SEVERAL colourful communities - and characters - from across County Durham have been honoured for brightening up their area.

Winners of the Northumbria in Bloom competition were announced on Wednesday afternoon at The Lancastrian Suite in Gateshead.

The competition, now in its 57th year, is all about encouraging local communities to improve their area through community gardening and sound environmental practises.

Darlington scooped a silver gilt award to win the award for best city centre.

Judges said: “The people of Darlington should be proud of what has been achieved in this difficult pandemic year.

“The town centre has a vibrant feel and it is obvious that shoppers, visitors and residents are able to enjoy well cared for open and green spaces around the town.

“The lavender planted grey planters looked and smelt good and were buzzing with bees, and The Yards were particularly impressive.

“Praise should be given to all concerned with the Bloom campaign.”

The most improved entry went to Fishburn, with Seaham winning a silver gilt award for best coastal town and Middleton Hall Retirement Village winning the small villages section.


Durham City

Durham won best small city for its ‘vibrant and historic cityscape’ as well as the ‘cool greens of the mature trees, parks and gardens, as well as the riverside walks’.

Durham’s Botanic Garden, along with Alnwick Garden, was the joint winner of the best tourist or visitor attraction.

Chester-le-Street’s ancient sites and their associated floral displays as well as the extensive colourful bedding on the roundabouts and verges earned it the large town category.

NIB Chester le Street Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT


NIB Sacriston Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT


Sacriston and Sedgefield were both named joint winners of the small town category.

Andrew Jackson, chairman of Northumbria in Bloom, said: “The last eighteen months have certainly been the most challenging and disruptive since Northumbria in Bloom was established in 1964.

“However, although our entries have had to contend with the lockdown restrictions like everyone else, it has been really pleasing to see all the fantastic work that they and their communities have still managed to do in their local areas despite all the difficulties.

“The region has still ‘Bloomed’ in 2021 despite Covid and our entries efforts will, I am sure, have cheered up everyone and helped them through these most difficult times.”

Belmont won the urban community award after impressing judges with well-planted beds and containers.

Meanwhile, the best pub was named as The Ball Alley in Stanley because of its secluded beer garden.

Judges said: “The borders of the site are well structured with a variety of perennials and bedding plants.

“There is an impressive display of sweet peas well situated for customers to enjoy.

“All plants are grown in the greenhouses situated on the plot, and an impressive three tier composting system is in operation.”

St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church in Chester-le-Street won gold in the best religious establishment category and Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham, was named the best hotel.

Belmont Scrambles, with its alder and buckthorn trees to aid the conservation of butterflies and moths, won gold for best conservation project.

Philip Wall, of Dinsdale Drive in Belmont was deemed to have the best private garden in the competition.

Judges said: “Welcoming passers-by, this large open corner garden is bursting with colour and sustainable plants, including some unusual specimens.

“It is a pleasure to explore, with some quirky surprises on the bird table.”

Belmont Allotments won gold in the Best Allotments category, along with Gilesgate Primary School in schools category, while Durham University won a silver gilt award for the way its grounds are managed.

Several community champions were honoured ‘truly outstanding contributions over several years by individuals’ including Clare Todd, of Chester-le-Street, Stuart Clasper, of Durham, Ron Potter, from Belmont, and Darren McMahon, from Stanley.

Darren McMahon, from Stanley, left, was named a community champion, while Durham, right, won gold in the best small city category

Darren McMahon

Durham County Councillor Mark Wilkes, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “Many, many hours of hard work have gone into making County Durham a beautiful county and it’s wonderful to receive recognition for all that effort by volunteers, organisations, council staff and community groups, especially as we bid for UK City of Culture 2025.

“We know from residents that they want to live and work in picturesque, beautiful areas and, as visitors begin to visit our towns and city once again, it’s wonderful to be able to welcome them to oases of colour.”

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