GARDENERS from across a city and surrounding villages have been given awards for their efforts to brighten up the area.

Members of the community in Durham, from school children and allotment holders to business owners and other employers, put in thousands of hours each year to make the city and surrounding villages as beautiful as they can.

Their efforts were rewarded when Durham won the best small city in the Northumbria in Bloom competition last week.

And more prizes have now been handed out at the Beautiful Durham competition, which is run by Durham County Council..

Among the winners was Durham Gilesgate Primary School, where pupils have been growing their own organic soft fruit and vegetables in their allotment and greenhouse and looking after their orchard, which has a seating area and rainwater harvesting system.

The school in Kepier Crescent was named as the overall winner as well as the best group horticultural project.

It has been developing its outdoor space for a number of years, and schoolchildren, staff, parents and the community look after the allotment together, with the aim of encouraging people to grow their own food, eat healthily and enjoy the benefits of fresh air and exercise.

Councillor Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “What makes the Beautiful Durham Awards so special is that they shine a light on the wonderful horticultural initiatives that take place across the city and surrounding areas. These are projects that are not only helping to ensure Durham remains a beautiful place to live, work and visit, but they are inspiring other people to give it a go themselves.

“Gilesgate Primary School is a perfect example of this – providing the next generation with the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables in an eco-friendly way.”

The Northern Echo:

The Court Inn, in Durham, won the award for the best business premises in the Beautiful Durham competition

Other organisations to receive awards include Belmont Allotments Club, which won best environmental entry, Sherburn Hospital Care Home, which won best sheltered accommodation and The Court Inn, in Durham, which won best business premises.

Owner Trevor Davis said his staff spent an estimated six hours a day making sure the pub's display of hanging baskets and planters were up to scratch.

He said: "Everyone does ten minutes here and there. It's a big effort but everyone does their bit."

Shincliffe Village was named as the best small village, while Belmont was the best large village and High Shincliffe won the prize for the best overall village.

There were also prizes for the best home gardens, patios and back yards.

Judging for the competition took place in July and took into account criteria including visual impact, colour and texture, presentation, maintenance, environmental awareness and, where applicable, community involvement.

The winners of Britain in Bloom, in which Durham is competing in the "champion of champions" category, will be announced this month. Last year Durham won a gold award and was named best small city.