Friendship stories

Members of Civic Pride Rossendale. Lynn Smith is pictured front centre

Lynn’s friendship story

Lynn Smith, Vice Chair of Civic Pride Rossendale, shares how friendships with young people from a local youth group have blossomed and enriched lives.

In 2022, we entered the RHS Northwest Britain in Bloom competition, a new challenge for us; we set out our plans on how to proceed. Our focus was on the many gardens we care for, but we also wanted to involve our community. We formed a connection with many organisations, faith groups and businesses. One group we connected with was a council-supported youth group, Youth Zone, where young people meet and youth leaders help them develop their life skills. That year, the young people became involved with judging the best-decorated window competition along our high street. Although I did not know this then, this was the beginning of some meaningful friendships.

As we prepared for our entry into the Bloom Nationals in 2023, the connection between Youth Zone and us grew and blossomed. We were invited to and attended many of their events. Several of these young people are gifted in drama, artwork and poetry but I quickly realised that they wanted more than that; they needed to be valued and taken seriously.

A good use for a fallen tree, Sparrow Park, Rawtenstall

Ella and Ciaran at work in their garden

Through our developing friendship, it became clear they wanted more involvement in Bloom, so arrangements were made to ensure this happened. A group of us met with some of the young people to help them start a garden of their own. We worked together, offering them support and encouragement. Week by week, their appetite for gardening increased and their skills developed.

One of the group, Ella, who has a big personality and zest for life, has become so important to the life of our organisation and to my life too, as have twins Ciaran and Nathan. We have got to know each other very well over the past 18 months and communicate regularly. Ciaran has an artistic gift, as does Nathan, and their commitment to Britain in Bloom has been exemplary. Ciaran, on first meeting him, was particularly shy; how things have changed, his confidence has bloomed. Watching these young people develop is a joy to behold; they have been so inspired. They have excitedly shared with me their plans for next year for their garden. Their chosen theme is 60 years of Britain in Bloom; heartwarming.

Ella (left) and Sienna from Youth Zone with Youth Worker Lisa Spencer (centre)

Nathan and Ciaran's commitment to Britain in Bloom has been exemplary

The friendships with these 15- and 16-year-olds are cherished but considering that we at Civic Pride are mostly retired professional people, they are also unlikely. We are at opposing ends of the spectrum. This has taught me that not only is horticulture good for the environment and our general wellbeing, but it is also good for the soul.

“It breaks down barriers we didn’t know were there. It builds bridges we didn’t know needed building and it creates friendships which enrich our lives.”

These precious friendships are not tangible awards but a most treasured and unexpected gift from our Bloom entry.

Civic Pride Rossendale were one of 44 Britain in Bloom UK Finalists in 2023. They achieved Silver Gilt in the Large Town category. Find out more about the results.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.