Last weekend's British Orchid Congress organised and hosted by Writhlington School pupils has been acclaimed as the best ever by orchid growers across the UK and abroad.
Derek Copley, chairman of the Bournemouth Orchid Society described the event as "the best Congress in which we have participated including the one we staged in the 80s" while German Orchid Trader, Frank Roellke noted that "the show was the best organised event we have attended in the UK".
Teacher Simon Pugh-Jones put the show's success down to the dedication, commitment and teamwork of Writhlington School's volunteers. Twenty five pupils aged from twelve to sixteen planned the event over the past twelve months and then organised and ran the event with the support of volunteer parents and ex-pupils.
The British Orchid Congress is held every two years and is the UK's largest orchid event. This year is the first time that the event has been held in the Mendips but the success of the show at Writhlington makes it likely that more major orchid events will be held here in the future.
More than two thousand visitors came to the congress and were treated to one of the largest displays of orchids the UK has witnessed in recent years. Eighteen orchid societies and nineteen international orchid nurseries provided a riot of tropical colour in Writhlington's Post 16 centre while the school theatre provided the venue for talks and lectures from world experts on orchid cultivation, science and conservation. Speakers included nursery man Jerry Fischer from America, Brazilian conservation expert Dr Richard Warren and two of Writhlington's own orchid experts, Zoe Barnes and Zoe Parfitt aged fifteen and sixteen respectively.
Profits raised at the event will help to fund the forthcoming Writhlington expedition to Sikkim in the Himalayas where Year 11 students will work with staff and pupils from the secondary schools of Gangtok to support the development of the Gangtok Schools Orchid Project set up with Writhlington's help in 2009.
Those who missed the show or are keen to see Writhlington's orchids again can do so on December 13th when the Orchid students host their annual Orchid Christmas event from 6-9pm. This year Orchid Christmas will feature Rwandan crafts as well as orchids. Writhlington School as been working to support the setting up of orchid projects in rural schools in Rwanda for twelve months and students are selling Rwandan crafts purchased directly from producers to help fund the first Writhlington visit to the Central African country in 2013.