Fenland town set for a less colourful summer as lockdown halts floral displays
"It's going to be a much starker town" - that's the message from the volunteers who create the floral displays every summer for the annual In Bloom competition in Wisbech.
With this year's Anglia in Bloom competition cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and everyone in lockdown the dedicated Wisbech in Bloom team have had to put their ambitious plans on hold.
Last year the team featured as part of a BBC series highlighting the hard work of volunteers in the lead up to the competition which sees judges descend on the town and spend time admiring the displays and special features.
Wisbech prides itself on its In Bloom record with a long line of successes, Gold Awards and even taking the top crown in 2018 of the best overall entry.
But Alan Wheeldon, one of the leading volunteers, said this year the team will be happy if they manage to simply get a few displays completed and on show around the town.
He said: "We have 9,000 plugs sitting in a greenhouse waiting to be repotted for this year's displays, but unfortunately with everyone in lockdown there is no-one to do the work. Most of our volunteers are in the older, vulnerable category and so are self-isolating. In fact I did a quick calculation and the average age of our group is 73.
"It is a real shame, we had some amazing plans for this year's competition and we had already started some of the groundwork in preparation. We had two show pieces planned for St Peter's Church gardens this year, to mark two special anniversaries.
"The first was a National Trust Garden to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the National Trust, which was founded by Octavia Hill who came from Wisbech. The other was a Mayflower garden to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrim fathers to America. Among those on the Mayflower were an uncle and niece from Wisbech.
"The National Trust Garden was designed to be in three phases, the first was a woodland area planted with all heritage varieties including beech, elder and hawthorn, the next phase was a formal garden, like the one at Peckover House and we had someone creating a mansion backdrop for that, and the third was a coastal scene, as the National Trust is responsible for woodlands and forests, stately homes and coastal areas too.
"With the Mayflower we had big plans. Volunteer Tony Bennett has been busy creating a large scale model of the Mayflower in his shed. It was to have been set in a special rose garden created at the other end of St Peter's Gardens, we have already planted roses - we chose a variety called Mayflower. There was also to have been a massive shield with the dates 1620 to 2020 and that is also halfway to being completed. We even enlisted a specialist to help with the painting of the model so it looked perfect.
"We're now hoping that Tony's replica of the Mayflower will go on display in the museum with information about the people from Wisbech and we are also hoping to use it for the In Bloom competition next year.
"Meanwhile we are worried the lockdown will not be lifted in time for us to get any of the other floral displays done and on show. No tubs on the Town Bridge, no hanging baskets in The Crescent, no floral displays in the Market Place - it is going to be a stark town this summer if that's the case, but maybe it will remind people of all the hard work the volunteers put in to make Wisbech such an attractive place each summer."