TOTAL commitment and community spirit has won Evesham The Heart of England's Most Outstanding Medium Town award in this year's Britain in Bloom contest.

Stratford-upon-Avon has won this award every year, with one exception since the 1980s, for the town's abundance of floral displays funded by big companies and trusts.

Now the rules have been changed allowing community involvement to be taken into consideration, thus enabling Evesham to elbow the favourite into second place.

Former Mayor of Evesham, Diana Raphael, said: "We are all absolutely thrilled. We were given a level playing field - sponsorship is no longer the most important thing any more.

"Only 30% of the marks are for floral displays, the rest are for community involvement in schools, local authorities, churches and for conservation projects. Evesham's fire, ambulance and police buildings did us proud, the schools made a wonderful effort as usual and the conservation work at Eoves Wood at Hampton certainly impressed the judges.

"So many people of all ages did so much towards this great achievement that they all deserve a hearty pat on the back."

Town clerk, Frank Green said: "This win is all the more remarkable given Stratford's great resources." Heart of England judges said: "The result shows the people of Evesham are proud of their town, which is a joy to visit."

The awards, presented by Lisa Potts the Wolverhampton nursery school heroine, took place last Friday in Rugby.

Present was Evesham's Swan Lane schoolgirl, nine-year-old Pippa Johnson who was awarded a certificate and a £10 cheque for third place in the schools' painting category.

The Evesham in Bloom 2000 awards take place tomorrow (Friday) in the Public Hall.

Evesham in Bloom is sponsored by Evesham Town Council in conjunction with the Vale of Evesham Tourism Association and the Journal's sister paper, the Evesham Admag.