BROADCASTER and celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh was invited to his home town of Ilkley yesterday to officially open Improving Ilkley's new flower beds on the Station Plaza.

The event also saw Alan judge the Friends of Ilkley Railway Station's (FOIRS) planter competition, which has seen local primary schools create displays on the railway station. Alan took a keen interest in everything the school children had planted and spent a lot of time chatting to them.

As well as the children and their teachers, invited guests included district councillors, Ilkley's MP, Ilkley Town Mayor Mark Stidworthy, Richard Isaac, of Northern Rail and major benefactors of the new flowerbeds, Councillor Anne Hawkesworth and Roger Yaxley.

Otley Brass Band entertained guests with a rendition of Ilkley Moor bah’t ‘at conducted by Alan.

The third planter was made possible thanks to Councillor Anne Hawkesworth and her late husband John Hawkesworth, who sadly passed away last year aged 77.

Cllr Hawkesworth asked for donations for the planter in lieu of flowers at John's funeral. The planter is now marked with a plaque which reads: "In loving memory of John Hawkesworth".

Speaking after yesterday's opening Councillor Anne Hawkesworth said: "It was such a happy day but for me obviously emotional with an underlying sadness. Many of our friends came plus relatives and I am sure we were watched from up high.

"The Station Forecourt truly looks wonderful and makes a wonderful welcoming entrance to anyone coming to Ilkley by train. John would have been very pleased to think he had played a part in the improvements on the Station Forecourt.

"I am delighted and it is wonderful for me, when in Ilkley, that I can look at this permanent memorial with a smile and feel John's presence.

"I must of course mention Improving Ilkley and their stalwart workers with their ongoing efforts to retain the area to this great standard. The job is never finished however, and we all have to continue pushing to maintain Ilkley as the wonderful centre it is. I know I’ve been here before. Things go in cycles."