DURHAM was one of the big winners after picking up eight awards in this year's Northumbria in Bloom competition. 

Gardeners in towns and villages around the region were celebrating the awards, which are handed out in recognition of the best kept places. 

Durham scooped the overall top prize, as well as the best small city, with special awards also going to Durham's Business Improvement District (Bid), The Court Inn pub in Court Lane and Durham Botanic Garden, in South Road. 

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Court Inn manager Matt Dorman said: "We like to take part in everything and give the pub an attractive aspect. A lot of people enjoy it and like sitting outside with the flowers. A couple of weeks ago it was glorious."

Meanwhile Belmont, on the outskirts of the city, picked up the prize for the best urban community, while Belmont Scrambles and Belmont allotments also picked up awards. 

Northumbria in Bloom judges said: “Having won gold last year in the national RHS Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions competition, and winning the Regional Northumbria in Bloom Champion of Champions trophy as well, Durham has not rested on its well-deserved laurels; the city is immaculate and delightful, with numerous new projects having come into fruition and the publication of an outstanding sculpture trail leaflet."

Elsewhere in County Durham, Sedgefield, Chester-le-Street and Seaham all won the top prizes in their categories, with additional gold awards for Middleton-in-Teesdale, Middleton St George and Tanfield. Meanwhile Stanley got a silver award in the town category. 

North Lodge, near Chester-le-Street, also won a prize for the best new entry, which it got 20 years after last entering the competition when the competition was run under a different format. Jackie Martin said: "We are ecstatic."

Dozens of gold, silver and bronze awards were handed out in 28 categories, as well as awards for outstanding contribution by individuals.

Oliver Sherratt, the council’s head of direct services, said: “We are absolutely delighted to see that, once again, Durham city, Chester-le-Street and Stanley have been chosen by the Northumbria in Bloom judges for these prestigious awards.

“For Durham city to win best overall entry on the back of its Champion of Champions success last year is truly remarkable and for the efforts of our staff past and present to be recognised is tremendous.

“We know there were a number of victories for other In Bloom groups across County Durham and our hearty congratulations go to them."