Jeremy Irons Launches Autism at Kingwood Gardening Project

From the Henley Herald:

Acclaimed British actor, Jeremy Irons officially launched the Autism at Kingwood‘s new gardening project at the charity’s Watermans allotment this morning.

Jeremy Irons said, “I’m delighted to be here.  When I say that I mean I’m never happier than to be surrounded by veg, flowers, peace, tranquillity, bees, birds and butterflies.  When we locked down like everyone my schedule fell apart. When I crossed out engagements in my diary, my heart lifted a little bit when I found myself free.  Where was I?  I was always in the garden.  I suspect being autistic is a bit like I felt on the first day in lockdown x 100.  If I found comfort going and sitting in the garden pottering and thinking a lot, occasionally sweeping, pruning and digging then how must it feel for autistic people? I think its a wonderful thing you’ve done here.  As a long-standing Patron on Autism at Kingwood, I know how hard they work to provide real added value to the lives of autistic adults. This allotment is an opportunity to have quiet, meaningful occupation in a safe place.  It’s an essential branch to the work. I’m probably going to embarrass myself with trying to cut the ribbon with these sheers.  I’ve looked at them and they couldn’t cut a daisy!  I’ve got some scissors here though if they don’t work.”

Autism at Kingwood was set up by entrepreneur and local resident Dame Stephanie Shirley. Dame Stephanie says: “I founded Autism at Kingwood in 1994 to support my autistic son Giles, taking him out an institutional environment and into a house in the village of Kingwood Common, just outside Henley. He was supported by kind and caring support workers, who enabled him to make his own decisions about his life.

The charity has retained its caring approach and perseveres with highly vulnerable clients – some straight from long-stay hospitals – and sometimes where other services have given up. During Covid-19, I was particularly impressed by many of the staff who cancelled their holidays, to maintain consistent support for those they
support. I am delighted to see the launch of this allotment project in Henley; people will be able to enjoy a peaceful environment, whilst learning skills and enjoying the fruits of their labour – quite literally!”

Jeremy Irons contributes to the RHS Tree of Knowledge

Jeremy Irons contributes to the RHS Tree of Knowledge – original article at the Royal Horticultural Society’s website

Celebs sign up to the Tree of Knowledge

Jeremy Irons, Greg Wise, Julian Fellowes and Nicki Chapman have been the first to share ideas on the RHS Tree of Knowledge.

We are calling on the nation to share ideas to support biodiversity in the garden and the 50 best ideas will feature on the Tree of Knowledge at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Great ideas for our Tree of Knowledge

Actors Jeremy Irons, Greg Wise and Julian Fellowes were first to support the initiative and TV presenter Nicki Chapman has created a list of tips for people with limited spare time.

Jeremy Irons advised; “Every time you see a plant or tree you haven’t seen before, ask permission, take a cutting and put it in your garden and don’t keep your garden too tidy”.

Greg Wise wrote a poem to feature on the tree:

“Be less Tidy!
Have a corner of your life that isn’t neat…
Let things rot.
Embrace decay…
We’ll all be doing it one day.”

Greg’s own garden is a great example of supporting biodiversity. The actor says it is a relatively small space, but includes; a pond, rotting pile of logs, dead tree, compost heap, leaf-mould bin, wormery, tubes full of mason bees, water butt, nest boxes for birds, insect boxers, feeders and a hedgehog house!

Nicki Chapman said: “It’s so important we all try and make a difference regarding Biodiversity,” and provided the following tips:

  • Grow trees that complement each other (helping to cross pollinate)
  • Grow plants that would thrive in your local soil ( to attract the insects that would naturally be there)
  • Encourage Birds – by providing the right feed for ‘city birds’
  • Hedgehogs – providing meal worms rather than milk and bread
  • Sedum roofs (attracting wildlife, plus great insulation for your property)
  • Not using pesticides on the beds or strong detergents to clean the tiled and hard landscaping parts of the garden that might harm the bio-sphere

Julian Fellowes is also a keen supporter of garden biodiversity and stated: “An odd anomaly of the modern, fast-changing world, is that private gardens have become vital protection zones for a good deal of our natural wildlife… the shelter of our animals, plants and insects has really become a duty, and will hopefully soon be a tradition if it isn’t already, for British gardeners…”

Tree of Knowledge at Chelsea

The RHS Tree of Knowledge complements the Continuous Learning RHS Biodiversity Display, which will highlight the role gardens can play in slowing down the global decline of biodiversity. The RHS gardening advice team will also be nearby to help visitors with gardening, and especially wildlife gardening.