Whisper this quietly, but when judges say ‘Horncastle is somewhere we would like to live’ you’d have thought the title of Lincolnshire’s Best Kept Small Town was in the bag.
In fact, that wasn’t the only favourable comment from a panel of judges who, it appeared, hadn’t been to the Jason Gardner Teaching School!
Over three rounds of competition, words and phrases like ‘there were some absolute gems’, ‘well maintained’, ‘an excellent facility’, ‘lovely hanging baskets’, ‘very little litter’ and ‘attractive and well looked after’ regularly appeared on the judges’ score sheet.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough for Horncastle to win that coveted title.
Instead, the town was named runner up - for the second year in a row!
The trophy went to Long Sutton which must be incredibly ‘spick-and-span’ given those pleasing Horncastle comments.
The first round of judging was carried out at the end of May.
Horncastle scored 126 out of a possible 150 marks in 11 different categories, ranging from private gardens to community effort.
The town’s overall appearance and condition secured 22 out of 25 with the worst score (12 out of 15) reserved for the condition of public premises like bus stops and telephone boxes - and religious buildings where judges discovered ‘evidence of churchyard use for other purposes.’ The mind boggles!
In round two, the mark for overall condition and appearance had risen to 24 out of 25 - despite ‘lots of dog ends’ in the Market Place and cigarette packets in Boston Road.
There was high praise for Bain Valley Park, Coronation Walk, the War Memorial Centre and the Boston Road Industrial Estate where plantings were trimmed and verges mown.
Schools were also singled out for high marks thanks to a tidy and litter free appearance.
The overall mark for round two was 143 out of 150.
No wonder the town council - who had entered Horncastle for the competition - had the Champagne (or fizzy water) on ice.
Round three, and judges visited in August to report the town generally was in ‘good condition’ with no evidence of graffiti or litter.
The Community Woodland, Bain Valley Park and River Bain (ducks and all) certainly didn’t let the side down and scored high marks,
So did various other public places, including the town’s football ground and playing fields at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and Banovallum School.
The collective appearance of private properties, hedges and gardens definitely impressed with a mark of 15 out of 15.
Rumour has it that at this stage, the town’s mayor was searching for the key to the trophy cabinet.
The condition of business premises, religious buildings and the community effort was hard to fault.
In the end, though, it seems Horncastle’s hopes were dashed by the condition of telephone boxes in the Market Place (awful) and the public toilets (very old and tired). Low marks were duly handed out.
Flushed with success? No. Horncastle’s final score was 134 out of 150.
The town council admitted to being ‘beaten’ but ‘not downhearted’.
Next year, they hope it could be a case of third time lucky. There’s just one slight snag. The upper population limit for the competition is 7,000.
Hold those new houses.....!