This week the Queen opened the Chelsea Flower Show 

It opened to much ado about… paving over driveways.

The show, not content with ‘just’ HM The Queen herself, nor the three generations of the British Monarchy in attendance (complete with poster-boy Harry and Zara riding a tractor) opened it’s doors with regal endorsement.

Yet, despite this (and the myriad of celebs on parade) the RHS still felt they had to launch this grand event with a PR story on the UK’s disappearing front gardens. This is sad news indeed.

It is saddening that one of the nation’s most spectacular events, to mark the horticultural (and design) excellence of our green and pleasant land, requires PR spin akin to that of ‘Freddy Star Ate My Hamster’. Increasingly, such surveys are the eye-openers of soundbite Britain; the one-liners that prick the interest of the social news scanners:

24% of front gardens are now entirely paved over. To the kids in tower blocks: who cares? To the target audience – to middle Britain’s gardeners: that’s a big deal. 28% of people polled said there was no greenery in their front gardens. Grey Britain. Sad times.

Of course, the newsflash works and soundbites excite.

Here at The Wild Network we’re no strangers to them. We’ve a few of our own, in fact…

UK kids spend on average nearly 4 .5 hours a day watching TV and computer screens. To teenagers blogging every day: who cares? To the target audience – to Britain’s parents and play community: that’s a big deal. Roaming distance from home is down 90% in one generation. Trapped Britain. Sad. Might as well get on those screens, kids.

Even holiday company rolled out a nature survey (and a brilliant pack, that you can download here) with surprising results…

Almost 15% of kids thought that dragons were real. And similarly…

Almost 35% of children surveyed thought that Holly, Bluebell and Silver Birch were made up species.

Half of kids? Really? I might now take notice. I might download that pack and join the Nature Watch programme, to make sure my kids aren’t chopping down real trees in case imaginary dragons land in them. What is happening out there?

I admit, I’ve never been to the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s not that accessible for working parents. A day’s holiday, needed for school assembly, or inset day, isn’t going to be used for Chelsea (and that’s before the train costs and lunch out). However, the pictures on TV, the web, in the papers, of the beauty, the ‘garden glamour’ are just stunning, inspirational – and also aspirational. I love it.

One day, I will go to this fabulously grand event. I’ll drag the kids along to see the potential glory we can create, as soon as their swing set goes and that plastic toy bench finally lands in the skip. The marvels we can make, as soon as we have time to do more than just cut the grass and enjoy the flowers that, despite our slightly shoddy gardening ability, return year-after-year thanks to the generation before us that knew what it was doing. The generation that absolutely and literally, sowed the seeds (and bulbs) for us.

[Traditional crafts & garden, Chelsea Flower Show, 2015: BBC]

We really must pass them on, these skills

We must ignite the little sparks of interest in gardens (or gardening) for the next generation. This is vital. Gardens, or flower boxes, or gravel yards, or even shared spaces, are often a child’s first experience of nature.

How can they learn while we are paving over our front gardens (assuming we have any kind of garden in the first place: many don’t). Must we sit back and wait until they start paving over their back gardens, because they don’t know any better? Weeds? Flowers? Birds? Bees? What’s the point of any of it? They won’t understand.

This is why Chelsea matters

This is why nature matters. So, this is why we must persist with our Wild Network campaigns – and why we must all continue with those headline grabbing surveys.

So, what will it be tomorrow? Start lining up your soundbites now. Because it all matters. And we need people to listen, share, write blog posts and pass it on. Please. 100% of you. Every last statistic.


~ Natalie Johnson, Community Manager, The Wild Network


[Header image: Chelsea Pensioners, 2015: BBC]

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