Monthly Meeting Report

Our AGM this year was held in April. Attendance was very good and the new committee was installed. Lesley Green, outgoing chairman, reported on the year’s activities and achievements – there are over 40 interest groups whose activities range from physical activities such as yoga, dance, walking and hiking to culinary activities such as the luncheon group and several wine groups, creative activities such as photography, painting and creative writing through to more formal learning activities such as those found in the Science & Technology group, music and language groups.

We have a new committee, some familiar faces others new, and I am sure we will all work well together as a team. I have moved from business secretary to become your chairman and I look forward to fulfilling this new role. Ravenshead U3A is now seven years old, having registered with the U3A movement on 15 February 2012 and we have progressed a very long way since then both in terms of membership numbers and opportunities for learning. We will keep our U3A moving forward and vibrant so that, in accordance with the U3A motto, we can continue to learn, laugh and live.

So back to the April meeting - after the refreshment break Martin Fish gave us a talk about the world of a Royal Horticultural Society judge. He told us he was a local lad having been born in Fishpool. He started gardening locally but for the last 10 years he has lived with his wife Jill in North Yorkshire where he tends a ¾ acre show garden which provides something of interest to see all year round while Jill provides visitors with home-made refreshments.

Martin judges all over the country including the prestigious show at Chelsea. At these shows there are show gardens to judge as well as exhibits in marquees. Originally there were no criteria for judging but over the past 20 years the RHS has developed criteria and judging at RHS shows is taken very seriously. Prospective judges are required to follow a scheme of shadowing judges for two years before accreditation is granted by the Society. Judges are not paid – they carry out their judging duties on a voluntary basis. The RHS awards three levels of prize: gold, silver gilt and bronze each of which is accompanied by a small monetary prize. There is also an overall prize for the ‘best in show’.

Judges have to attend the day before the show opens to the public and meet early in the morning for a briefing breakfast. Then the judges work in panels and there are three stages to judging. At each stage the judges use a points system. First, three assessors visit the show gardens and exhibits. Then they are joined by four judges and decide on a medal. Later they all meet with the moderator who is a very experienced judge and discuss reasons before determining the final award.

So what are the criteria when judging a show garden some of which cost as much as £300,000 to £400,000 to set up? Martin explained that the key features are originality, overall impression, design, construction and planting.

A different team of judges assesses the beautiful displays in the marquee (or Grand Pavilion at Chelsea) and take into account the endeavour of the display, how difficult it was to put together, how much of a challenge the planting has been and any new ideas or originality as well as overall impression.

Martin’s talk was extremely interesting and gave us an insight into the way judges operate and mark entries at the RHS shows. Some of us will learn even more about horticulture when we visit Martin’s garden in Yorkshire later in the year.

Our next “Coffee and Conversation” will take place on Monday 20th May from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. All members and prospective members are invited to attend. Please come along and see for yourselves what we are about. This is also a good opportunity to meet some of your new committee members.

Our speaker next month on Tuesday 14th May will be David Templeman who will talk about Lady Arabella Stuart – the Queen that never was.

Maria Gabrielczyk (chairman)