Posted by: brigid benson | June 16, 2012

Birmingham NEC: Show Time!

BBC Gardeners’ World Live   Countryfile    52 Weekends in the Country 

Just back from a great day at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham where I was invited to sign advance copies of my forthcoming book, 52 Weekends in the Country at the BBC Gardeners’ World Live show.

What a pleasure to be invited back – I had a very happy time there last year on the busy stand with the BBC Countryfile team and it was fun to meet up again with magazine editor Fergus Collins and features editor Joe Pontin, along with the great hospitality team promoting a fantastic show-only subscription offer to the magazine which included an advance copy of 52 Weekends in the Country.

The show is a huge event celebrating travel and tourism, food and gardening. The Gardeners’ World Theatre is an opportunity to hear charismatic speakers like Carol Klein, seen here taking questions from an attentive audience of gardeners from around Britain.

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Exhibitors at the show reflect the latest trends and passions in food, gardening and travel. I noticed that wildlife, especially insects, were the focus of much attention this year.  Miniature wildflower gardens promoted the idea of healthy neglect and the restricted use of chemicals in the British landscape, from roadside verges to back gardens.

And there was much concern about Britain’s declining bee population.  One of my favourite exhibits was the hive and pretty wild garden, the skep making and the candle making of enthusiastic British beekeepers, all clad in their white overalls.

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At the Pest of British knitted vegetable garden I met Eileen Prince, a member of the Creative Moments craft group from Perry Common. Along with 70 other volunteers, Eilieen hand knitted an amazing garden, using largely size 8 needles. The finished garden was a colourful wow, much appreciated by young and old alike.

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The detail was extraordinary.

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Eileen explained how the community had put in over 7,000 knitting hours to create the magical plot; the sunflowers alone took 35 hours per bloom!

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My visit to the garden was a brief moment away from the BBC Countryfile stand where I throroughly enjoyed meeting people from all over the UK, including two South African women who had recently emigrated to live in the UK and were mad keen to acquire a copy of my book 52 Weekends by the Sea and the companion 52 Weekends in the Country as part of their mission to set about exploring their new homeland equipped with my top tips for great adventures, all based on my personal experience of great people and places throughout Britain. I’m looking forward to hearing how they get on; they have promised to report back!

I signed books as gifts for newly weds, for recently retired people, as Father’s Day gifts, birthday gift and even Christmas gifts! And it was great to give a couple travelling in their camper van some ideas for adventures to be had on the long journey home to Scotland!

I’ve long been a camper van traveller, since childhood – but here’s one of the exhibits from the show that had me and many others swooning – a Morris Traveller, all set up for 52 Weekends in the Country, and by the Sea!

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Finally a HUGE thank you to the great team who make visitors to the BBC Countryfile stand so welcome, and who promote my work with such generous enthusiasm – they are terrific.

The end of a busy and very long day!


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