Treading the path between It's Your Neighbourhood and Beautiful Scotland
Let me start back in 2017 when some of our community gardening volunteers attended the annual conference run by Trellis, Scotland’s therapeutic gardening network. We were drawn to the Keep Scotland Beautiful stand and, after a chat with their friendly representatives, were persuaded to enter It’s Your Neighbourhood that year. The resulting experience, as you It's Your Neighbourhood groups will know, was very good for us with practical and constructive assessment of the trail of community garden sites we have established and maintain around Inverbervie.
Buoyed by our modest success, we began to have thoughts of entering the 2018 Beautiful Scotland competition. Through encouraging consultations with the organisers and a couple of existing Beautiful Scotland competitors, we felt we’d like to take on the challenge of participating so requested an advisory visit by one of the judges in the Spring of 2018. This service was extremely helpful and we gained lots of practical hints and insights for us to work on to prepare for the judging visit which followed in the Summer season.
If you’re thinking of making your first entry into Beautiful Scotland then I thoroughly recommend taking full advantage of the offer of a judge’s advisory visit. While Beautiful Scotland is a natural progression from It's Your Neighbourhood, as in all things, good preparation is the key to success, so pick your advisory judge’s brains for helpful clues on what to expect on judgement day. Use this information as the basis for selecting what you’re going to present verbally and visually, for planning the itinerary and picking a small number of knowledgeable individuals to explain each of the features being displayed.
Be aware that the judges see with wide-angle lenses. In addition to any feature that you show them, they are looking at the surrounding environment and wanting to spot evidence of community-wide engagement, i.e. not just the efforts of a small group of enthusiasts. So don’t be reluctant to get your local council and other community groups onboard with you.
From Brighter Bervie’s experience, I’d say don’t try to include too much in the itinerary - better to concentrate on your best assets and make sure you work on them to be in the best possible condition for presentation.
What’s better about taking part in Beautiful Scotland? Well, apart from the satisfaction of your group rising to the challenge, you’ll experience the power of the Beautiful Scotland community. Doors of opportunity will be opened for your group in a variety of ways. An obvious one is progression to the RHS Britain in Bloom UK finals for high achievers. That apart, the profile and influence of your group will be raised, which will create wider networking opportunities. You’ll be recognised as a really effective organisation and this will help when you’re seeking funding and attracting volunteers. Also, as noted above, the process of taking part in Beautiful Scotland will require a good deal of interaction between you, other groups and the general community, the result of which will be greater community cohesion.
Yes, Beautiful Scotland calls for some more effort than It's Your Neighbourhood, but the rewards for your group, its volunteers and community are worth that increased effort.
17 February 2020