By Emma Sandham
Lady Salisbury, of Hatfield House, welcomed guests to the grand opening of The Game Fair Gardens on Friday 26th July. The garden, which covers more than an acre, is the largest show garden ever created, and was designed and planted by staff and students from Capel Manor College, London’s only land-skills based college.
Led by Julie Dowbiggin, the college’s RHS gold medal-winning designer, students created a garden that reflected the Great British countryside, and showcased their skills, flair and knowledge.
Speaking at the launch event, James Gower, Managing Director of The Game Fair, said: “When Lady Salisbury suggested having a garden, we were excited by the idea, as we know that lots visitors to The Game Fair are keen gardeners. However, I don’t think we realised how big of a project it would turn out to be. We never imagined that Capel Manor College, under the expert eye of Julie Dowbiggin, would be able to create something that not only looks like it’s been here forever, whilst giving the students the chance to display their skills and plantsmanship. On behalf of The Game Fair and everyone who will enjoy the gardens over the weekend, I would like to thank everyone involved.”
James Gower also praised the Capel Manor students and apprentices, noting that Andrew Smith, Christina Garcia and Catherine Godard were each responsible for designing their own areas of the garden. He also thanked Lady Salisbury herself for the idea and support of the project, and investment firm Charles Stanley Wealth Management for their sponsorship
Before cutting the ribbon to formally open the garden, Lady Salisbury reflected on the process from when the idea was first mooted by her head gardener Andrew Turvey, through planning stages and finally the build beginning in May, and the remarkable transformation of the site since then.
“It has been a truly amazing effort from everyone – all the students and staff from Capel Manor College, (which I am proud to be a Patron of) have converted a patch of parkland into a world-class, and huge, garden that would win an award at any show in the Country,” she said, adding: “The Game Fair should be credited for having the imagination to back such a hare-brained scheme, and I’d also like to thank all the sponsors for making it possible: Charles Stanley , plus generous donors Paul Rochford, Marshalls, Cattlegate Farm and Lafarge.
Lady Salisbury continued, “But most of all I’d like to thank Capel Manor College, the Principal Malcolm Goodwin for allowing this to happen and the students and staff, for making the dream a reality for tens of thousands of visitors to enjoy and be inspired by.”
Robert Howard from Charles Stanley and a Governor of Capel Manor College said: “We’re very pleased to have been able to give the students of Capel Manor College a chance to apply their knowledge and skills, as well as to promote the College and its amazing work introducing Londoners to land-based industries and helping people to change their own lives.”
The Game Fair Gardens were designed as a paean to the Great British countryside, featuring many native British trees and plants, as well as nods to the important conservation work carried out by the game industry in the form of cover crops, which provide important sources of food and cover for many rare species of birds. The ‘prairie’ section of the gardens promotes green spaces and sustainability in cities and the countryside, while the potager garden features edible plants, vegetables and herbs.
Following the event many of the plants are being redistributed to local charities, schools and hospices to ensure that the project leaves a lasting positive legacy, these include: Earthworks, St Albans, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice, Barnet, Harington Scheme, Highgate, North London, Mudlarks, Hertford, The Ryde School, Hatfield, Countess Anne School, Hatfield and Birchwood Avenue Primary School, Hatfield.
The Game Fair Gardens in Numbers:
140 tonnes of compost
500 sq metres of turf
12 tonnes of Cotswold stone (dry stone walling)
142 tonnes of MOT aggregate
35 tonnes of Cotswold chippings
An application is being made to the Guinness Book of Records to get the Garden recognised as the largest show garden ever created.