A new type of Dahlia grown by John one of the volunteers from Yeovil Junction

Stations in Bloom 2023

Stations in Bloom (SIB) is an inter-station celebration of volunteering across the SWR & GWR networks in South West and Southern England. Stations in bloom’s underlying green credentials embrace a non-competitive and non-captious ethos ensuring its nature is collaborative, celebratory and fun.  Engaging with local communities, station volunteers and railway staff to bring wider recognition to the hard work invested into making stations welcoming environments for rail-users and visitors.

Planning starts in the spring, peaks during the big shows in the summer and climaxes with the autumn regional awards. Inclusive, engaging, enjoyable and helpful, station volunteering is good for confidence building, spiritual and healthy well-being, increases fitness and tackles social isolation by providing opportunities to make new friends and boost morale.

With its firmly rooted green agenda, SIB has successfully raised awareness of ecology, green sustainable travel, community rail, increased sustainable horticultural practices and augmented the value of volunteering across the region and networks. Promoting the railways, routes and stations of the regional CRPs along the way. 

18 tours with 18 judging teams travelling 8000 sustainable green miles by train and public transport through ten counties, visiting 70 stations over an eight-week period, with our judges alone clocking up more than 2400 volunteer hours.  

What’s it all about?

Bringing wider recognition to the valued work of volunteers on the railway was established by Blackmore Vale Community Rail Partnership with Stations in Bloom in 2016 across its six members stations and Yeovil Railway Centre. The original idea celebrating and promoting the wonderful planting intiatives at each station. Each station also participated and won awards in the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood scheme, part of the distinguished Royal Horticultural Society campaign, South West in Bloom.  Funding for the project was gained in 2019 by Blackmore Vale Line CRP for a 2020 Stations in Bloom campaign for the Salisbury to Exeter line,  joining with the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership.   The pandemic delayed the project for two years.  By 2022 Stations in Bloom grew into a joint initiative promoting volunteering, the railways, routes and stations of the regional CRPs of Blackmore Vale Line, Devon and Cornwall, East Hampshire and South Wessex. It was the first campaign of its kind on the South Western Railway and Great Western Railway network across southern England, funded by South Western Railway with signifcant sponsorship from leading west country business The Gardens Group.

How does it work?

Common themes running throughout station volunteering were turned into a diverse, inclusive and robust set of judging guidelines to support an awards structure. Absolutely not a competition but a celebration of community involvement and volunteer endeavours, recognised regionally with an awards ceremony.  

Regionally recognised as a positive, friendly, inter-station celebration of volunteering, its creative, fun and innovative. Augmented by an engaging ethos widely embraced by all.  Spreading wider recognition of volunteer dedication and commitment across the rail networks, region and beyond.  Strengthening the sense of belonging to the community rail family and generating masses of goodwill across the railways.

The core team respected members in their areas of expertise compliment judges carefully selected for experience and volunteering advocacy.  Volunteers willingly share fabulous things accomplished with encouraging, supportive judges.

SIB aims to successfully engage with station volunteers and regional CRPs, to encourage volunteer participation and to secure funding and sponsorship to bring everyone together to share knowledge and celebrate.

Engaging with the community

SIB gives volunteers something to aim for throughout the year. Creativity demonstrated through the diverse variety of station initiatives is truly amazing!

It takes a special person to be a judge, integrity and sensitivity towards volunteers combined with the ability to put people at ease drawing out the best from them.  Our super judges are also volunteers giving of their time generously.

Warm welcomes and beaming smiles received from ‘old hands’ and ‘SIB virgins,’ as judges were shown with great pride what individuals had accomplished whilst making a difference horticulturally and environmentally were heartwarming, especially knowing that without that focus their lives would probably be very different.

Boosting morale and confidence of volunteers, sharing experiences, giving constructive help and advice, but never critical.  Providing an opportunity to groups to show off all they achieve, explain how and why, and ask for help and guidance on all things. Sharing experiences and promoting the benefits of volunteering, especially in horticulture for those affected by mental health issues and loneliness. Judges saw really good examples of this in practice, and the visits not only brought a smile to those going through difficult times, but enabled judges to offer encouragement, help and advice for the future.

“It was an absolute privilege meeting so many local champions doing such wonderful work and being able to encourage and support them.”

2022 feedback set the bar for 2023

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed and valued the whole 2022 Stations in Bloom experience. Feedback provided additional enhancements for 2023 resulting in greater participation across the region. Successful community engagement in 2023 increased station take up by 45%.  Working with more than 500 volunteers.

18 tours with 18 judging teams travelling 8000 sustainable green miles by train and public transport throughout ten counties, visiting 70 stations over an eight-week period, clocking up more than 2400 volunteer hours and that was just the judging teams.  

Funding gained from SWR, GWR, and CRPs. Significant business sponsorship for whole awards ceremony for 130 guests. Sponsored coach transfers. Raised awareness and regional profile of station volunteering. Successfully increased awareness and application of sound environmental practices for planting, watering and recycling. Protecting the natural environment 78% of stations now have sustainability at the heart of their work. 

SIB is a positive reaffirming experience for all involved. Sharing examples of good practice and successes to other groups on the tour, promoting this approach to groups struggling to find volunteers, and how to access these important groups. Many people on the tours said they really benefited from the experience and would be lost without it.