Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Show with Feeling

Quintessentially English is the wild foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which this year symbolises the Malvern Spring Gardening Show – and the Malvern Hills themselves. Come the actual Show (from 9th to 12th May) they will be flowering on the steep slopes, and down sequestered lanes of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Displayed on Show posters and leaflets, their presence speaks of late-Spring, and Summer-to-come; and on the Showground, too, their pink spires will remind us of lazy days cycling in rural places, as I did as a child.

Foxgloves in a
Malvern  showgarden
Their flowers beguiled me (and still do) – as a little girl, I would collect the fallen tubular blossoms, each speckled in their throat, and place them upside down on my fingertips. A handful of the countryside, and many childhood memories; and, without realising it, a life-long love of plants. So often, what you learn as a child stays with you forever.

The new Three Counties Agricultural Society chief uses pedal power
Pedalling allows one to absorb so much more of one’s surroundings, and by now, the new Three Counties Agricultural Society chief, Ken Nottage, is proving that pedal power is just the ticket, when it comes to circumnavigating his new working domain. Ken, who officially took the helm at the Society’s Three Counties Showground  on December 1st, is not fazed by the 90 acre perimeter site at the foot of the Malvern Hills, and is literally getting on his bike – astride a fully restored 1957 Royal Enfield. He said: “I was reading a copy of  ‘Three Into One’ – John Lewis’s excellent chronicle of the Society - and was amused to read that years ago, a former company secretary carried out his ground inspections astride a pony! I was inspired to follow suit, but with no equine prowess to my name, opted for an arguably safer, and definitely less temperamental, mode of transport. This is a beautiful place to work, but it’s also a large area to cover on foot, so a bike is a great way of getting from A to B quickly, without polluting the fresh air.”

It's easy to find your way around
How I wish I could give all first-timers to the Spring Gardening Show a quick guided tour by bike, a leisurely and gentle introduction to all that you will find once you arrive; but instead will outline what I term the four main ‘quadrants’, each with a distinct characteristic. The Showground is divided by hard-surfaced roadways – Rows and Avenues, and all sections are clearly signposted with large-scale maps at most intersections. Avenues run north to south, parallel with the Malvern Hills (good for orienting yourself), and Rows run from east to west. Stand in your imagination (map in hand) at the junction of Avenue 5 and Row 5 (Elgar Avenue) facing the hills:

Bikes are 'in' this year!
The quandrant to your right is ‘home’ to the RHS/TCAS Members’ Pavilion, The Severn Hall and the new Three Counties Centre, the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition), the Bandstand, Show Office, Artisan Food Market, excellent trade stands, and lots of catering venues.

Ahead of you will be the magnificent ‘Malvern Floral Marquee’ and to your left, Plant Pavilions galore (many are specialist nurseries); undercover, the Avon Hall (floral art`), the Gardeners’ Shopping Pavilion and Allotment Theatre, the Wye Hall – home to plant societies, food and wine stalls, and the Three Counties Guild of Craftsmen’. Plus the Eco Art & Garden area and innumerable trade stands related to horticulture.

The Plants & People Theatre always draws a large audience
Swivel on the spot with the Hills at your back and walk slowly away from then down Row 5. To your immediate right is the ‘Country Living magazine Pavilion’ and lots more useful trade stands.

One of many excellent School Gardens:  the children are so knowledgeable, and keen to talk to visitors
Whilst to your left (with your back to the Hills) are the eclectic School Gardens, the Learning Garden and Discovery Zone and Spring Gardens Coffee Court and then – across Row 7 the Show Gardens (including the Themed Garden category inspired by the Tour de France), RHS Life, an Art Market and the Plants and People Theatre. So much to absorb, so many activities, and in my next posts (during March), I will be describing some of these in more detail as news emerges. Click on all the links to keep up-to-date with all that is happening. 

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