What a blooming great stalwart!
Jim Leak has decided to retire after 16 years on the Lytham In Bloom committee, most of that time as chairman.
Wife Sheila is also calling it a day after a similar period - and as the dedicated couple get set for a more leisurely lifestyle, Lytham’s reputation for floral excellence could hardly be higher.
Jim and his dedicated band of volunteers claimed the highest possible honour three years ago when Lytham was chosen as Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions by the Royal Horticultural Society.
A clutch of regional and national have also been claimed - and the town is going for Champion of Champions again this year.
What better tribute to the retiring chairman, says Lytham In Bloom treasurer David Kerr, than to clinch it again when the judges come to call this summer?
Speaking of judges, Jim has revealed that he is about to do a ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ act by becoming a judge for Britain In Bloom.
He will be running the rule over various part of the region in the coming months, bringing to bear all his experience of what is required to be a blooming winner.
“We have had a wonderful run but it is time to call it a day,” said Jim.
“It is a decision we thought about taking a couple of years ago but we stayed around a little longer. We have a very strong and dedicated committee and the future of Lytham In Bloom is in excellent hands.”
Undoubted highlight for Jim of his years at the helm was hearing that Lytham had been chosen as the very best of the best as the Champion of Champion trophy was clinched in 2013 - but he has always been quick to pay tribute to what a concerted effort the Lytham In Bloom success has been.
“When we won Champion of Champions, the judges stated Lytham was one ‘of the cleanest, greenest and nicest places to live in the UK’ and that made me so proud,” he said
“None of the success of recent years could have been achieved without the dedicated band of volunteers we have, along with the support of businesses and residents who help make Lytham look so good and impressive to the judges,
“Thanks so much to everyone for their continuing efforts.”
Lytham’s run of success at regional and national level is a stark contrast to the situation when Jim took over the chair.
At the time, Lytham In Bloom had just four members and had to borrow £1,000 off one of the members to allow the group to undertake certain limited works around town.
But Jim’s renowned determination and enthusiasm gradually got more and more people involved and culminated in the town earning a notable place on the national map.
David Kerr paid glowing tribute to Jim, saying: “Jim will be greatly missed by Lytham In Bloom and by the people of Lytham but I am sure he will be a willing and enthusiastic volunteer for many of our activities.
“Jim is highly regarded and respected not only in Lytham but also by the RHS as well.
“He has ensured that as many people as possible are involved with the work of Lytham In Bloom.
“It is a popular misconception that the in Bloom competitions involve ‘plants, shrubs and flowers’.
“That however is a good way off the reality in that local schools have been encouraged to participate in the groups work as well as local environmental and conservation groups.
“Jim has always been at the forefront of casting the Lytham In Bloom net as widely as possible.
“The success of Lytham In Bloom could not have been achieved without Jim’s relentless enthusiasm and commitment and the committee will be striving this year to, once again, win the ultimate prize in the Britain in Bloom awards – a fitting testimony to our retiring chairman.”