In place of the Britain in Bloom Finals Tour, this year, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) expert panels considered 118 digitally submitted projects across five categories that recognised distinct aspects of community gardening. Each entry demonstrated a clear dedication to supporting, transforming, and connecting communities through the power of horticulture.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey, said: “This week, the RHS announced that 21 projects have been recognised as particularly outstanding for their work. I am delighted to say that Cullybackey has been recognised as outstanding in the ‘Cultivating your Community’ category. 

“With 118 towns and villages competing across the UK, this is a marvellous achievement and I would like to congratulate the Cullybackey Community Partnership (CCP) and Council’s Parks and Open Spaces team, who have been working together for several years to transform Cullybackey into the award winning village it now is.”

During the pandemic, Council was able to opened a new playpark and MUGA in Tober Park Cullybackey and deliver on new outdoor gym equipment along the Maine Riverwide Walk, both thanks to funding from DAERA. New signage was also installed along the Riverside Walk highlighting important biodiversity on site.

Cllr McCaughey continued: “These green space improvements would have been hugely important to residents given many gyms and leisure facilities being closed for prolonged periods in 2020 and 2021. The good work continues as Council is currently exploring options for a 14k path network in partnership with Galgorm Resort and Spa which would link Cullybackey, Galgorm and Ecos Nature Park in Ballymena.”

In conjunction with all the Council activities, Culybackey Community Partnership was working closely with the community to help them to adapt to the impact that covid was having on their lives.

Margaret Murphy, Secretary of CCP, said: “During 2020 and 2021,at the height of the COVID pandemic, volunteers had to quickly adapt and worked on a range of projects which engaged with the whole village and new groups that CCP had not previously had the pleasure of working with. Projects delivered throughout 2020 and 2021 included delivering food parcels, delivering GYO kits to residents, delivering GYO kits to pupils via Buick Memorial Primary and The Diamond Primary School, delivering a community knitting/crotched flower project, delivering health and wellbeing sessions via zoom and providing iPads to residents without the means to take part in these sessions. CCP volunteers also installed two new bronze horse sculptures and continued to carry out essential horticultural maintenance including weeding, watering and clean ups.”

Paul Christie, Chair of CCP, continued: “As well as all this CCP continued to manage the Maine Business Centre, as per government guidelines, as a form of income which then helped to fund bloom activities. We also continued to source external funding streams to deliver community initiatives in the village.

“We are delighted to be recognized by the Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom judges as ‘outstanding’ in our field. As well as the RHS commendation, CCP won the Green Flag Community Award for Shellinghill Park and Millennium Walk in both 2020 and 2021, and received the NIHE province wide Community Spirit Award in 2021. I would like to thank each and every one of the CCP volunteers for their dedication and efforts during a difficult few years, and I’d like to thank Council for their continued support.”

Kay Clarke, RHS Community Development Manager, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many projects enter this digital programme. For many groups this was the very first time they had used the medium of film to tell stories about their work. It has been heartening to hear that groups and their volunteers have managed to carry on supporting their communities in safe ways, even in the depths of the pandemic. Huge congratulations to everyone that entered, they were an inspiration to us all.”