Date: 22 April 2005
Originally published in: Times & Star (UK)
Pop star turned gardener Kim Wilde has hit rock bottom! The green-fingered celebrity delved into the depths of Honister Slate Mine this week to pick up essential materials for a garden which she will be exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her Cumbrian Fellside Garden will feature green Honister slate in about 80 per cent of the design. The slate will be used as flagstones, steps and borders for shrubs.
Kim was visiting the county with her garden design partner Richard Lucas, who she met at Holker Garden Festival three years ago. They share a passion for Cumbria and were helping to launch the Cumbria Tourist Board’s guide to parks, gardens and wildlife. They toured gardens designed by William Wordsworth at Rydal Mount and John Ruskin in Brantwood, Coniston, before arriving at Honister to pick out some slate. They were taken underground to see where the slate was excavated from.
Kim was astonished by the enormity and history of the last working mine in England. She said: “Incredible – going into the heart of the planet, it’s amazing. To think of all those men down there with their bare hands. What tough, courageous men.”
Kim’s first taste of the Lake District was in 1996 when her husband Hal Fowler took her to his parents’ house overlooking Newlands Valley. She spoke of the area with great affection: ‘I fell in love with it. I wouldn’t mind living here someday,’ she said. Since developing her enthusiasm for gardening, Kim has won prizes at Hampton Court last year and Tatton Park. This is her first year at the Chelsea Flower Show but she’s optimistic of success. She added: ‘We hope it’s the first of many and with this slate it should be.’
Kim and Richard are confident that the environmental benefits of harvesting slate from the underground mine at Honister will gain them extra marks and hopefully win them a few medals. Mark Weir, owner of Honister Slate Mine, said that some of his previous customers had gone on to win awards. In addition to taking a little piece of Cumbria back with her, Kim was pleased with what she had seen on her latest visit. She said: ‘The whole of Cumbria is just one giant garden, seeing how plants grow up around slate. The gardens and plants we’ve seen have confirmed our choices but also offered us fresh inspiration.’
The Chelsea Flower Show takes place between May 24 and 28.