David Bellamy Comes To Town!

048                                                                                                                                             For those of you old enough to remember him, David Bellamy OBE is an extraordinary botanist, prolific author, diver, conservationist, environmental campaigner and TV personality. He was also the voice behind the Ribena advert in the early 80’s and the subject of Lenny Henry’s famous parody which spawned the catchphrase “grapple me grapenuts” on Tiswas. You might therefore understand how honoured I was to meet the great man in person last week. How it happened is still a bit of a mystery. It all started a year ago when I floated the idea of a Tool Amnesty at our Horticultural Society to raise our profile, gain valuable publicity and do something for a worthy cause. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!

Maybe I didn’t explain it very well or maybe it was a bit too radical but our Committee just didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for the idea that I had. Needless to say, the outcome was that it became my project! To cut a very long story short, nine months later in August, eight gardening clubs and two garden centres held the amnesty for a month and collected a total of 569 old, broken and unwanted garden hand tools from people who cleared out their sheds, garages and greenhouses for us. The response from the public was overwhelming and I soon had to clear out my garage to cope with their generosity.002

I had approached The Conservation Foundation for help, a charity co-founded by David Bellamy in 1982 to promote conservation and environmental awareness. A wonderful public relations consultant, Lindsay Swan, turned out to be the perfect partner, someone who appreciated my efforts, encouraged and helped me to make the amnesty a success. In return, after much grovelling and harassing, she agreed to try to get David Bellamy to come to Cheltenham to receive the tools on their behalf. No mean feat as he is now 81 and living in Durham, 300 miles away. We were initially talking about 350 – 400 tools as being a great haul but 569 clinched it!


And so it was that early on a warm and sunny Monday morning in November, off they went in the back of a van to the local garden centre in Cheltenham to be sorted into piles, counted and inspected. During the collection, I noticed tools being donated that I had never seen before; very old, well made tools with beautiful ash handles, individually numbered spades, forks with three tines instead of four, heart shaped hoes, turf lifters, moss rakes, home-made row markers, scythes, sickles, billhooks and clay spades to name a few. I invited a local retired head gardener, Colin Brookes from the Miserden Estate, to see them as he is also a specialist collector of historic tools. He quickly picked out the most unusual ones for the press release and kindly offered to put a value on them if the Foundation wished to sell them at Malvern or Harrogate next year.084

We gave Mr & Mrs Bellamy a warm welcome and a cup of tea after their long journey and took them on a tour of the tools in one of the large greenhouses we had borrowed for the day. It was then I realised that he is not your usual TV celebrity. He was genuinely impressed and enthusiastic about what we had achieved. He was charming and gracious and rather humble. I liked him a lot and was glad we had chosen to help his charity.065

The inevitable press photos followed, staged with tools held in alarmingly dangerous poses by the assembled gardeners and Chris Evans who owns the nursery and also happens to be our Vice-President. The local papers lapped up the story and we got great coverage of the event and the Society which, as I recall, was the point of the exercise in the first place. Funny how these things often take on a life of their own!


Tools for Schools

029This is not strictly about my garden though it is taking up quite a bit of my time at the moment. I am organising the first ever Gloucestershire Tool Amnesty in conjunction with the Conservation Foundation and eight gardening clubs including our own, the Cheltenham Horticultural Society. I have mentioned this before so I won’t go over it again here. I just wanted to record how my garage looks at the moment as I collect tools from various generous donors, societies and the garden centre collection points I have set up.026

This is just the beginning. I have still got the donations from six other clubs to come and the proceeds of the various summer shows and August meetings. It looks like my hopes and expectations are going to be met thanks to a lot of very generous people clearing out their sheds for us.027

The fun part is seeing what is handed in. Three pronged forks, individually numbered spades, scythes of all shapes and sizes, shears by the dozen, cultivators, hoes and rakes, it has been a revelation. One thing has become clear…they don’t make them like they used to! The strength and quality of the ‘old’ tools are far superior than their modern equivalents. DSC_0841

It’s hard to believe now, but apparently they are going to look like this when the inmates in the workshops of HM Prison Bristol have refurbished them and they get handed over to schools and community projects.IMGP3999

I look forward to being part of a great team effort that helps inspire, motivate and equip the next generation of young gardeners.