Disabled Gardener at RHS Tatton Flowershow

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Metrolink, Oldham Mumps

I decided to approach this year's RHS Tatton differently from RHS Chatsworth which I attended in June to test their disability access. This time with Tatton announcing transport links from Altrincham via the Metrolink network I decided to ditch the car and see whether at all points public transport to RHS Tatton was disable friendly. We started our trip at Oldham Mumps Metrolink, leaving the car in an easily accessible car park which was close to the stop. Saying that, there did seem to be blue badge bays closer to the stop at an earlier time but this land has now been fenced off for the arrival of a Travel Lodge and Lidl. At least the new car park, around sixty yards away, is all down and hill, and I had my carer with me.


Tram at Oldham Mumps

The cost of an all zone, off-peak travelcard was £4.80 which would take me all the way to Altrincham. Strangely enough if we'd had D in tow (he was at his Grandparents for an awfully big adventure of going to the seaside) it would have been cheaper than two adults travelling the network. The trams were easily accessible though it still annoys me that people sit in the priority seating that is clearly earmarked for the elderly and the disabled. We set off from out house at 8:15am and made the change at St Peter's Square in Manchester to the Altrincham tram with no delay. In Altrincham we had a 10 minute wait for the bus which was a drop step bus and provided space for one wheelchair (I think more could have been done with that to encourage wheelchair users to use public transport) but this is a common failing in bus companies. We were dropped off around 15 minutes later directly outside the main gates of the show. This was immensely satisfying as you passed the long line of cars waiting to get into the car park, and were deposited within feet of the main gates in a clearly signposted area with helpers waiting to assist. Kudos to RHS Tatton for this because we arrived at the show at 9:50am. A journey of one hour and thirty-five minutes without the horrors of the M60 and the M56 or the exhaustion of driving which does take it out of me.


Bus to RHS Tatton

There were accessible paths in and around the showground, which this year was laid out in the quadrangle arrangement.


RHS Tatton 2019

However, here ends the accessibility for wheelchair users and people who have mobility problems unlike it's sister show, RHS Chatsworth, RHS Tatton failed to place an all weather, all accessible surface in the floral marquee and other undercover areas. Whilst there we noted people struggling with wheelchairs in the floral marquee and overheard many disappointed individuals comparing the accessibility arrangements to Chatsworth. This is a real shame as the transport to the show was top notch and set the bar high. This was a concern when I visited the show six years ago and when I revisited two years ago there was little sign that they had addressed this. However, with our first visit to RHS Chatsworth we were under the assumption that the RHS had got on top of this at last but sadly that wasn't the case at Tatton. The floral marquee was much smaller than in prior years, and though there appeared to be less nurseries, there was also a problem with the width of paths creating bottlenecks and muddy areas. Likewise, there were less gardens placed further apart than in prior years but there seemed to be a surge in places to buy food. I am concerned that this highlights the lack of uptake of jobs and careers in horticulture. Many of the stalwarts of these shows have now retired and there simply isn't the uptake from younger people within the industry to keep such gardening shows going in the twenty-first century. Hats off to the RHS for trying to make the show more a destination event that includes food and there were some great talks on food and gardening across the site. Likewise, it was great to see how growers tackle plants in nurseries and the display in the floral marquee around chrysanthemums was fantastic and informative.



Chrysanthemum growing

In the Bug Hub Theatre though the same accessibility issues raised its head, a grass surface shone up at us and though the paths here were wider and there were more staff on hand there was still that difficult drop from the steel walkways to uneven grassland. The content here was also extremely informative and looked at how garden pests are part of a wider eco system. Something we looked at five years ago in our Dig for Victory garden and a vital discussion that still needs to trickle down to the domestic gardener who is slap happy with those blue slug pellets.


Big wheel


Man and microscope


Woman and wheel


Pests

The same problem with access though arose in the school gardens, a drop from the steel walkway onto uneven surfaces. The school gardens were fantastically presented and executed. They were the highlight of the show for us with eager kids from the schools beside their teachers and parents waxing lyrical about the importance of getting a balance in the eco system in a garden. However, this was a difficult area to walk around due to the uneven grass surface. Surely the footfall at this show warrants protecting the grassland beneath by employing the same techniques used at Chatsworth to protect the landscape? This came home in this area where children talked about the need to protect gardens and landscapes, while we all tromped over a habitat that could have been protected.


RHS Schools Gardens

There were some great environmental tips at Tatton, from the school gardens to the show gardens. There were marked efforts to create habitats for insects and amphibians. This could be seen in such details as walls made of logs and clay pipes as an essential backdrop to bee friendly planting. 

Bee and bug habitats

The RHS this year rightly celebrate our misunderstood garden pests from aphids to slugs, challenging preconceptions about reaching for pesticides and establishing a balance in the food chain in your garden. That is the positive message we took from the show but much more could be done to improve access and protect the park.

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