Other Information

Monday, 1 May 2017

Heading towards the hills


RHS Malvern Spring Festival: It’s that time of year again when I become excited at the thought of revisiting the TCAS (Three Counties Agricultural Society) Showground. In the lee of the beautiful Malvern Hills. I can visualise them now, and have been writing about them or many, many years: previewing / reviewing so many Shows, Exhibitions and Festivals that from time to time I experience withdrawal symptoms!

This year’s ‘RHS Malvern Spring Festival’ is almost upon us - Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th May, 2017. If you haven’t visited before, I strongly recommend sensible shoes, a lightweight raincoat (just in case!) and one of those folding-trolleys for all your purchases. Though you can usually buy them on the Showground. Last year, I found an ingenious one that will double as a seat; the lid will slot inside the box as it houses delights without number. 


There is so much to discover; exploring every corner of the easily accessible acres (if you have the stamina!) A useful tip is to purchase a copy of the Show Guide the moment you arrive and sit with a cup of coffee, marking where you want to visit. The Showground is set out in a grid of hard-surfaced streets and avenues, and grassed areas within many of the blocks. Aimlessly wandering around is enjoyable but there’s always more to cover than can be accommodated in a single day.

So let’s start our online journey to the Festival. Having planned my ‘itinerary’ to save undue retracing my steps from one side of the show ground to the other, I will work my way towards the three areas of this year’s Show that instantly appealed. Please note - all images used are representative of ‘Malvern’ and were taken at previous Malvern events.  


Living well: Known as the “British Queen of Herbs”, Jekka McVicar will unveil the first ever specially commissioned permanent garden at the Festival. A magnificent centrepiece and focus of the all-new ‘Live Well’ zone, Jekka’s ‘Health & Wellbeing Garden’ garden will bring to life the contribution horticulture continues to make to our health and wellbeing in today’s hectic world. As an RHS Ambassador for Health through Horticulture, Jekka sees an increasing need for reflection and escape from the stresses of modern life, seeking to preserve and share the vital knowledge of how horticulture and its associated therapies can help the mind, body and soul. The garden will be a living, working space with a tranquil seating area, where visitors can immerse themselves amongst the aromatic herb beds, and also educate themselves on the place that herbs and horticulture play in today’s society.


Exciting horticultural experience: a new feature this year is the ‘Grow Zone’ - a horticultural experience taking inspiration from an interactive countryside and wildlife garden designed by RHS Gold Medal winner, Jon Wheatley. Bound to stimulate the sight and senses, you can amble through the garden and browse the fruit and vegetables - and don’t be surprised by the bees and wildlife you meet on the way.


The Edible Beds area is curated by RHS medal winner and RHS Malvern Spring Festival Ambassador, Hannah Genders. It’s a collection of raised beds, planted with edible produce around a central seating space, and seeks to demonstrate the ease of growing your own. Each bed tells a story of the different organisations creating them, including Incredible Edibles Bristol, Grown not Flown, Community Orchards Redditch, The Farming Sisters, Garden Organic, Rush Farm Biodynamic and Care Farming.

The ‘Grow Zone’ will also host a number of other exciting features including a ‘Grow Tipi’, where leading figures in the gardening world (such as Carol Klein, Jekka McVicar and Sarah Venn of Incredible Edible Bristol) will be on hand for a Q&A session. What joy.


Beginning Young: The RHS Malvern Spring Festival is an admirable venue for nurturing the next generation of gardening talent. Encouraged by former Blue Peter gardener, Chris Collins, who is returning for his fourth year as Champion of the School Gardens Challenge - one of the highlights of the Festival. This year’s School Garden theme is ‘Space’, which celebrates the 350th anniversary of Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity, alongside the 60th of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik. Everything that visitors see has been created by the pupils themselves, from initial design, to growing the plants, and finally building the actual gardens.


A day is hardly sufficient time: There’s so much more to experience and enjoy at this year’s Festival - bigger and better than ever before. Celebrities from Alan Titchmarsh to Raymond Blanc; the Food and Drinks Pavilion with demos and talks by leading professionals; The UK’s longest Floral Marquee (at 190m, the equivalent length of four Olympic swimming pools); a Floral Fountain commissioned by Jonathan Moseley and the equivalent size of a semi-detached house; BBC Radio 4 presenter Matt Biggs dress up as a plant hunter; new ‘Spa Gardens’ and of course the ever-popular Show Gardens where leading designers compete for Best in Show. In fact, catching my imagination is the idea of a ‘Permanent Treehouse Garden’ being created by the 2016 Best in Show winner, Mark Eveleigh. I cannot wait.