11-14 June 2015
Reviewed by Helen Whetton
Getting to the NEC in Birmingham is simplicity itself. You have the choice of M6, M42 motorways, train or if coming from afar flying in and then a 15 minute train ride direct to the venue.
Arriving at the NEC in Birmingham you are greeted by lots of security/hosts wearing the ubiquitous florescent yellow jacket. We arrived by road and found these hosts to be extremely helpful in directing us to the closest disabled parking spaces to the venue. Parking was charged at a flat rate of £12.00, don’t expect to park for free just because you have a blue badge, it just gets you closer to the action. Parking at the normal car parks there is a shuttle bus to get you venue, the cost of which is included in the £12 charge.
Disabled parking facilities are some of the best I have encountered at any concert/exhibition venue, if you were to come on your own there is a shelter with a help point at each disabled car park where a dedicated Disability Champion can be called to escort you to the venue and look after you. There are also free wheelchairs should you need them.
Once we arrived at the show hall (09:00) we were greeted by some very helpful and constantly smiling staff, we received the show guide book which had the floor plan, the time tables of talks and an A-Z of exhibitors.
After getting up early and having a few extra cups of coffee to wake up before travelling we needed the loo, the toilets were plentiful and very clean including the disabled ones and this remained the case all day, not an easy task when there’s 20,000 plus people using them! Normally baby changing is located as an afterthought in the toilets but here there was a purpose built Parenting Room with lots of changing areas and places to breastfeed or heat bottles food etc…
We then stopped off for coffee before tackling the RHS show tent, not overly expensive at £2.70 for a small latte but most charge 50p extra if you have Soya milk.
As everything was on one level leaving the main building and heading outside to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) tent and outside exhibitors was easy for a disabled person whether in a wheel chair or on crutches/walking stick.
The RHS show gardens were beautiful with loads of ideas to steal for your own garden (I will be looking in the woods near us for broken logs). There were also lots of indoor and outdoor plants for sale and the vendors were full of extremely useful advice. After buying your plants there was a plant and product crèche where you could leave them for a small charge till you were ready to go home, the charge went to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
In the RHS marquee there was a restaurant for the public and areas for members of the RHS only.
On leaving the RHS marquee we headed back to the main hall to watch Carol Klein at the Live Theatre share her knowledge and tips, (think I’ll stick to grass and hanging baskets till I get greener fingers!).
Inside the hall there were exhibitors galore and I began to wish I had won the lottery the day before as I wanted everything on show except the 2 foot wooden spider!
Nearly all the items on show were at special “Show Prices” some were up to 70% off normal price (we verified this by checking on the internet). The best deal we came across was to subscribe to the BBC Gardeners’ World magazine costing £20.40 for 6 months and giving you a free gift of a Hozelock Watering Kit costing £34.99 and entry to their exclusive café and the subscriber lounge.
By 12pm the halls were filling up so we decide to get lunch at one of the many places to eat, we opted for 2 pulled pork rolls at £6.00 each and coffees at £3.00 each. Although I think this was massively overpriced it was the same everywhere. There was however outside space to sit and eat a picnic if you wanted to bring one, on the day we went it rained heavily and there were no indoor areas that we spotted.
After lunch we watched Jim Buttress V’s Anne Swithinbank in the battle of the containers in the Pots Zone.
After gleaning some valuable tips we then headed back outside to the exhibitors and looked at all the flowers that would soon be going into the containers we were going to buy and try to emulate what we had just watched.
We noticed that the price of the plants and of garden ornaments etc had gone down in price since Friday and asked if they would go down again on Sunday, the answer was yes. A top tip would be to go on the last day as most of the vendors/exhibitors will do some amazing deals on their plants/products just so they do not have to take them back.
Before calling it a day we went to see the Skinny Jean Gardeners in the Kitchen Garden Talks Tent, well worth the visit as we really wanted some advice on what vegetables or salad we could grow in limited space.
We left the show at 4pm and getting out was as easy as getting in thanks to the extremely helpful car park security staff.
Positives of the venue were location, parking, staff, toilets, baby facilities and very disability friendly.
On the down side food and beverage prices are on the high side.
For more information visit www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com.