29 November 2016 – BBC Radio4 – Gardeners’ Question Time – Fowlmere VH

With short notice Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club had to get into gear quickly to prepare for a live recording of GQT. Such a visit had been requested some five years ago – ‘better late than never’ was the general feeling!

So – much co-operation from the outset: several local groups including the Bowlers, the Budding Beaders and the Brownies kindly gave up their slots at the hall for us. With the Committee at the helm Team Bernard(Meggitt) was created to lead the ushers, Team Barry(Jones) organised the traffic marshals and Team Jill(Vinton) co-ordinated the provision and serving of refreshments.

Mention must also be made of Sue Pinner who ran the raffle, Judy Murch who handled the cash and Jenny Brew & Sue Allsworth who were doorkeepers. Many other members, relatives and friends were also drafted in to ensure that all went well. Ashley(Meggitt) became official photographer for the night and two young men came from St John’s Ambulance in case of mishaps – they were more accustomed to coping with Cambridge City Centre on a Saturday night and both sat bemused watching the evening progress. There was no medical emergency so they passed the time munching biscuits!

The Radio 4 staff Hannah Newton, the producer and Lawrence her deputy were suitably impressed with the organisation and offered no alterations to our plans. The Committee had followed their advice to the letter – who knew that we would become experts at writing Risk Assessments, but here again we relied on local professional help – thank you Brian and Hanna!

The day arrived – fine weather thank goodness – which made car parking on the football field a certainty! All systems go from midday with the village hall full of activity – chairs set out, display boards erected, tea prepared for the panelists etc. etc. Paul and Paul, the sound engineers arrived and spent hours preparing the stage. The first VIP to appear was the Chairman Eric Robson followed by the three panelists – Pippa Greenwood, Matt Biggs and Bob Flowerdew who remembered coming to talk to the Club members four years ago.

All too soon the door were opened and 200 people were seated in the hall before you could count to ten. We were entertained by gentle music – all the tunes had a horticultural theme. Most were well known but surely former Club Chair, Peter Lake was the only one in the room to recognise the jazz riff “Green Onions.!” Many questions were handed in and the producers sifted through them all putting together a varied selection for the panelists to answer.

The evening began with Mary Duff, the Club Chair welcoming the audience and thanking members for their contributions to the organisation of the event. This was followed by Hannah Newton’s brief description of the programme to follow. A short warm-up session from Eric Robson to test the sound and it was ‘anchors away’. The lucky questioners were called and walked nervously to their reserved seats in the front row. Sadly only three ‘locals’ from our villages – two from Fowlmere and one from Thriplow.

Sarah Brock wanted advice for growing white flowers for her daughter’s June wedding, Robin Cox asked for advice about pruning a wayward, overgrown, woody clematis. This drew three different answers from the panelists – one said prune it back to near the base, another recommended that drastic pruning was not appropriate and a third recommend no action, merely plant another clematis to twine around it! This would leave a comfortable habitat for wildlife. Well Robin, take your pick of these choices! Bernard Meggitt produced a sample of his parsnips with multiple curly roots – the panel loved the sample which was carefully passed around. Bernard – your soil was too rich!

Other questioners came from neighbouring villages – David from Barley, worried about his radishes, Sophie from Duxford with her surfeit of beech leaves, Roger from St Neots wanting to persuade his courgettes to climb, Richard from Haslingfield seeking advice on grafting on to crab apple tree, Chris with rusty geraniums, Susan with her asparagus and finally Kathleen from Ickleton fretting over her horseradish.

The evening came to an end too quickly and all was cleared away in the twinkling on an eye. A victory toast in the kitchen for the workers(!) was a suitable finale to this very special evening.

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