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Judging underway for Stations in Bloom awards

Stations in Bloom official poster. (Please note – bottom line should read Wednesday 19th October 2022).

Judging is currently underway for the Stations in Bloom awards, celebrating the wonderful efforts of station volunteers and railway staff across the South Western (SWR) and Great Western Railways (GWR) network.

Community rail partnerships (CRPs) across the region have joined together in the new ground-breaking project, the first of its kind on the railway network across southern England. An inter-station celebration of community involvement and endeavour, the project has included stations from Salisbury to Exeter, Romsey to Winchester, and Westbury to Weymouth.

Funded by SWR Community Rail and led by Blackmore Vale Line CRP, the project has been delivered by Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, East Hampshire CRP, and the newly formed South Wessex CRP (on the GWR route from Frome to Weymouth).

Stations in Bloom provides the opportunity to celebrate the volunteer efforts and initiatives which have turned stations into welcoming spaces for rail-users and visitors. Recognition and celebration of the hard work and efforts of station volunteers, railway staff and guards is at the heart of the new venture, raising awareness of and promoting the railways, routes and stations across the south of England.

Station visits are being conducted between 18 and 29 July 2022, with teams of specially-selected judges travelling to each region. During visits, judges are being encouraged to take into consideration enhancements carried out at stations by volunteers and staff which go over and above the usual facilities offered by train operating companies.

These could include things such as waiting room enhancements, shelters, artwork, planters, gardens, allotments, watering rotas, leaflets, maps, community use of spaces, regular events, or the use of stations buildings for volunteers and the wider community. Judges are also being encouraged to ask volunteers about their year-round efforts, as many may not be visible on the day. Examples of such initiatives could be seasonal decorations, fund-raising events, monthly coffee mornings, special buses services, exhibitions and plant swaps, or even food and clothing banks.

The Stations in Bloom event will culminate on 19 October with a regional awards ceremony being held at Castle Gardens in Sherborne, generously sponsored and hosted by The Gardens Group. All the judges’ recommendations will receive public recognition and awards.

Derek Beer, Chairman of the Blackmore Vale Line CRP, says: “We are thrilled that Sherborne is playing host to the very first regional awards ceremony on 19th October, sponsored by The Gardens Group, and delighted that Claire Mann, CEO of South Western Railway, is joining us to present the awards.”

Project Lead Caroline Rowland of the Blackmore Vale Line CRP said: “As Partnership Officers for the respective lines, we are all aware of how the stations are thriving as a result of time invested by volunteers, railway staff and guards. This dedicated community involvement is reflected in the number of volunteer hours and hard work invested in producing a stunning array of ingenious initiatives and entrepreneurial ventures. The list is long and distinguished and we want to tell the stories and shout about the successes to everyone!”