Dumfries People’s Project honoured for nature friendly gardening

Outstanding and highly-commended awards from the Royal Horticultural Society are being celebrated by volunteers in Dumfries.

Instead of their usual Britain in Bloom Competition, the RHS initiated a digital community awards in 2021 to celebrate the work being done by voluntary groups during the pandemic.

Sixty-three groups from across the UK were invited to take part with The People’s Project in Dumfries among five chosen to represent Scotland.

Their two categories were Nature Friendly Gardening and Cultivating Your Community, mainly centred on the outstanding redevelopment of Castledykes Park in Dumfries and Dumfries and Galloway Council’s perennial planting throughout the town.

Although everyone who entered received a certificate, the judges then separated the awards into three categories of outstanding, highly commended and achievement.

Only 21 entries were judged as outstanding with The People’s Project taking the honour – one of only two awarded for Scotland – for Nature Friendly Gardening.

Then, it was highly commended in the Cultivating Your Community category.

Anne Simpson, secretary of the People’s Project, said they are “absolutely thrilled” with the awards.

She said: “We wish to thank all the people who supported us in upgrading Castledykes Park and Pamela Fraser and Nicky O’Toole from the council who helped us put together two superb videos for our submissions to RHS.”

Marking the achievement with a gathering of helpers on Wednesday, she said: “Despite the pandemic, it really has been a superb community effort and project, with people and groups helping when they were allowed.”

Karen Gillies, Maggie Munro and Anne Simpson with the awards.
Karen Gillies, Maggie Munro and Anne Simpson with the awards.

Included in the gathering for the celebration were People’s Project volunteers, council gardeners and representatives, Devorgilla Rotary president Mike Harris, PC Sonia Ross, Police Scotland youth volunteers and primary pupils from St Michael’s and Troqueer. Brownhall Primary and Calside Nursery were unable to attend.

In making the awards, the RHS judges said: “The amount achieved by The People’s Project during the pandemic is truly inspirational and has undoubtedly had a big positive impact on both people living in the area and the wildlife which they share it with.”

They also praised the council for “adopting the sustainable planting approach” and said: “Creating a pollinator pathway through the town is so wonderful to see.”

Founder Mark Jardine said: “It is a considerable achievement for the People’s Project to head the groups who represented Scotland with outstanding and highly commended awards.

“We never set out with any other intentions rather than to create a video, as per the criteria, to demonstrate what we have been doing at Castledykes Park over the past two years. This accolade is without doubt the icing on the cake which makes all the hard work seem worthwhile.”

The council’s gardening supervisor Brian McAviney added: “It has been a pleasure being involved in this collaborative project and we are delighted with the awards from RHS.

“It’s great that we have worked together to create an added dimension to Castledykes and have been able to highlight it as a real asset to the town.”

There are plans for further developments at Castledykes which will include the erection of a shelter for an outdoor classroom for people of all ages.

The group meets on Thursday mornings from 10am to lunchtime – weather permitting – at Castledykes, and sometimes on Tuesday mornings if extra work needs done.

Anyone who wants to be involved should contact the People’s Project Dumfries via their Facebook page or call 07850719558.

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