Final Ards and North Down ‘In Bloom’ Award Winners Announced!

Friday 5th November 2021

Volunteer of the Year / Young Volunteers of the Year / Painting Competition / Best School Garden Project

A man and a woman standing outside in a garden.

The Ards and North Down ‘In Bloom’ Volunteer of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year, as well as the winners of the Painting Competition plus the Best School Garden Project, have been announced. Running as part of the wider In Bloom competition, the awards attracted entries from across Ards and North Down. The winners are:

Volunteer of the Year: Betty Ritchie (Comber)

Comber’s Betty Ritchie has been volunteering at Comber Community Garden since it opened in 2019. She spends up to 40 hours per week working in the garden, ensuring it is kept neat and tidy while also planting new baskets and planters. She buys essential items for the garden too, mostly at her own expense as she refuses to be compensated for anything she buys!

When not in the garden, Betty can often be seen checking the planters around Comber and she has encouraged her family to get involved too. Her son, Stephen, has volunteered his building services while her daughter and granddaughter are regular volunteers at weekends.

Young Volunteers of the Year: Millisle Youth Forum

The young people of Millisle Youth Forum demonstrated their commitment to their local community and willingness to improve their environment by undertaking a village-wide gardening project. With the support of In Bloom funding that had been awarded to Millisle and District Community Association, they purchased soil and plants from a local supplier before filling and planting 50 flowerpots for distribution around Millisle.

The young volunteers attached decorations to the pots before filling them with soil and seasonal flowers, and then delivering them to their nominated households including close family members, neighbours and isolated elderly. The project gave the youngsters their first opportunity to come together in over a year (due to the pandemic) and gave them the satisfaction in knowing they were able to do something to brighten up the lives of those in the village.

Painting Competition: Robyn Graham

Robyn Graham is a Year 8 student at Movilla High School in Newtownards. She has a keen interest in art and enjoys drawing and painting. Her beautifully colourful painting of flowers really caught the attention of the judges in what was a hotly contested category.

Best School Gardening Project: West Winds Primary School

West Winds Primary School in Newtownards has secured the award for Best School Gardening Project. The school has invested significantly in their outdoor spaces, providing pupils with additional learning opportunities while also improving their wellbeing.

Last year’s Year 6 pupils practiced their persuasive writing and sent letters to the judges detailing the benefits they get from the school garden. They included colourful drawings and photographs, providing excellent visuals that helped support why they consider their garden to be the best.

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Mark Brooks, said:
"We have been absolutely blown away by all the fantastic entries across all of the Ards and North Down In Bloom categories. This competition has really caught the imagination of the gardeners in our Borough and it is great to see so many people recognised for their wonderful efforts. Hopefully, these awards will encourage everyone to keep growing!”

The Ards and North Down In Bloom competition encourages everyone who lives or works in the Borough to think about their local environment and how attractive flowers, plants, trees and gardens can enhance it. The awards featured a total of nine different categories.

For more information about the Ards and North Down In Bloom community competitions, visit

Ards and North Down In Bloom Winners - Full List

  • Best Kept Front Garden: Frances Brown (Ballywalter)
  • Gardening for Wildlife: Lynne Tweed (Bangor)
  • Volunteer of The Year: Betty Ritchie (Comber)
  • Best Kept Commercial Premises: Hoops Courtyard (Greyabbey)
  • Best Kept Community Planting Scheme: Lawson Learners (Portavogie)
  • Young People’s (Entrants aged 16 and under) Categories:  
  • Best School Gardening Project: West Winds Primary School (Newtownards)
  • Painting Competition: Robyn Graham
  • Tallest Sunflower Competition: 1st (3.81 metres) Lola and Grace Monteith (Donaghadee); 2nd (3.2 metres) Xyla Drew (Bangor); 3rd (3.14 metres) Jessica MacDonald (Bangor)
  • Young Volunteer(s) of The Year: Millisle Youth Forum