A collection of willow trees at Coate Water have been deemed ‘outstanding’ by judges from South West in Bloom.
The special award was given to the Council’s Volunteer Rangers by South West in Bloom judge Anne Crawley at an intimate ceremony at Coate Water on Tuesday.
Swindon Borough Council employs a small number of full-time Park Rangers who are supported by a dedicated team of volunteers, who give up their free time in all weathers to keep Swindon’s Country Parks thriving.
The work of this dedicated group has been praised by South West in Bloom, the regional arm of Britain in Bloom, the nationwide gardening competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society since 2001.
Cllr Oliver Donachie, Cabinet Member for Economy and Place, said: “I am thrilled for all the volunteer rangers who fully deserve these awards – well done everybody.
“We are extremely grateful to the volunteers for all the work they do to keep our parks in bloom and it’s inspiring to see that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
The willow collection at Coate Water contains more than 100 different willows including some rare and endangered species. The willows are nurtured throughout the year and when they flower in early spring they provide food for the bees.
During the winter months, the coppiced willows are used for crafts and Christmas wreath making.
As well as the willow collection at Coate Water, judges also presented an award to the volunteer rangers for a pond project known as The Scrapes at Stanton Park.
The Scrapes were created at Stanton Park in 2011 as part of the National Million Ponds Project to address the decline in fresh water habitats across the UK. These ponds provide habitat for a range of amphibians, birds, and invertebrates including an abundance of newts and dragonflies.
RHS In Bloom Judge Richard Beale said: “The visiting Britain in Bloom judge was impressed by the dedication and skill of the volunteer rangers and the park rangers of Swindon Council who have supported them.
“Together they have transformed a neglected area into a haven for wildlife and a calm, beautiful retreat from the hurly-burly of Swindon town.”
Anybody can volunteer with the ranger team – as long as they are willing to get their hands dirty and brave the great outdoors.
The full-time rangers usually have around a dozen volunteers on hand at any given time, but they’re always happy to welcome more.
If you’d like to enquire about volunteering as a ranger, contact our friendly Ranger Team on 01793 490150, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.