Home Horticultural shows Tips for a better Chelsea Flower Show experience

Tips for a better Chelsea Flower Show experience

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Beekeeper admiring daffodils at RHS Chelsea in 2017. Picture; RHS/Luke MacGregor
Beekeeper admiring daffodils at RHS Chelsea in 2017. Picture; RHS/Luke MacGregor

Learn from an insider’s bad experiences!

Going to RHS Chelsea this year? Take my word for it, the event can be a little overwhelming – do your homework before you go.

Here are eight tips that will make your visit more enjoyable – learn from my mistakes!

1. The Chelsea Cough: Caused by a mix of pollen from the plane trees, pollution and made worse by humidity. Reached impossible levels for me in 2014 and the best thing to buy on site was a tin of commemorative boiled sweets. Be prepared with proper cough sweets and a bottle of water – and antihistamines if you suffer from hay fever.

2. Hotel: In my first year, I made the mistake of trying to stay as close as possible to the Chelsea Hospital site. This is a bad idea – hotels are extremely expensive. The nearest I could afford was a basement dungeon in Pimlico, a good 20-minutes’ walk away. Consequently, to be there at 7am on press day, I used cabs to the site and back. I now stay close to my rail station so I’m right next to the transport hubs and hotels are competitively priced. A decent budget option is the Howard Winchester Hotel on Argyle Square, 2 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross/St Pancras (book direct for best rates).

The Great Pavilion, 2016
The Great Pavilion, 2016

3. Transport: My station is King’s Cross and it’s an easy tube ride to Sloane Square tube station (on the District and Circle Lines). There’s one change: King’s Cross St. Pancras-Victoria, then Victoria to Sloane Square, an easy (and flat) 10-minute walk from the showground. Cabs are expensive and slow, especially during rush hour. Try to get an Oyster Card before you go for cheaper rates and hassle-free travelling.

4. Food and drink: It’s expensive. Have a cooked breakfast at your hotel to set you up for the day – you’ll walk off the calories. If you’re using the Sloane Square tube, there are reasonably priced restaurants just off the King’s Road and around Duke of York Square.

Dodging the rain in a cafe overlooking the Great Pavilion, 2016
Dodging the rain in a cafe overlooking the Great Pavilion, 2016

5. While you’re there: the Saatchi Gallery is on the way back to Sloane Street tube station, www.saatchigallery.com.

The National Army Museum, next door to the RHS Chelsea site on Royal Hospital Road, reopened last year after refurbishment, www.nam.ac.uk.

The Chelsea Physic Garden, next to the Thames, a few minutes’ walk from the site with an excellent cafe and gardening bookshop. For prices and details, log on to www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk.

Blackmore and Langdon Ltd's exhibit at RHS Chelsea in 2017. Picture; RHS/Luke MacGregor
Blackmore and Langdon Ltd’s exhibit at RHS Chelsea in 2017. Picture; RHS/Luke MacGregor

6. Clothes: Forget restrictive fashion – leave that to the celebs on press day. Choose VERY comfortable shoes that function just as well in hot weather or cool. Be adaptable – in 2013, I ended up buying an emergency cardigan; in 2014, a sun hat; in 2016, a waterproof. Put on sunblock before you set out, whether it’s cloudy or not.

7. Build in rest stops: The site is spread over 23 acres and you’re going to need to take time out. Make use of the Ranelagh Gardens entertainment and if you spot a toilet on your route, use it!

8. Other essentials: blister plasters; painkillers; over-the-body shoulder bag; a spare strong fold-up bag for purchases.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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