Allotment show hopes to match bake-off

BBC2 television series will feature eight couples tending plots on an allotment set at Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire.

Big Allotment Challenge (L-R): Buttress, Britton, Prince and Moseley - image: BBC
Big Allotment Challenge (L-R): Buttress, Britton, Prince and Moseley - image: BBC

The Big Allotment Challenge will begin on BBC2 on 15 April aiming to emulate the success of its prototype, hit BBC TV series The Great British Bake Off.

The series features eight couples tending plots on an allotment set at Mapledurham House in Oxfordshire.

Judges are RHS judge Jim Buttress (show produce), Daily Telegraph food writer Thane Prince (jam, cakes, etc) and florist Jonathan Moseley (flower arrangements). Fern Britton is host.

Former Royal Parks manager Buttress said: "Lots of amateur gardeners say they could never enter a show, but there's no such thing as can't if they see a like-minded person doing it. No disrespect, but with a lot of TV gardening shows, I don't think they are hitting the button.

"I judge a lot of local food and flower shows but they are struggling for numbers. There are three or four good growers so people think there's no point entering, but there's still third, fourth and highly commendeds to go for.

"There's a great interest in allotments and a lot of people got on the great gold rush but found out it's not as easy as it's shown on telly. But if they see their 'own kind' getting blight and thrip, and how to overcome them, they are going to get interested again.

"They're sowing, harvesting, growing. OK, we had a fantastic year for weather in 2013. Had we filmed in 2012 I don't think there would have been anything to see." The BBC is now seeking contestants for a second series.

Series venue - Hoping for upturn in visitors

Mapledurham House estate secretary Lola Andrews said: "We don't open until mid April so a 15 April start date for transmission fits well. The film site is there in the walled garden but it's not recognisable.

"Most things were only there for the year and the walled garden has been cleaned out ready to go again for series two. The walled garden is not usually accessible to visitors and it depends on whether the BBC do another series whether we open it up. If they're filming, we won't.

"Visitor numbers are 10,000. It would be nice If they went up because of the programme, but we've done nothing with it because it's not out and doesn't mean anything to anyone - yet."

Gardening on TV - Scheduled broadcasting

Growing Gardens & Green Fingers is new on BBC4, including two mini-series and three one-hour shows, with transmission dates to be confirmed:

- British Gardens in Time - Great Dixter, Stowe, Biddulph Grange, Nyman's (Chris Beardshaw).

- Dirt (Chris Beardshaw).

- Everyday Eden: A Potted History of the Suburban Garden (Michael Collins).

- The Wonder of Bees (Martha Kearney).

- The Magic of Mushrooms (Professor Richard Fortey).

Other programmes

Ongoing Gardeners' World (BBC2).

15 April The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2).

24 June Love Your Garden (ITV1).

20-24 May RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage (BBC1/BBC2).


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