards joined us in taking gold in their category and the award was the very last to be announced so it was an anxious time.
“We were hopeful after all the hard work everyone had put in to make Lytham look its very best and I really have to pay tribute to all the community groups for their wonderful efforts. Everyone really got behind us and I think it showed in just how good the whole town looked.
“The judges were looking for more than just flower beds and hanging baskets. They also looked at allotments, parks, involvement by the community, street cleaning, recycling and general environmental quality and it has been a wonderfull community effort.
“It has taken thousands of hours of volunteer effort but the support from residents, businesses and the council has also been first rate.
“This really is the one we have been aiming for and to win it is an absolutely marvellous feeling.”
Coun Sue Fazackerley, Fylde Council’s leisure chief, said: “What an incredible honour! Fylde residents know how beautiful the area is – and now we have national recognition.
“I don’t think Lytham has ever looked better and that is a fantastic reflection on the hard work of the people of the area.
“The efforts made by community groups and individuals to create such a lovely place to live and visit are much appreciated. I keep an eye on public compliments sent to the town hall – and there literally have been hundreds this year.
“I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the council’s parks department staff who are always prepared to go the extra mile at In Bloom time.
“Parks and gardens have long been key visitor attractions in Fylde and I am sure that will apply even more so from now on after this honour – and I wouldn’t argue with the suggestion that it could well be more lucrative for shopkeepers than the Open golf.
“With the golf, it was the local nighttime economy which benefited most as golf fans spent the days on the course. Flowers and parks are there to be enjoyed in the day.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “This is testament to the fantastic work done by the team of volunteers at Lytham in Bloom.
“The judges said of their tour of Lytham that it was a pleasure to visit such wonderful places and meet inspirational people. Those of us who live in the area know that they would find that on any day they visited.
“I am so proud of this achievement and know it will only spur on people in Lytham to reach a similar level of success next year.”
Marion Coupe, chairman of Lytham St Annes Civic Society, said: “We are absolutely delighted that all the hard work has been rewarded, The town has never looked better. Lytham in Bloom make a great contribution to the prosperity of the town and we support them 100 per cent.”
To win the award, Lytham beat North Berwick, Halstead in East Anglia, Hern in Guernsey and Stanghow in Cleveland. While Britain In Bloom’s Gold Flag will be flown in Lowther Gardens, celebratory banners are being hung at the three main entrances to the town.
There is also the option to enter the Europe-wide Entente Floriale contest next summer.
Britain in Bloom spokesman Jim Knight said: “The community spirit and volunteering in Lytham was outstanding. Everything came together so perfectly and the quality of the horticulture in Lytham was unrivalled.”
Meanwhile Freckleton and Elswick took silver gilt prizes in the Britain In Bloom town and village categories respectively.
Sue Lee, chairman of Freckleton in Bloom, was happy with the award and particularly by the fact Freckleton was praised by the judges for its community involvement.
“We got top marks for community involvement and that was especially pleasing,” she said.
“Everyone worked so hard and rallied round to do their bit and this is a fitting reward.”
Elswick parish councillor Martin Molloy said: “When you talk to people about Elswick they say it’s the village with the flowers.
“To be recognised, after all the hard work the volunteers have put in, is wonderful.”