VISITORS to Evesham cannot fail to be impressed by the many hanging baskets around the centre coming gloriously into bloom.

After a succession of accolades in the Britain in Bloom competition, the hard work of people like co-ordinator Diana Raphael is well-known to residents but many would be surprised to learn that this year, the market town has opted out of the national competition.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Diana's decision to retire from the arduous duties of getting Evesham's hanging baskets shipshape is something to do with this year's development but the woman who helped put the town on the horticultural map says there is more to the decision than that.

"Originally, Britain in Bloom was about just flowers but now there is an emphasis on community involvement," explained Diana.

"I can see what the organisers are trying to do - it is all about schools' involvement, decorating roundabouts and improving the whole area.

"But I think Britain in Bloom has lost its way because the competition now asks for things like town criers and choirs singing when the judges come to look at the town and that is a long way from what it used to be about."

Instead of entering the national contest, the town will again be resplendent in full flower for an internal Evesham in Bloom competition, to the delight of Diana.

"We will still have all the hanging baskets and displays we have

always done," she added.

Evesham has certainly benefited from the work of Diana and her committee despite a distinct lack of enthusiasm when they decided to spruce up the town some 15 years ago.

"People thought we were mad when we started," she explained, "I walked around the town with the town clerk and my son and we imagined what we would do around the town and what we would like it to look like.

"Over ten years we achieved that with things like hanging baskets on the lampposts.

"Maybe somebody else coming in now would do things differently but we achieved everything we wanted by improving it year on year."

Ignoring the initial scepticism - "people said, 'why bother?' at first" - Diana forged ahead and refused to be downcast after finishing bottom of the Midlands section in the first year of national competition.

Evesham came third in 1998, second a year later and won the section in 2000, to Diana's delight.

"When we came third I couldn't believe the difference in the townspeople," she said. "And when we won, it was unbelievable.

"Since then, it has all come together because nothing breeds success like success."

Evesham in Bloom

THE categories for this year's Evesham in Bloom competition are as follows:-

Best School

The admag Front Garden Scheme (Evesham/Surrounding villages)

Inns and hotels

Clubs and restaurants

Inn and hotel courtyards

Retail shops

Public buildings and churches

Offices and banks

Caravans and camping sites

Evesham retirement homes

Best hanging basket

There will also be an additional award for gardeners achieving something special in their category.

The closing date is July 24, with judging in mid August. Look in your Journal or admag for an entry form.