Royal Horticultural Society Prize goes to Wales for the First Time. A Welsh prison has won the coveted Windlesham Trophy award for the best kept prison garden in England and Wales, judged by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
HMP and YOI Parc, a Category B men’s private prison and Young Offenders Institution in Bridgend is the first prison in Wales to win the annual competition which has been running for over 30 years.
The award was set up in 1983 by the former Chairman of the Parole Board, Lord Windlesham, to develop prisoners’ sense of worth and encourage garden excellence among the prison community.
RHS Director of Education, Funding and Communities, Ruth Evans, presented the trophy, an engraved Green Goddess fire engine bell, to HMP and YOI Parc staff during a ceremony at the prison on 8 September.
The large, modern prison houses 1,750 prisoners, of whom around 15 work on the extensive gardens at any given time. Every available space has been brought to life with plants, including a herbaceous border, wildflower meadows, living roof and vegetable and herb gardens that are used to grow fresh produce for the prison kitchens.
Speaking at the ceremony, HMP and YOI Parc’s Director, Janet Wallsgrove, spoke about the importance of the gardens: “For me, the role of any prison is to keep secure individuals who have been given a custodial sentence, yet also to provide opportunity to bring about change. The importance of the environment within prisons is greatly underestimated – prison gardens reduce violence, improve mental health and teach horticultural skills.”
An RHS judging panel, led by Robert Haslam and including Fiona Crumley and Jon Wheatley, assessed HMP and YOI Parc along with fellow finalists HMP Bure in Norfolk, HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire, HMP Hull and HMP Whatton in Nottinghamshire. They praised Parc for “the breadth and quality of the horticulture on display”.
The judges were impressed by the ingenuity shown in the creation of the various displays, incorporating the skills from all departments within the prison and the enthusiasm displayed by the gardens team for horticultural work and in passing on their skills and knowledge to the prisoners.
Mike Thomas, who leads Parc’s horticultural team said: “We are absolutely delighted to win the Windlesham Trophy. It’s only the second time that we’ve been a finalist in the competition so to scoop top prize is fantastic and testament to all the hard work put in by the staff and prisoners.”
He also outlined the role that gardening plays in offenders’ rehabilitation: “We provide prisoners with the training, skills and confidence to pursue a career within amenity horticulture. They can work towards NVQ horticultural qualifications and other certificates of competence.
“The bright colours in the gardens lift everyone’s spirits, and the calm, tranquil parts of the garden are used as chill out spaces by both staff and prisoners.”
HMP Hull and HMP Whatton were awarded joint second place in the competition.