PICTURE GALLERY: Blooming marvellous!

IT’S official – the most green-fingered settlement in Britain is right here in Northern Ireland.

At least that is according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHC), which awarded the sought-after accolade of “Champion of Champions” to the village of Broughshane at the Britain in Bloom awards contest, held at the weekend.

Broughshane youngsters Leo, Georgia and Alexis Kidd give a big thumbs up for Broughshane village on their Britain in Bloom award.

Broughshane youngsters Leo, Georgia and Alexis Kidd give a big thumbs up for Broughshane village on their Britain in Bloom award.

The floral feat is doubly special, because it means the Co Antrim village is now thought to be the only entrant in the country to have won the award twice, the last time being in 2007.

Although the RHS’s records only go back several years, organisers said they believe the village’s achievement may be unique.

But Broughshane was not the only place in Ulster to come away with an award.

Ahoghill, just a few miles away on the other side of Ballymena, scooped a gold award for Best Small Town.

Scarva and Hillsborough both won silver gilt awards (a cross between silver and gold) in the small village and large village categories respectively, while Bangor won silver in the category of “costal town of over 12,000”.

The awards recognise the efforts of residents, businesses and councils in each area to create the most picturesque botanical arrangements in the country.

John Woodward is one of the pair of judges who was sent to evaluate Broughshane.

He said: “Broughshane have won almost everything. They’re probably the most successful entry in Britain.

“Where they’re in a competition all the other entrants know Broughshane are almost certainly going to win it. They have such a reputation.

“I’ve judged Broughshane three times. I know how determined they are, and how much effort they put in.

“It’s the best of the best.”

But he added: “I understand Ahoghill is coming up fast so they’ll give Broughshane a run for their money.”

The four other entrants for the same category this year included much larger towns like Stockton-on-Tees and Cleethorpes.

Britain in Bloom has been running since the early 1960s when the British Tourist Board set it up, and then in 2002 the RHC took it over.

Sandy Wilson, a lifelong resident of Broughshane and chairman of its village improvement committee, said that since their efforts to beautify the village began 25 years ago, its population has doubled.

He credits much of this to their array of picturesque attractions.

“It’s the reward that comes from the award,” he said.

And he added: “The main thing is it has above all raised the village profile throughout the UK.”

Their attractions include a pond with seven varieties of swan, from the Coscoroba miniature pink-beaked swan to an Australian black breed.

They also planted some trees upside down near the village’s public toilets and carved faces into them, and created a jubilee-themed flowerbed, with gold to represent the sovereign’s crown.

The Britain in Bloom Awards ceremony was hosted in St Peter Port, Guernsey, on Saturday night.