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Dr Vanessa Howie

Dr Vanessa Howie

Head Charity Vet Lends A Hand At RSPCA’s Medal-winning Chelsea Flower Garden

12 months ago

3rd June, 2023 15h18


An RSPCA vet is donning her gardening gloves this week, volunteering at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show to show people around the charity’s medal-winning garden

Dr Vanessa Howie, the RSPCA’s companion animal head vet, is spending the week at the prestigious flower show, highlighting the charity’s wildlife work through its Sanctuary Garden.
The RSPCA Garden at the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show - which picked up a prestigious silver-gilt medal from the judging panel - spreads an inspiring message about reversing wildlife decline and is manned this week by a team of volunteers.

Vanessa, from Haywards Heath in West Sussex, is delighted to be part of the team at the show meeting members of the public and discussing the importance of protecting wild animals, as well as giving ideas on how people can help wildlife thrive in their own gardens.

As an RSPCA vet, Vanessa is naturally passionate about all animals. Outside of the RSPCA she is a member of Sussex Wildlife Trust and feels that we all have a social responsibility to protect and care for the wildlife we share the planet with.

Vanessa is an avid gardener at home and an allotment owner in town. Her allotment is my happy place - she loves the feeling of satisfaction and pride from growing and eating her own produce.

Speaking from Chelsea Flower Show, she said: “It’s already been such a wonderful experience being here at the show, meeting hundreds and hundreds of people and hearing their individual stories about how they are connected to the wildlife in their gardens already, as well as how keen they are to take ideas home that they’ve seen here in our garden, to help animals further.”

The animal welfare charity teamed up with award-winning garden designer, Martyn Wilson, for the Great Spring Show, to create a stylish sanctuary for wildlife and people alike; with funding kindly provided by Project Giving Back. 

The garden celebrates how animals, in particular wildlife, enrich our lives and showcases the small steps people can take in their own gardens and community green spaces to protect them, in particular, it features a number of hedgehog habitats - a nod to the RSPCA’s work rehabilitating and releasing more than 10,000 hedgehogs during the last five years.

About 40% of incidents reported to the RSPCA concern wildlife - and last year, the charity received calls about more than 100,000 wild animals in need - more than 11 every hour. 

Martyn - from Cheltenham - took inspiration for the garden from a visit to an RSPCA specialist wildlife centre in Taunton; where many of the animals rescued by the charity are rehabilitated before being returned to the wild.

Earlier in the week, the RSPCA was "absolutely delighted" to scoop the silver-gilt gong for Martyn’s garden.

Martyn said: "It's a real honour to pick up a silver-gilt medal for this garden and for the RSPCA - which is such a great way for the charity to kick-off the countdown to their 200th anniversary celebrations next year. Animals were at the heart of my design for this garden. I'm a passionate advocate for wildlife, and the RSPCA's tireless work in recruiting Wildlife Friends to help them is so important. 

"This garden was all about inspiring the public to do little things in their own gardens and communities to help wildlife. When planning the garden, I saw first hand on a visit to the RSPCA West Hatch wildlife centre the incredible rehabilitation work the charity’s team carries out, from injured seals to poorly hedgehogs, and everything in between.

A host of VIP visitors spent time at the garden during the event - but the RSPCA was particularly delighted with a visit from King Charles III.

Martyn added: "It was such an honour to welcome King Charles III to The RSPCA Garden. He described the garden as ‘beautiful’ which is an absolute honour.”

The RSPCA has strived to make its garden as inclusive as possible beyond the Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds. In what is believed to be a world first, the public can enjoy a 3D immersive tour of every part of the garden from the comfort of their own home, wherever they are in the world.

After the show, the garden will be relocated to RSPCA Stapeley Grange in Cheshire, one of the charity’s wildlife rehabilitation and education centres, where it will provide sanctuary to people and animals for years to come. 

Martyn added: "The RSPCA Garden is all about inspiring the public; and we hope many visitors to the Show and those watching the action from home will choose to support us with their votes for the coveted People's Choice Award.

"I want as many people as possible to enjoy and experience the garden - and the 3D immersive tour on the RSPCA website is a great way for everyone to enjoy the sanctuary, and learn more about the little things we can all do to support wildlife and nature."

A plant list showcases the trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses and bulbs that make up the RSPCA garden, while features include:

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