BICESTER is blooming – that’s the verdict of Thames and Chilterns in Bloom judges.

The town picked up gold in the large town section of the competition, beating more than 20 competitors from across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

It will now go on to represent the region in the UK finals next year for the second time in three years.

Awards were announced at a ceremony at Newbury Town Hall, where Bicester mayor James Porter and deputy mayor Richard Mould collected the crystal vase and gold certificate.

Judges visited in July and awarded the town 48 out of 50 for community involvement, largely thanks to organisations such as the Green Gym and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BCTV).

They looked for horticultural achievement including conservation and natural areas, as well as community activities to improve the environment.

Mr Mould, Bicester in Bloom chairman, said: “This is a tremendous achievement and a great credit to our staff at the town council. I inherited it and it has all worked out very nicely – all credit to previous chairman Carol Steward.

“It was a difficult year and we had a few problems with the planting.

“The support we get from the Green Gym and BTCV is fantastic.

“It’s groups like that which show community support, and that was what the judges were looking for.”

Mr Porter said the win was down to the town and district councils, businesses and the community pulling together.

He added: “It was a delightful surprise to win. To find out there were only five gold awards and we were the top scoring gold award was fantastic.”

Pete Thompson, chairman of Thames and Chilterns in Bloom said: “The commitment by all entrants is tremendous.

“I would like to thank all local bloom committees for their continued support of the campaign and wish Bicester every success next year when they will be representing our region in the national finals.”

Britain in Bloom is the largest horticultural event in Europe.