KEIGHLEY has struck gold.

After years of achieving silver gilt in Yorkshire in Bloom, the town has taken a gold award.

And it also won its small-city category in the prestigious floral contest.

This week, delighted members of Keighley in Bloom praised the community for supporting efforts to brighten the town and improve the environment.

“It is very much a community effort and public involvement is essential – a huge thank-you goes to everyone who has contributed,” said Mike Cunningham, a founder member of Keighley in Bloom.

“We are trying to do our bit to help make Keighley a brighter place to live, work and play!

“The town has been a consistent silver gilt winner and we have striven for gold for 16 years, so I’m delighted that Keighley has eventually done it.”

The group’s own annual ‘in bloom’ awards formed part of the entry into the Yorkshire competition.

Delight at the success is shared by Keighley in Bloom chairman, Steve Seymour.

“I am over the moon,” he said.

“Going from silver gilt last year to gold and also category winner is a great achievement.

“As a group we have seen several new members join us in the last year and strengthen the team – bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and youth – which has been a major contributing factor to our success.

“Every year we try to make little changes to keep things fresh and vibrant and enhance Keighley and this is replicated in the Keighley in Bloom Awards, which this year saw an increase in entries and in the quality of the gardens, yards, allotments and submissions across all categories.

“Massive thanks go to all the businesses and homes that entered as they are a vital part of our success in Yorkshire in Bloom.”

Mr Seymour also thanked all those who had helped with funding Keighley in Bloom initiatives.

The town council provides financial support, businesses and individuals sponsor hanging and barrier baskets and the group stages a fundraising plant sale each spring.

Mr Seymour added: “There were doubts we could continue past 2020 but through the support of Keighley Town Council, the generosity of supporters and fundraising, we are now looking forward for the next three years.

“However, we are not complacent. We need to continue to raise funds and look for grants and funding pots.”

Yorkshire in Bloom accolades also went to several individual sites and attractions across Keighley.

Town Hall Square was described as “magnificent” by judges and received a platinum award.

In their comments, the judges praised Steve Thorpe – who plants and maintains the area on contract to Keighley Town Council – for the “fabulous display” and said even some coach trips were now amending their routes specifically to take in the square.

Councillor John Kirby, chairman of the town council’s allotments and landscapes committee, said he was “over the moon”and added his own tribute to Mr Thorpe.

“This is the third year running that Town Hall Square has won a platinum award,” he said.

“The judges’ comments were extremely positive.

“Steve and his team do a fantastic job. They are there in all weathers working away.

“It is a real passion for Steve, he puts his heart and soul into it, and you can see the results.

“We get a lot of comments from the public about how good Town Hall Square looks.”

Also rewarded was the memory garden on Church Green, which won a gold award.

The garden, completed last year, is planted with different varieties of perennials and has special features designed to help people with dementia.

Another gold winner was the Airedale Shopping Centre, in the ‘large businesses’ category.

Judges said they were “very impressed” by the hanging baskets and planters on the outside of the building, which for people arriving by bus were the first thing they saw.

There was also praise for plant displays, maintained by schoolchildren, near the offices.

And the judging team commented that the whole centre was “a pleasure to be in”.

A gold award also went to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which judges said was “an amazing, well-run and colourful gem of a visitor attraction”.

Cliffe Castle scooped a platinum award.

Tribute was paid to the “beautiful” site and the extensive renovations carried out there.

“The renovations are now coming into their own – with the cacti and semi-tropical areas becoming established and the interesting and informative interpretation boards in place,” said the judges.

“The new planting to the outside of the building and on the banking down to the lake has been carefully selected to be in keeping with the original design and a lot of care has gone into choosing heritage plant species.”

During their visit, in July, the judges toured a number of locations across the town.

They said they were “delighted” with the progress made in recent years.

“On arrival we were pleased to see the beautiful displays of hanging baskets and planters – many paid for by Keighley in Bloom and some by local shops – as well as a standalone display by Wetherspoons even though building work was being carried out to the premises,” they commented.

“Colourful sleeves bearing the Keighley in Bloom logo were placed on the hanging basket brackets, which helped publicise the work of the group.”

They said “magnificent” Town Hall Square featured traditional bedding plants and more-modern perennials, and they referred to the colourful tree bases in adjoining streets.

The judges also met residents at Hillworth Lodge, where outdoor spaces were “filled with brightly-coloured planted pots”.

Standards of maintenance of allotment sites were praised, as were the several private gardens visited.

There was also praise for the front and rear gardens of Mount Pleasant Kennels, and the planting at St Anne’s Primary School.

Tribute was paid to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway volunteers who tended the gardens on the five-mile line.

The judges’ itinerary also included East Riddlesden Hall, which they described as “a hidden treasure”.

* The Keighley in Bloom Awards presentation takes place in the Airedale Shopping Centre on Saturday, September 28, at 10.30am, when entrants will discover how they have fared. Anybody is welcome to attend.