Pudsey in Bloom has grown from the seeds of a great idea a decade ago

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 October 2014

Pudsey Town Hall

Pudsey Town Hall

Archant

Jo Haywood reports

Gardeners, Ian Smurthwaite and Michael Aspinall, take great pride in their work at Pudsey Park where they have won a Green Flag awardGardeners, Ian Smurthwaite and Michael Aspinall, take great pride in their work at Pudsey Park where they have won a Green Flag award

It’s difficult to believe that a town as well tended as Pudsey was ever one of the most polluted places in the UK. But way back in the gritty grey days of the Industrial Revolution, this West Yorkshire stalwart paid a heavy price for its position between the manufacturing behemoths of Leeds and Bradford.

Its geographical location in a slight dip in the landscape meant that whichever way the wind blew, Pudsey became covered in thick soot; the dense smog trapped by the small but consequential change in temperature created by the valley.

People joked that the pigeons in Pudsey Park had to fly backwards to keep the soot out of their eyes, but it wasn’t a laughing matter for those who called the market town home.

Thankfully, however, the green-fingered folk of Pudsey are now having the last laugh – and it’s a great thundering guffaw, thanks to the unstinting efforts of the Pudsey in Bloom team, a group of hard-working volunteers who have spent the last 11 years transforming their town into an award-winning oasis.

Pudsey in bloom volunteers, Sharon Jones,  Patricia Valentine,  Maureen Fawcett and Ralph Witty tending the garden by the Leisure CentrePudsey in bloom volunteers, Sharon Jones, Patricia Valentine, Maureen Fawcett and Ralph Witty tending the garden by the Leisure Centre

Andrea Lightfoot has been a member since day one, putting her green fingers (thumbs and, very probably, toes) to good use helping to beautify her community.

‘We’re volunteers who work hard to make our town a colourful and attractive place to work in and visit,’ she explained. ‘Our driving aim is to encourage everyone to take a pride in their environment.’

The group’s work includes planting tubs and troughs around the town twice a year with spring bedding and bulbs and again with summer flowers. The team of hardy gardeners, who give their time, expertise and sweat for free, work on a number of sites around Pudsey include Sparrow Park, Lowtown and the flower beds around the leisure centre.

They get advice from the experts in the parks department when they need it and meet every month to plan their next planting, weeding or digging campaign, keeping the public abreast of their efforts via regular blogs (bloomingpudsey@blogspot.com).

Pudsey Park Bowling Club team; Ken Armitage,  Colin Webb,  Dennis Shutt (Captain), Linda Dean,  Timothy Pearson,  Kathleen Vince,  Eric Johnys and Janet Pearson as they lined up against Bramley Park rivals in the Leeds Crown Green Bowling Association Thursday Veterans leaguePudsey Park Bowling Club team; Ken Armitage, Colin Webb, Dennis Shutt (Captain), Linda Dean, Timothy Pearson, Kathleen Vince, Eric Johnys and Janet Pearson as they lined up against Bramley Park rivals in the Leeds Crown Green Bowling Association Thursday Veterans league

One of the most important aspects of Pudsey in Bloom’s work is, perhaps not surprisingly, getting the town into shape for the prestigious Yorkshire in Bloom competition, which the team first entered in 2008. They won a silver at their very first try, which spurred them on to even greater efforts in subsequent seasons.

‘We’re still striving for a gold award having won silver gilt last year,’ said Andrea. ‘We look after a large number of flower troughs and tubs which adorn the town centre and also plant up and maintain a number of public areas. We’d do that anyway, even without the Yorkshire in Bloom competition, but knowing we’re going to be judged gives our efforts an extra little boost.’

Pudsey in Bloom is supported by Leeds City Council and a number of local businesses who sponsor the group each year. Members also try to top up their coffers by applying for additional funding whenever the opportunity arises.

‘Funding enables us to make huge improvements to some neglected areas,’ said Andrea. ‘We’ve recently designed and planted an attractive flower bed, and with an average age of 60 this is no mean feat, but it’s something we all enjoy and approach with great enthusiasm.’

Pudsey Bus StationPudsey Bus Station

Their efforts in creating areas of floral glory across their community have also met with great enthusiasm from the Yorkshire in Bloom judges, who are renowned for calling a garden spade a garden spade.

‘Pudsey in Bloom are starting to make a real difference to the centre of the town,’ they said. ‘It’s very encouraging to see and hear that the group has a strong commitment to increasing the range of plants used in the areas they manage.’

They were particularly taken with something unique to Pudsey – planters made from traditional tripe baths.

‘The tripe baths are a real success!’ said the judges. ‘They are quite unusual; a piece of Pudsey history that make lovely planters. It’s also encouraging to hear of their plans to work with the Civic Society in their restoration.’

Coun. Mick Coulson with a model of Pudsey Bear which was made by pupils at Waterloo Junior School around 25 years agoCoun. Mick Coulson with a model of Pudsey Bear which was made by pupils at Waterloo Junior School around 25 years ago

Who knew that tripe baths could play a role in prettifying a town? The innovative gardeners of Pudsey in Bloom, that’s who.

Bear necessities

The West Yorkshire town will forever be associated with a bear called Pudsey (and, occasionally, a dancing dog, which shares its name but doesn’t have any direct connections).

Pudsey Bear, the iconic mascot of the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal, was created in 1985 by graphic designer Joanna Ball, who named him after her home town, where her grandfather was mayor.

Twelve identical bears – all officially numbered and tagged – were made for each of the regional television studios and auctioned off as part of the appeal. Perhaps not surprisingly, the number one Pudsey was allocated to Leeds.

The much-loved bear was redesigned in 1986 and again in 1997, when the spots on his bandana were given a multi-coloured makeover. Then, in 2009, Pudsey was given a friend to share the limelight with in the shape of Blush, a brown bear with a spotty bow.

This year’s Children in Need marathon fundraising event takes place on Friday November 14th. For further details, visit bbc.co.uk/cin

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