PM gets whiff of the Dales at Chelsea as she says cowpat is ‘wonderful’

Theresa May, accompanied by her husband Philip, during the press day for this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Theresa May, accompanied by her husband Philip, during the press day for this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show
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Theresa May was among the first visitors to the Welcome To Yorkshire garden as the preview day at Chelsea got underway.

The designer, Mark Gregory, had striven to replicate the authentic aroma of the Dales by dotting several samples of genuine animal droppings betwixt the stone barn, smoking chimney and running stream, and the Prime Minister’s eye was drawn immediately to something the cattle had left behind.

“How wonderful,” she said, pointing to the cowpat, telling Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire that the landscape looked “totally authentic”.

Mr Gregory said his design, which also included a demonstration of Wensleydale cheesemaking by staff at the creamery in Hawes, had been inspired by the unique landscape of the Dales.

“I feel as if I’ve been conducting a fantastic orchestra,” he said. “I hope I’ve done my beloved Yorkshire proud and that visitors to Chelsea will love seeing it as much as I’ve loved creating it.”

The orchestra was no dream – members of the City of Bradford Brass Band were on hand, resplendent in floral waistcoats.

But Alan Titchmarsh, perhaps Yorkshire’s best known gardener, stuck a more down-to-earth note, warning that parents were doing their children a disservice by not allowing them to get dirty.

An obsession with antiseptic wipes, he said, was stopping young people from developing antibodies.

Mr Titchmarsh, a grandfather of four from Ilkley, who is vice president of the RHS, added: “Don’t force them into gardening, but for God’s sake connect them with the outdoors, get them away from these (screens) for a few hours.

“A lady said to me, ‘What do I do about my child eating soil?’ I said ‘Make sure he gets enough’.

“Where are your antibodies if you haven’t got muck in you as a kid? Antiseptic wipes, it’s why we all get so ill, we’ve got no antibodies anymore.”

Asked if we need dirtier children, he said: “We do. And children need to have fun, a spark in their eyes. I grew up in a different age, we played out all day, came back in the evening, or for tea, at 5pm.

“Blow all this mindfulness - get out there and get mucky.”

Mr Titchmarsh described his grandchildren as “outdoor kids”. “They love collecting eggs and feeding fish in a big pond and all that kind of thing, which is wonderful,” he said.

The Chelsea show is open to the public from Tuesday until Saturday, with other RHS events at Chatsworth and Harrogate next month.