Gardening Against the Odds 2013: Butterfly Garden scoops top award

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Helping hands: founder Chris Evans, centre, is joined by David Miles, Troy Knight, Gerald Toplis, Alaistar Jepson, David King, Wesley Bayliss, Julian Mason and Eid Hijazi

Helping hands: Butterfly Garden founder Chris Evans, centre, is joined by David Miles, Troy Knight, Gerald Toplis, Alaistar Jepson, David King, Wesley Bayliss, Julian Mason and Eid Hijazi
 Photo: Christopher Jones

A Cheltenham garden offering a safe haven to those “looking to escape the
world and those looking to re-enter it” has been named the winner of this
year’s Telegraph Gardening Against the Odds awards.

The four-acre Butterfly Garden at Dundry Nurseries offers education,
recreation and therapy for people of all ages and disablements. It was set
up in 2002 by Chris Evans, the third generation of his family to run the
garden centre. “I got the cake with this business,” he said, “but it’s the
Butterfly Garden that’s the icing.”

Six young autistic students were the first to benefit from gardening therapy
at the nursery and since then up to 30 students a day come through its
gates, some referred by local authorities. They include people with Down’s
Syndrome, cerebral palsy, trauma, mental health problems and refugees with
disabilities.

Judges of the awards marked out the work of the Butterfly Garden as “an act of
giving”. Telegraph gardening writer Tim Richardson described Mr Evans as,
“Particularly impressive – a social entrepreneur who sees a need and creates
from scratch.”

Two joint runners-up this year both demonstrated the power of gardening in
inhospitable environments.

The first was HMP Parc in Bridgend, Wales, a private G4S-run prison, where a
wildflower meadow and extensive vegetable beds within the walls are tended
by inmates. Many achieve qualifications in horticulture which open up job
opportunities on their release. Awards judge Craig Sams, the former Soil
Association chairman and founder of Green & Black’s, said the prison
“deserves recognition and repeating on a wider scale”.

Broadwater Farm, a name which resonates with its violent past when riots
ripped through its community in 1985, was announced as the second runner-up.
The Tottenham residents have turned the concrete around their community
centre into a vibrant garden which helps disadvantaged youngsters and
recovering addicts. Judges described it as, “a positive outlook for a
troubled estate”.

This is the fourth Gardening Against the Odds awards, which is run in
partnership with the Conservation Foundation. The awards were set up as a
tribute to Elspeth Thompson, The Telegraph gardening writer who died at the
age of 48. Judges include the Duchess of Northumberland, the botanist David
Bellamy, the actress Susan Hampshire and “guerrilla gardener” Richard
Reynolds.

The judges’ votes have been cast and the results of this year’s Gardening
Against the Odds awards are in, with moving stories of gardeners who have
battled odds of physical and mental disability and environment challenges.

Gardening against the Odds 2013: the winners in full

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