GREEN-FINGERED volunteers are celebrating after again scooping prizes at a national competition.

Seasoned campaigners North Berwick in Bloom and Blooming Haddington both achieved gold awards at Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Beautiful Scotland awards last Thursday.

Newcomers Gifford Community were also celebrating gold and took the New Entrant Award.

Aberlady in Bloom were awarded a silver gilt, while Dunbar in Bloom and the Blooming Belters, from Tranent, entered a new non-judged category and received a Certificate of Recognition.

There was also success for East Lothian Council, who took home the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society Award. The award is presented to the local authority which demonstrates the highest standard of horticulture in public spaces.

East Lothian Council has developed a close connection with local bloom groups and the judges felt the quality of bedding plants and overwintered plants was great to see.

Libby Morris, chair of North Berwick in Bloom, said: “I and the whole team are absolutely delighted to win a gold medal. It is just fantastic.

“It is also a testament to the many people that helped us. We had huge help from the community in North Berwick, people pulled out all the stops.

“We’ve had so many volunteers the past two years and had people from other local groups want to work with us. Everyone wants to make the town look nice.”

She added a thank you to the amenities team at East Lothian Council for all their help and support, also sharing a congratulations to them for their award.

Frances Wright, chairperson of Blooming Haddington, said the group was “delighted” with the success.

She told the Courier: “It is a team effort, very much so.

“We have just got a group of people that are prepared to do something where they live and work to make it a better place.”

Adam White, from Gifford Community Council, described the success as “absolutely brilliant” and “fabulous”.

He revealed that the community had only decided to enter the competition about a month before the deadline and took the time to praise a number of organisations for their efforts.

Mr White heartily praised the efforts of the community council, alongside East Lothian Council, the village’s horticultural society, Gifford Community Woodland and Yester House in ensuring Gifford was worthy of gold.

He added: “The nicest thing was the award for the best newcomer.”

Ian Malcolm, from Aberlady in Bloom, was similarly delighted with the success.

He said: “We are very pleased and more than excited to have secured a silver gilt award in the Coastal Villages category in our first year in the competition.

“All the volunteers and all those organisations who supported us should take great pride in the achievement. The judges observed in their report that the sense of place in Aberlady is palpable and that the community is the beating heart of the village. This is so very true.

“That the judges also recognised our efforts to make Aberlady a place in which to stop and linger instead of just driving through (carefully, we hope) is really super. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

The awards were announced at an online virtually last week.

With 2021 being a big year for action on climate change and protecting biodiversity, the optional theme was ‘climate and nature friendly’ and all groups that registered to participate received free pollinator-friendly seeds to help create blooming beautiful and #BeeDi verse places.

All competition entrants developed new ways of ensuring that the places they cared about were looked after under the three pillars of community participation, environmental responsibility and gardening/horticultural achievement.

Barry Fisher, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re in a climate and nature emergency, but we know that communities across Scotland have been working tirelessly to protect and enhance their neighbourhoods, reconnecting with the environment and their communities, despite the challenges lockdowns have posed.

“Beautiful Scotland provides us with such a wonderful opportunity to recognise all the voluntary work being done, and to celebrate with and thank everyone who is keeping Scotland beautiful.”

East Lothian Provost John McMillan also offered his congratulations.

He added: “I am always impressed with the collective efforts of volunteer groups, supported by our local amenities teams, across the county that do so much to brighten and enhance the local environment through innovative planting.

“It has perhaps been appreciated even more this year, when people have been seeking more positive community initiatives after the challenges of the pandemic.

“I would like to add my congratulations to all involved and hope it inspires others to participate.”

Martin Whitfield, South Scotland MSP, added: “They have collectively contributed to East Lothian being the joint most successful area at the 2021 awards, which is a really wonderful achievement.

“This latest success is very well-deserved acknowledgement for all the hard work of the volunteers involved in keeping our towns and villages looking their best all-year round.

“I’m particularly pleased to see some newcomers recognised alongside the more experienced local groups.”