STOURRIDGE'S entry in the prestigious Heart of England in Bloom competition has returned "with a bang".

Volunteers pulled out all the stops to spruce up the town ahead of a visit by judge Mark Wiltshire, from Heart of England in Bloom, today (Tuesday July 16).

He told the News he'd had a "wonderful morning" after he was taken on a three-hour tour of the town including a stop-off in Mary Stevens Park which he described as a "jewel in the crown".

Stourbridge won eight consecutive gold awards in its past reign of glory in the Bloom campaign but has not participated in the initiative since 2015 when council cutbacks prompted organisers to pull out.

Mr Wiltshire said: "I'd like to say a warm welcome back to Stourbridge after a four-year absence. They're back with a bang.

"The work being done with the volunteers is exceptional. People think Bloom is all about plants and flowers but without the people you don't have anything. "The community has really galvanised together and brought the entry back to where it was."

He said he "spoke to an awful lot of volunteers and members of the community" during his visit including youngsters from St James's Primary School in Wollaston and volunteers from Dudley MIND, Tidy Stourbridge and Stourbridge U3A.

Brenda Stevenson, chairman of Stourbridge's University of the third Age group, said 16 members of the group had been out and about in town - "weeding, planting, cleaning up and sweeping" - ahead of the judge's visit and she said the voluntary efforts to clean up Stourbridge would continue throughout the summer.

She added: "We think we've made a difference to our town. There's been a lot of appreciation. It's been great."

Stourbridge in Bloom organiser David Harcourt said it had been a "great day" for the Bloom judge to stop by, adding: "The weather showed the park off a treat."

Volunteers will find out how the town has fared in this year's campaign at a ceremony at Dunchurch Park, Rugby, on September 5.