An overview of 2020
January 2020 progressed as usual. Short sunny days meant that we had large numbers of volunteers out to tidy up leaves in the lodge, rake grass and cut back bushes on Coos’ Green and complete general maintenance jobs. In February, some snow gave us a good excuse to retire into the greenhouse to pot up polyanthus and help our junior members to plant sunflower seeds. We also helped to clear an overgrown plot of land at Lime Grove so that residents could create a community garden, and our council colleagues built them a sturdy path to enable buggies and wheel chairs to move through it with ease.
Throughout March, reports of a virus spreading round the world were in the news, and our community tree planting day at the Country Park on the 14th March was our last joint activity. Lockdown was imposed and everything stopped - including NBIB volunteers and activities. Many of our group were shielding or caring for others and so ‘the world came together as people stayed apart’. Luckily we were allowed out of our houses for one hour each day to exercise and everyone in the town was able to enjoy and appreciate the display of thousands of tulip bulbs which had been planted the previous December. Our annual Tulip Festival became a virtual one, with a leaflet published on line and hundreds of photos ‘tweeted’ and ‘Instagrammed’. The warm sunny weather was a bonus, however, our main problem in May was how to water not just the planters and tubs, but also the 450 newly-planted trees which had had no rain at all in April and less than 1inch in May. Our window cleaner friends came to the rescue with their vans and tanks and gave every tree 1 litre of water on two consecutive weekends. Thanks to their efforts, the trees are still thriving.
We held a very successful tulip bulb giveaway on Saturday 30th May. With kind permission of the Abbey Church, and help from members of NB gardening club a small team divided the bulbs into bags and labelled them with name and colour before laying them out in the grounds of the church. People were able to walk in a one way system to collect a bag of bulbs and pick up a sunflower seedling for the sunflower challenge.
The RHS suggested a sunflower challenge to encourage young people to plant sunflowers in their gardens to brighten up communities. NBIB applied for 10 packets of sunflower seeds, which were distributed along with 200 sunflower seedlings on Saturday 30th May at our annual tulip bulb ‘giveaway’. Our three junior NBIB members planted some seeds in the Abbey greenhouse during their February half term and members of NB Gardening Club and Sustaining NB also helped.
The Pallet Garden in the Abbey Churchyard has been planted with yellow and white flowers in a sunflower pattern and the girls are looking after it by watering and dead heading. The competition will be judged in August with prizes for the tallest plant, the biggest flower and the best picture and craftwork.
Many activities have had to change for NBIB this year. Several of our volunteers have been shielding and the few who have been gardening have had to work alone. The dry months of April and May have meant that extra watering has been vital and we felt that we would not be able to manage the extra demands of watering 100 hanging baskets in the High Street. Sadly therefore there will be a greatly reduced number of baskets this summer with displays at Bank Street, Quality Street and one or two special orders for people who will can water their own baskets.
In June, a few volunteers worked alone while out on their daily walks and lifted all the tulip bulbs, replacing them with summer bedding which had been raised in the council nurseries and delivered to us in a large truck. We were able to unload in a socially distanced way, using a one-way system and the plants were then distributed by car to each location and planted up by volunteers working in pairs.
Gradually over the summer more volunteers came back out to garden and in July we welcomed several new volunteers. We started meeting at the carpark behind the police station where there was room to spread out and also to clean and collect the tools we would be using. There was lots to do: weeding and tidying; deadheading the planters; cleaning notice boards and benches. We made the decision to forego the hanging baskets as the High Street had restrictions due to people queuing outside shops and also because watering would have been very difficult. Hopefully they will return next year and 100 have already been ordered. One of the most popular features was the annual seed mix which was sown at the station, the High Street, churchyard and putting green and was much admired.
The summer continued with a Rainbow theme with posters in windows and chalk drawings on pavements. The rainbow theme fitted in perfectly with our brightly coloured tulips which formed a pallet display in front of the Abbey Church, later transformed into a summer sunflower display to publicise the Sunflower Growing Competition organised by NB Gardening Club.
In September, the Gardening Club was able to hold a plant give-away in the Abbey Churchyard by setting up a one-way system which was very successful and contributed a very welcome donation to the NBIB funds. With this funding we have been able to buy more tulip bulbs for next year’s festival. By October, everything was looking neat and tidy and the sunflower pallet made way for a Remembrance theme of poppies in the Fields of Flanders. There were no parades this year and no Pipe Bands. It brought home just how much we had become used to this new way of life, and although we had no competitions this year either, we felt that we had done our best to keep the town looking beautiful: giving people something lovely to look at and something cheering to talk about.
November meant planting the tulip bulbs for next year’s tulip festival; preparing a Christmas theme for the pallet garden and filling the notice boards with seasonal images and lots of Christmas lights. North Berwick in Bloom and Sustaining North Berwick planted 900 trees on Saturday 4th December as part of the nation wide 'National Tree week'. The trees were all native species, designed to provide a habitat for wildlife and increase biodiversity. They were grown at Alba Trees in East Lothian and donated by the Woodland Trust who also provided a tree guard and stake for every tree. Over 60 'family groups' booked a slot at ten minute intervals to ensure that social distancing could be maintained, and most people brought their own spade. The trees were all planted on the edge of the North Berwick Trust country park with kind permission of the trustees. The park is maintained by the Trust and looked after by North Berwick Gardening and Turf services who prepared the area ready for planting. The trees will grow up to form a woodland area and the many children who came along with their parents to plant a tree will be able to watch them all grow for years to come. There was a 2 hour gap in the ferocious wind and rain on Saturday morning which was just long enough to finish the planting which will be added to the Country file map of Plant Britain. All the people taking part agreed that it was wonderful to be able to do something positive and get outdoors.
The town was a blaze of fairy lights all through December and the High Street shops really went the extra mile with their displays. We have more volunteers than ever before and a great band of folk who are happy to give their time to make the town bloom and also to look after their community. We were delighted and very grateful to end the year with grants from the Beacon (St AndrewBlackadder), Stella Moffat fund, the North Berwick Trust and North Berwick Golf Club. Along with many other donations from individuals and businesses and collecting tins around the town, this will enable us to purchase all of the materials and plants that we need to keep the town blooming throughout 2021.