Community groups in County Durham have ‘cleaned up’ in a prestigious regional awards scheme.

Nine Durham County Council-supported groups from the county’s towns and villages have been recognised through the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ (IYN) programme.

IYN is part of the RHS’ Britain in Bloom competition and gives certificates of achievement to groups which work to ‘green up’ their communities.

‘Veg Out in Barney’, a scheme run by just three retirees in which they grow fruit bushes and vegetables and create green walkways and wildlife habitats, was awarded ‘Outstanding’ – the highest accolade given.

The CAFÉ Together Project in Easington Colliery, Medomsley Community Garden and Stanley Crook Primary School Garden all achieved ‘Advancing’ for their work rejuvenating outdoor spaces to cultivate healthy food and vegetables.

Dennis Donnini Memorial Garden in Easington Colliery, Friends of Flass Vale group, Friends of Wharton Park group and Shotton Partnership 2000 Ltd were all given ‘Thriving’ awards, while Green Horizons in Ferryhill landed the ‘Improving’ award.

All nine schemes received up to £500 towards their work through the council’s Community Grant Scheme, which is currently open to applications from volunteer led environmental groups

Pauline Walker, the council’s senior civic pride officer, said: “We’re thrilled with the hard work put in by all volunteers and community groups and the results of the IYN scheme are testament to the commitment everyone has shown in developing their environmental projects.

“There is still time for community groups to get funding for an environmental improvement scheme next year, so we urge people to apply.”

Cllr Brian Stephens, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, added: “It’s incredible that people have given up their precious time in volunteering and have either cleaned up, greened up or produced healthy produce for the benefit of their communities.

“Many of the schemes will provide long-lasting environmental benefits to all who live or work in, or visit these areas.

“So too will the other groups from County Durham which were recognised by the RHN – to whom we send our hearty congratulations.

“There really is a chance for everyone to get involved in improving their local environment at grassroots level and we’d encourage people to contact us if they’re interested in how.”

Other schemes from County Durham which were recognised through IYN were: Claremont Grove, Sedgefield; Burnopfield Gardening Team; Easington Community Garden and the SEED PODS project; Sedgefield 71 to 76 Eden Drive and Caden Court; Sedgefield Crispin Court; Sedgefield Rectory Row.

Groups wishing to apply for Community Grant Scheme funding in 2018 must do so by Friday, 8 December.

Visit www.durham.gov.uk/itsyourneighbourhood to find out more and download an application form.

Alternatively, email civicpride@durham.gov.uk or call 03000 261 000 to request an application pack.