Springhill Hospice orchard to be a tribute to North West in Bloom Judge

Date published: 21 July 2021

Rochdale in Bloom and The Rotary Club of Rochdale have joined together to support Springhill Hospice in commemorating the memory of the late highly-respected gardening expert, Bill Blackledge MBE.

Honoured for his services to the In Bloom campaign, Mr Blackledge passed away in hospital last year after contracting Covid-19 following a knee operation. He was in his late seventies.

To create a lasting tribute to Mr Blackledge, twelve fruit trees have been donated to Springhill Hospice to create a new orchard near to the entrance of their award-winning gardens. They comprise a mixture of apple, cherry, plum and pear.

Member of the Royal Horticultural Society and Chairman of North West in Bloom, Mr Blackledge had been involved in the In Bloom campaign for over 20 years. He had been a regular visitor to Rochdale on the judging panel and had developed a real appreciation of the borough and the commitment of the wide range of volunteer and community groups working to improve their local environment. 

Rochdale in Bloom Chair, Roy Down said: “Bill was a tremendous friend to Rochdale in Bloom and a personal mentor to me.

“When Rochdale won through to the National Britain in Bloom Awards in 2018 he guided us through and, thanks to his advice, we won Gold. He was a great believer in the benefits of In Bloom to local communities and we, as a group, wanted to do something to remember his life and work.

“The hospice was the perfect location and we were extremely grateful when Rochdale Rotary stepped in to help make that happen.”

Speaking on behalf of The Rotary Club of Rochdale, the current President Neil Williams said: “We were very sorry to hear of the sad loss of Mr Blackledge and, as firm supporters of Rochdale in Bloom, we were happy to sponsor the project to cover the cost of the trees and also support the work of Springhill Hospice.”

In Bloom Gold Award winners themselves, the hospice’s gardens provide a beautiful extension to the care provided within.

Hospice Chief Executive, Sam Wells said: “The trees will be a lovely addition to our grounds and will create a living memory that also supports the natural environment. They will be available for sponsorship helping to provide much needed care for our patients and families.”

Springhill Hospice’s grounds on Broad Lane in Rochdale will be open to visitors on Sunday 8 August with the return of its annual family friendly summer garden celebration.

Socially distanced tours of the beautifully kept gardens will be available with home grown plants and garden produce on sale along with outdoor games, craft stalls and home-made pizzas. 

The summer garden celebration runs from 11am-3pm with free entry.

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