THE First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones, visited Usk on Thursday 23rd July to lend his support to the town’s Britain in Bloom entry.

Usk currently holds the Wales in Bloom title and now goes forward to the RHS Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions competition, with the overall winner picked from each regional victor.

The First Minister was welcomed in Twyn Square by Tony Kear, chairman of Usk in Bloom, before being walked around the town’s square and then Bridge Street before being shown the Sessions House, were he planted a tree in the grounds.

Run by a team of volunteers, the town’s floral displays are currently some of the best they have created according to organisers, and showed off the town in its best light.

The Britain in Bloom competition doesn’t just focus on the flowers though and has a strong community element to it, with town cleanliness and community projects going towards the overall score.

With this in mind, the Usk in Bloom committee were keen to show the First Minister the Sessions House since Mr Jones has previously been a barrister before taking up politics.

The First Minister was shown around the Sessions House’s court room and library, taking a real interest in both.

After the tour, Mr Jones said: “The competition’s about community pride. The flowers are an element of it but what else is there that shows people are really engaged in the community?

“It’s incredible what’s been done with it (the Sessions House); the character’s been kept and that library’s incredible.”

Mr Kear replied saying: “I’m really so grateful and glad that you enjoyed it. It’s another part of the competition that we can show off.”

“What is astonishing this year is the community pride side of things.

“We have now got people sweeping the streets. We introduced what’s called ‘Your Street in Bloom’, the idea being first of all, if we put a public tub in their street, would they look after that?

“It’s gone beyond that now, they’re picking weeds, they’re out there with their broom on the morning of judging, making sure that the town has been presented in the best way.

“It is just phenomenal that a group of ten volunteers can engender that spirit.”

“We are representing Wales, and it’s absolutely fantastic that we got the First Minister of Wales coming to support our campaign.

“He hasn’t been here for a while, and was absolutely blown away coming into the square. He noted all the work we had done in terms of the wild flowers on the entrance to the town.

“He noticed the business community, how they’ve all got together with the displays in the main street, and some of the innovative stuff as well.

“But I think what it gave us the opportunity to do was explain that it’s not just about flowers and, for want of a better phrase, he got it.

“He really understood the community participation, the business participation.

“I think he was a little bit surprised with the fact that we deal with the street furniture, the bins, the litter, the dog fouling, all those sorts of things that are on the tick list for us to do.

“And I think the civic pride as well, the things like the old buildings, the clock, the priory, and obviously with the Sessions House – which was a great link – it’s why we brought him here and to plant a tree in the community orchard, we knew he wouldn’t resist having a look around.

“We’re absolutely delighted, really are delighted that he took time to come out and visit and support our campaign.

“It means a lot to us and he was genuinely enthused and supportive and wished us the best of luck.”

Mr Jones said: “I was pleased to be able to visit today and meet some of the Usk in Bloom volunteers who are playing such an important role in putting together a series of activities attracting visitors and boosting local businesses in Usk.    

“They are already award winners in Wales and I wish them all the best with their forthcoming RHS Britain in Bloom Champions of Champions entry.”