24 May 2013

TV gardener goes back to his roots at Sussex Festival of Nature

TV gardener Chris Collins will go back to his roots when he attends the Sussex Festival of Nature at Stanmer Park in Brighton on Sunday June 2.

Chris, who has been the Blue Peter gardener for nine years and appeared on a variety of TV programmes, grew up in Brighton and began his career in the council's park's department.

Now he is returning to the city to take part in a gardeners' question time session at the festival, which is being organised by Brighton & Hove City Council in partnership with the National Trust, South Downs National Park and the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The festival runs from 11am to 5pm and is a free event celebrating the rich and varied habitats and landscapes of Sussex. A range of activities and events for all ages will be going on throughout the day, including displays of heavy horses, sheep shearing and birds of prey.

Gardeners can get ideas and inspiration from garden displays, including a butterfly garden with ideas for planting to attract wildlife, and a water-saving, low maintenance drought resistant garden. Morris dancers will add a splash of traditional local colour and music and other attractions will include zorbing, climbing activities, and a craft market.

Chris is looking forward to returning to Stanmer Park. He started as an apprentice in Brighton's parks team in 1984 and spent three years working in local parks, before going on to a varied career which has taken him around the world and included time as head gardener at Westminster Abbey.

He said: "I'm really looking forward to coming along to the Sussex Festival of Nature, I had a brilliant time working in the parks department in Brighton and I have very fond memories of Stanmer Park.

"I live in London now, but every time I come back to Brighton I look at the first tree I planted in Preston Park, which is now over 30ft tall. Some of the people I worked with in the parks team are still there, so I was very flattered when they got in touch and asked me to take part in the gardeners' question time."

As well as giving tips and advice in the question time sessions, being held at 12.15pm and 3pm, Chris will also giving a talk at 11.15am with ideas for getting children involved in gardening. He said: "If you start at a young age gardening can be incredibly addictive and everyone can grow something, even if you don't have a garden you can grow in pots and windowboxes."

The festival will be divided into four zones - woodland, downland, marine, and city parks/gardens - and there promises to be something for people of all ages to enjoy.

Visitors to the gardening marquee at the festival will be able to see a short film, 'New Beginning’, a striking visual story of the UK's ecosystems put to music, presented by the South Downs National Park Authority who will also be showcasing the winning films from their recent ‘My South Downs’ short film competition.

People will also be able to find out about the Brighton & Hove and Lewes Downs Biosphere Partnership's bid to gain international recognition for the special nature of the local environment and become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. www.biospherehere.org.uk 

Councillor Pete West, chair of Brighton & Hove City Council's Environment and Sustainability Committee, said: "The Sussex Festival of Nature is an opportunity to have a wonderful day out, find out more about the local environment, and get ideas and advice on what you can do at home to boost nature and wildlife, whether you have a back garden or a window box. We are grateful to the many people and organisations who have got involved and are taking part in the event, and delighted that Chris Collins is coming back to one of the parks where he began his career to share his passion for gardening."

A special bus service, number 78, will run from Brighton & Hove city centre every 20 minutes to Stanmer Park during the festival, the park is also served by other bus routes and Falmer station is a short walk away. Visit the council's website for details www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sfon

There will be a free bike park for cyclists and car parking is available (£5 per car with all proceeds going towards running the event.) 

Join our event on Facebook Sussex Festival of Nature