14th April 2014

We are now in the final planning stages of the show garden. On 30th April we will be on site at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea building the garden so our main objective is to make sure everything is perfect and ready to go!

154All the materials for the hard landscaping elements are either ready or almost ready. And the plants are cheerfully trying to deal with this warm weather and not get too excited as otherwise they will be peak too soon and will not do their bit in the garden.

This week I went down to visit our landscape contractor, Brian Herbert of Outdoor Options, at his workshop in Surrey to look at some of the structures which are now built and also to check on the French limestone setts which have been brought over from France for the Lost Gardens area of the garden.


The long concrete wall and central pill box feature of the garden will be built onto a support structure of timber and mdf board and I was able to see for the first time its scale and size. It needs to be imposing so that it dominates the central part of the garden.

The French limestone setts have been a bit of a challenge. I want a particular look, feel and colour and this has been very difficult to find. Although the majority of the setts are the right colour and texture, there is quite a number which are not usable due to being slightly the wrong colour and Nick Bennett of Bennetts Reclaimed has been busy sourcing some more for us in France which will arrive in the next week or so.

World War One on BBC TV

Last Sunday was a real WW1 treat with Antiques Roadshow being filmed on the Somme, in some of the same locations we visited on our recent filming trip with BBC, Thiepval Memorial of the Missing, in Albert and in Thiepval Woods.

This was followed by the first episode of The Crimson Field, a drama about volunteer nurses on the Western Front which of course interested me because my Grandmother, Agnes Mudie Parker would have known many of these volunteer nurses while she was serving in the Territorial Forces Nursing Service in France throughout the war.

I found another photograph of her in her surgical whites in a pre-war operating theatre which is probably not representative of the terribly difficult conditions in which doctors and nurses would have been working behind the front line! But it is a wonderful image.

War Horse

In this last period before preparations get really frantic, I organised a team outing we went to see the National Theatre’s production of War Horse to get us in the mood. I had seen it many years ago but now that I know so much more about World War One, it has much more resonance and meaning.

I have been looking at prose pieces and descriptions of the landscape of the Western Front and came across this extract from John Masefield’s The Old Front Line which he wrote following his visit to the Somme in 1917.

All wars end; even this war will some day end, and the ruins will be rebuilt and the field full of death will grow food, and all this frontier of trouble will be forgotten.When the trenches are filled in, and the plough has gone over them, the ground will not long keep the look of war. One summer with its flowers will cover mostof the ruin that man can make, and then these places, from which the drivingback of the enemy began, will be hard indeed to trace, even with maps. It is said that even now in some places the wire has been removed, the explosive salved, the trenches filled, and the ground ploughed with tractors. In a few years time, when this war is a romance in memory, the soldier looking for his battlefield will find his marks gone.

John Masefield


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