Each year I like to bring you news of the RSPB’s ‘Garden Feature’ that our national events team prepares for Gardeners World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. The RSPB doesn’t do a ‘show garden’ as such – they cost gazillions of pounds. But the team does bust a gut to make a wonderful RSPB stand with a gardening message.

This year, they’re creating a truly adventurous affair that, through plants and props, charts a Swallow’s astounding migration from South Africa to the UK. 

Anyone with artistic flair has been drafted in to help, working out of the barns at RSPB Hope Farm; tea and doughnuts have been the necessary motivators!

Here’s where the Swallows come from – or at least the team’s version of Southern Africa, with traditional mud huts beginning to appear, and some amazing wildlife.


Can you just make out the rhino and zebra outline, not yet painted? These appeared miraculously courtesy of volunteer artist Ken.  His talents have been well used this year but staff have not escaped the hard work; here, events manager Carol is busy painting the landscape.  

And here is where she turned her hand to a Spanish/Mediterranean doorway, the last step before the Swallows reach here in spring. Apparently the tiles of the Alhambra palace are proving challenging to paint, the lower demanding a fair bit of bending and flexing.

Then the swallows arrive!  After a few fairly wet and miserable weeks listening to the rain, last week the team were treated to the odd bit of sunshine and loads of real swallows in and around the barns where they were working. 

In the Gardeners World feature, there will be a garden with lawn and colourful flowers to hopefully inspire you. To help the Swallows, there'll be a few handy tricks including boggy wheelbarrows to provide mud for nest building.

Gardeners World Live runs from 13-17 June. I'll be there on Thursday 14th, and I hope many of you can make it.