Back in February 2020 OIB were discussing how to celebrate 20 years of OIB, possibly paying for a new seat or planting up the BT building’s garden. Fast forward just a few weeks and the country was in lockdown with members restricted to their homes and, depending on their health and age, access to regular outdoor exercise. A very strange time which was made slightly better by some of the loveliest spring weather we have seen. This lovely weather dried out many plantings around town which could not be supported by Leeds Parks as they had to modify work roles across the city.
OIB had to change what it does as well. We have tried to maintain a new Daily Flower posting on Facebook. Our monthly meetings have moved onto the web in Zoom. Eventually, lockdown limits were raised enough to allow us to tidy and replant the garden at the Fire Station. Moving into June/July we decided to help Otley reopen its centre by filling and planting up 32 barrier planters and asked Otley inhabitants to contribute via crowdsourcing (an OIB first).
Watering for Otley
When OIB decided to bring back plants to all the barrier planters (32) around central Otley we hoped we would get a lot of help from companies selling us compost and plants and we were not disappointed. Thank you B&TS and Courtyard Planters.
But we didn’t know what to do about the watering. Well the kind companies of Otley stepped up to give us a hand, so we really do thank:
We really have got stuck into some great project work over the past 12 months (in no particular order);
Starting the year with the big graffiti clean up
Replanting at Piper Lane hoardings
The dog poo sticker competition with schools
Displays at the Christmas Tree Festival and Flower Festival.
Cleaning out and repairing bird boxes
Improvements in Charles St car park and Courthouse St car park
Enhancements to the outside space at Union Court
Clean-up and bulb planting at Kell Beck
Improvements to the lawn at Gas Works Corner
When combined with all the usual ongoing tasks and winning a Silver Gilt for the town in the Yorkshire in Bloom competition, it is an achievement not to be sniffed at.
The three pillars that “in Bloom” groups work within are: community involvement, environmental awareness and horticultural excellence, and all these projects fit well into these pillars. We have mainly taken on projects we have been asked to by residents, but perhaps next year we should set our own agenda?
We have a fabulous core of about 15 volunteers who I always find a delight to work with, often in small groups, or 1-2-1, so you get to know people, and that is lovely. Looking forward, the YIB judges comment that with a small team we might need to think a bit smarter about what we do and how we do it is turning around in my head.
As Otley in Bloom goes into its 20th anniversary year I’m looking forward to watching from the outside what the group chooses to focus its attention on, and it is a good excuse to have a critical think about what the volunteers in the group are interested in as Otley in Bloom is nothing without its wonderful people, and the world has moved on in the last 20 years so it is okay to change with it.
Due to heavy rains for the past month and the development of some wonderful plant growth, this secret little wildlife-friendly enclave to the south of Sainsbury’s carpark was flooding and making the footpath from Myers Croft to Gay Lane impassible.
OIB had been very much part of developing this little space so we put on the wellies and dug out the blockage on Remembrance Sunday. Hopefully, this will help drain out the local yards.
The Yorkshire in Bloom awards ceremony took place on Tuesday 10th September in the grand surroundings of York Race Course. The town was delighted to be awarded a Silver Gilt award, as in 2018.
Katie Burnett, the chair said, “It is always a pleasure to take the judges on a tour around the town and show them all the great projects that the people of Otley are involved in which enhance the green spaces in the town. The judges are always very impressed by how many different volunteer groups the town has that are all working towards the same goals, the involvement of the local businesses through Otley BID and the environmental credentials of Otley Town Council.”
The group will be celebrating 20 years of making Otley bloom in 2020 and have some members who have been involved since the early days. David Bellerby, the competition coordinator, remarked, “The judging criteria have changed in the 20 years with more emphasis now being put on sustainable planting and wildlife-friendly planting rather than bedding plant displays. Our practices have to reflect how the community benefits from having great green spaces and the number of people who benefit. However some things remain the same: the judges mark us down very severely for litter, graffiti, dog mess and weeds, and those issues never seem to go away.”
The group would like to thank all the residents, businesses and groups who contribute to the Yorkshire in Bloom effort, and particularly thank Neil Wilson and the LCC Parks team who continue to do an incredible job with ever-dwindling resources.
Otley in Bloom is asking the people of Otley, do you want the town verges to be made of wildflowers that look like this rather than just green grass?
The first town that took up this idea is Rotherham. They worked with a charity, Plantlife, to modify their mowing practice on a number of verges and spread local and brought-in wildflower seed to develop an amazing series of beautiful verges.
Working with Plantlife the team developed how to achieve this, ensuring good, safe sight-lines for cars while at the same time reducing the cost of mowing and providing better areas for insects to get access to a range of British wildflowers. The mowing programme changes to an early mow in March/April to give the flowers a chance to grow ahead of the grass and then is not mowed again until late in August/September once the flowers have shed their seeds.
If you want to know more about the details of how this is done then download this pdf from Plantlife. The downside seems to be that the verges will not look like a lawn for a period and may look a little untidy. The upside seems to be larger number of flowers for bees to work and better nature avenues for other animals. Plus it is more colourful and lower cost.