SINCE Usk in Bloom started in 1981, not much - if anything - has got in the way of the town looking fantastic with budding flower displays all year round.

But, as Usk in Bloom chairman Tony Kear explains, when they were delivered the dreaded news that their plans for the summer would need to be binned, there was serious concern that an evergreen town “would become tired-looking”.

From April onwards most of the volunteers had to stop planting, and Wales in Bloom and Britain in Bloom, both of which the charity has had brilliant success competing in, were both cancelled.

“It has been a big shame, especially given it is our 40th summer,” Mr Kear said.

"We’ve lost a third of our income as well as the volunteers, so it really has been a challenging time.”

Fortunately, some very generous business owners have been on hand to step in and ensure the town does not let standards slip regardless of the predicament.

Free Press Series: Russell WalkerRussell Walker

Husband and wife Russell and Anna Walker, who own the Willows Garden Centre in Usk, planted flowers - which had been purchased by the charity - across the town for free.

“They’ve been brilliant,” Mr Kear said, “the council couldn’t get anyone to do the weed-killing either due to staff shortages, and Russell kindly volunteered.

Free Press Series: Marion Powell's butterfly tributeMarion Powell's butterfly tribute

“The work they’ve done has really had a ripple effect throughout the town, and I’ve noticed so many lovely displays, including Marion Powell's awesome butterfly display for the NHS.”

Usk in Bloom will be judging front gardens in a “front garden bloom competition” on the first week of August.

Free Press Series: Anna and Lucas WalkerAnna and Lucas Walker

“The community felt strongly that the town couldn’t feel sorry for itself, and it’s also brilliant for mental health at this time to have a great outdoor space," Mr Kear added.

“We want to give people a reason to stay well and to also encourage people to come to Usk once lockdown ends.”

Free Press Series: Tony KearTony Kear

While all fundraising events currently remain on hold, thanks to the voluntary efforts of the Willows as well as Morris’s of Usk and Glen-yr-Afon hotel who helped to plant flowers in the town, the charity will be able to maintain a “firm financial footing” over the winter.

Russell Walker added: “We are a local business in Usk and understand what Usk in Bloom means to the people here. We always work closely with the charity, usually in trading plants, but this year they needed a little extra help, and we were happy to do that.”