Sue Biggs’ Keynote Lecture on the RHS had been eagerly awaited by Grayshott’s Gardeners, and the packed village hall was not disappointed: Sue managed to convey a wealth of information in the short time at her disposal.
GG members and visitors received a brief yet comprehensive overview of the origins and development of the RHS from its foundation in 1804, via the granting of a Royal Charter in 1861 by Prince Albert, and since favoured by Royal Patrons, to the present large organisation, followed by slides on the structure of the society while Sue explained the many-varied activities the organisation is involved in, such as training/education, science, shows, bringing together communities, and not least its gardens: Bridgewater, Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall and Wisley. The gardens received more than 2 million visitors during the year 2017/18. Sue then moved on to the future of the RHS, involving an ambitious £160m 10-year investment plan for major improvements to the existing gardens and buildings, in order to deliver much improved benefits to the general public as well as its staff. Funding and most schemes are set for completion within the next few years, with Hyde Hall opening in 2018, and Wisley Welcome opening set for 2019.
Sue also pointed out challenges lying ahead: uncertainty caused by Brexit, funding and membership targets to be achieved, the A3/M25 proposal affecting access to Wisley and a number of scientific threats to vegetation.
Members in the audience made full use of the opportunity to raise topics and issues directly with the Director General; Sue’s explanations and promised action demonstrate her hands-on approach and control of the very wide and varied range of RHS activities.
The evening ended with an appreciative thank you to Sue and the presentation of a cheque donation to the RHS. Further information on RHS activities, events and plans on their website: https://www.rhs.org.uk