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The Royal Parks Guild Discovery Day 2023

"A day packed with so much it is difficult to capture it all."

The delegates entered the Hampton Court grounds through the impressive ornamental gates to walk along the main drive with a direct view of the Palace in front of them. They then accessed the beautiful Garden Room to be greeted by Guild members and supporters before settling down for the day ahead.

Delegates were welcomed by Mike Fitt on behalf of The Royal Parks Guild and Nicola Andrews, Palaces Group Director, on behalf of Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), host of the event – with both outlining the exciting day ahead. Mike explained that the Discovery Days, an initiative of the Royal Parks Guild, had grown from small steps taken some 12 years ago to this year’s event with over 200 people present. Each year being ambitious and different. He noted that the event now involves over 25 organizations taking part and contributing to the day!

Dr Terry Gough MVO, former Head of Gardens & Estates at HRP, and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Gardens Advisor to HRP, gave an excellent summary of the history, management and development of the Gardens at Hampton Court Palace.

There were interactive moments during the day. Everyone was asked to discuss 80 (AI generated) roles associated with Horticulture and Park Management as well as the idea of a 'National Nature Service'. This idea would offer every child leaving school an opportunity to work in a nature related role for a year. A panel discussion was held chaired by Ruth Lin Wong Holmes (Vice Chair of the Guild) with Emma McNamara (National Trust), Jane Pelly (Royal Parks), Billy Knowles (Director of YES, supporting New to Nature for the National Lottery Heritage Fund) and Tom Young (Nuffield Scholar for Worshipful Company of Gardeners). It was a lively discussion about tackling the climate change emergency, equity, equality, diversity, inclusion and justice alongside caring for historic landscapes.

Garden tours enabled apprentices, trainees, school children and delegates to explore the gardens guided by HRP gardeners. This included seeing a hedge planting demonstration, how shire horses help with landscape management, an archaeological investigation information stop, and many beautiful and fascinating features.

The emerging talent section of the day brought to the microphone three brilliant people who gave us an insight into their journey into horticulture - Sam Hickmott, National Trust Head Gardener, Florence Akanbi-Guei, Kew Apprentice and Von-luc Thomas-Jones, London Wildlife Trust.

Back in the Garden Room the final part of the day included thanks to everyone, a special message from Chris Packham (organised by Richard Pollard of the Tree Council) and a song by the Tree Council Ambassador, Benjamin Haycock who took to the stage and pounded out his ‘Singing Force for Nature’ anthem.

If you wanted to see the Hort Week Article please click here.

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