HMP Dartmoor gardens win prestigious award

Laura White
Laura White
Photographs © RHS

Dartmoor Prison gardeners have found themselves winners of the Windlesham Trophy, a prestigious award given for the ‘best kept prison garden’ in England and Wales.

The Trophy, which is awarded by the Prison Service and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), is the prize given in the yearly competition which celebrates the best kept prison garden.

Lord Windlesham was the Chairman of the Parole Board in 1984, and with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Home Office, created the award as a way of recognising the positive impact of gardening on inmates and the overall atmosphere of prisons.

Having been runners-up in 2018, HMP Dartmoor was considered the best of the nine other prison gardens which entered, and this year won the award for the first time.

RHS Head Judge Jon Wheatley said: “The wonderful gardens display quality horticulture and management that shows excellence, commitment and teamwork throughout.

‘There is a whole-team ethos at Dartmoor that is clearly evident as soon as you enter and was described by one inmate as a life-changing learning and working experience.

‘Crop production is diverse and of a very high quality. It is also a huge credit to everyone involved to have cultivated such high-quality gardens.

‘The many values of gardening and horticulture that inspired Lord Windlesham to establish the trophy are clearly there to see at Dartmoor.”

The gardens are like an oasis in the desert that is the prison in Princetown, a climate that is known for its regular thick fog and rain. The gardeners cultivate a wide range of vegetables which go to the kitchens to feed the inmates, and areas have been created for wildlife such as ponds and reptile areas. They even have their own apiary.

Within the gardens is a ‘sensory’ area, created to nurture and enhance mental health and wellbeing. RHS Community Development Manager Kay Clark commented: “Gardening and green space are important for everyone’s health and wellbeing, but this importance is greatly amplified in a custodial setting.

‘The gardeners at Dartmoor have worked hard to make the prison a better place to be for all the prisoners, staff and visitors.

‘They have shown great accomplishment, and everyone at the RHS congratulates them on their victory.”
HMP Dartmoor Governor, Steve Mead, said: “I am extremely proud of the fantastic work our prisoners do. Dartmoor was built over 200 years ago during the Napoleonic Wars.Working with very old infrastructure and challenging environmental conditions, our prisoners have transformed the site into an attractive, colourful and reflective space among the moorland.

Winning the Windlesham Trophy is a huge achievement and an acknowledgement of the dedication and effort shown by the gardening team. Congratulations to them all.”

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