Charles and Camilla set for show return
SUE SKINNER The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are expected to make their first public appearance in Norfolk as husband and wife at one of the county's premier events this month.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are expected to make their first public appearance in Norfolk as husband and wife at one of the county's premier events this month.
The couple have visited the Sandringham Flower Show since the death of the Queen Mother, the enthusiastic patron of the event for half a century, in 2002.
Their lengthy tour was one of the highlights of last year's show, which celebrated record attend-ances and a new high of £23,500 raised for good causes.
Held in association with the EDP for the first time, there was also an enthusiastic reception for the introduction of show gardens and an appearance by TV gardening presenter Chris Beardshaw as additions to the programme, as well as the return of arena events.
The same winning formula has been lined up for this year's show on Wednesday July 27, with the anticipated attendance of Prince Charles and his new wife expected to be a huge draw.
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"The royal patronage always counts for a huge proportion of our attendance," said show chairman David Reeve. "We have always said that the royal support we have received throughout the show's history is probably the most major factor.
"It goes without saying that we appreciated all the Queen Mother did for us and we're delighted that the Prince of Wales has carried that on."
The number of show gardens entering this year has risen from six to eight, and Mr Beardshaw, who was one of the judges and took part in a gardeners' questions session last year, will be making a return visit.
"The show gardens and Chris Beardshaw were hugely popular," said Mr Reeve. "He thoroughly enjoyed the show and made it very clear that he would be happy to come back."
The popularity of the show gardens reflects a new approach to one of the country's favourite past-times.
"The nature of gardening has changed quite a bit in the last 10-15 years," said Mr Reeve. "Modern houses have smaller plots and a lot more couples and families are all out at work. There's a different style of gardening sweeping the country."
The number of trade exhibitors booked for Sandringham has increased this year, and advance ticket bookings have been made by parties and organisations from far and wide.
Arena events are back in the programme for the 124th show, with the Royal Signals motorcycle display team - the White Helmets - the Land of the Prince Bishops Medieval Falconry Display, the Tricky Tykes Terriers and the second running of the Sandringham Grand Prix with customised lawnmowers.
A craft marquee has also become a popular attraction over the last few years, but the time-honoured features to which the show owes its origins remain, with the annual flower, fruit and vegetable classes for people who live on the royal estate, and open amateur classes.
Numerous local charities will again be given the chance to boost their coffers with stalls on the showground, which will be laid out in the same format as last year.
"We don't go for flash," said Mr Reeve. "We are innovative but we have to balance that with tradition and an established type of show so people get what they expect when they come here.
"We do find that a lot of our attendees are stalwarts who come year in and year out, and they do like it to stay the same."