Swaffham gardeners rewarded for their lockdown competition efforts during blustery ceremony
Officials and residents braved the wintry weather yesterday as a Covid-secure prize-giving ceremony took place in a town centre to recognise creative efforts during lockdown.
High Sheriff of Norfolk Lady Georgina Roberts was in attendance to hand over prizes to those who had participated in Swaffham's Covid Garden Competition during the coronavirus pandemic period.
The ceremony took place at the Buttercross in Swaffham Market Place, with mayor Jill Skinner, town crier Nigel Wilkin and town councillor Lindsay Beech, who organised the event, also on hand to present the winners with their certificates and prizes.
Mrs Skinner said: "This was a fantastic idea to come up with for the town at a very difficult time and was instigated and organised by councillor Lindsay Beech.
"The presentations were made yesterday by the High Sheriff Lady Georgina on a very cold winter's day at the Buttercross, and everybody had their allocated time. It was excellent for the town and enjoyed by people of all ages."
Mrs Beech said the competition was a means of giving Swaffham residents something to focus their minds on during lockdown after the cancellation of many events in the town such as the Sheep Fair, VE Day celebrations and Dad's Army Day due to Covid-19.
The organiser added: "The competition was born out of adversity and was very successful. We even had people from Norwich try to enter. That demonstrates how popular the competition was!
"The prize-giving ceremony also happened in adverse circumstances. We thought we might have to cancel it after the government's recent tightening of the rules, as we were no longer allowed to encourage more than six people to gather outside socially.
"However, with a bit of thought and creativity, we got around that obstacle by offering appointment slots for each prize winner to collect their prizes from the High Sheriff."
She continued: "Given the circumstances, I was extremely pleased with the success of the event. Everyone turned up, despite the cold, biting wind. We received apologies in advance from a couple of the prize winners who were unable to attend due to holiday and illness.
"Lady Roberts did a fantastic job, the prize winners were delighted to meet her and the mayor, both keen gardeners. Lady Roberts told me she was very impressed that we'd come up with such a positive idea to engage the townspeople during a pandemic."
A spokeswoman for the town council added: "We were lucky to catch a gap in the rain yesterday for the prize giving and had an amazing turn out."
The gardeners of Swaffham were invited to enter the competition by submitting five photos and a video during lockdown in June.
Lots of local shops, market traders and garden centres supported the event by donating prizes.
Alan Gray, of East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens and a regular guest on Radio Norfolk’s Saturday morning show 'The Garden Party' judged the competition, which was split into various categories.
Mr Gray said: "I think everyone is much keener on their gardens than they were before lockdown as they could not get out to many places, so they decided to make their own paradise at home instead.
"I was absolutely charmed to see children bought into it and were interested as not many young people are coming into horticulture today. I learnt at my granny's knee, but then that kind of leaves you until you have your first independent house or property.
"Whether it is a couple of pots or an allotment, people take care for their space and embrace what they have got, and that really shone through with this competition."
Due to coronavirus restrictions, Mr Gray had to judge the competition virtually by looking at photographs rather than visiting the gardens in person.
He admitted this made it difficult to judge but he was still able to get a good feeling for the atmosphere of the gardens.
Mr Gray, who started gardening at the age of four, added: "I've judged a fair few competitions before and you initially think 'oh my goodness, I am going to upset some people'. But then you just think you have to put your judge's hat on and get on with it."
For the full list of winners and pictures of the gardens, head to www.lynnnews.co.uk/news/green-fingered-competition-winners-to-be-recognised-through-covid-secure-ceremony-9124272/