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Thursday, 9 September 2010

A most unusual royal garden party...

Gigantic sheep climbing a ladder to insulate a loft, a string of washing flapping in the breeze, reusable shopping bags being made from old royal curtains......
Not what you'd expect at a garden party.
But the Garden Party to Make a Difference, in the adjoining gardens of Clarence House, Lancaster House and Marlborough House, in central London is the brainchild of Prince Charles, and aims to show how just a few small steps can help build a sustainable future. So it's out with the champagne glasses and in with resuseable waterbottles for guests as they explore more than 100 displays on everything from building green homes to saving electricity and growing your own veg.
I went down for the morning, but ended up spending most of the day there.
I loved this Ark art installation (above), where children from 10 Oxfordshire primary schools show what they'd take if they were to sail away to a low-carbon future. Garden Organic was giving away seedlings of rocket and chard to encourage visitors to grow something edible, and the RSPB demonstrated how to build a nest box from recycled materials.
There are serious messages too. The washing-line of t-shirts (opposite a thatched summerhouse built for Queen Mary) seeks to persuade people to dry their clothes naturally - using a tumble dryer every two days could cost over £100 a year. And another sign reads: "Be thrifty with your food" - 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households every year, costing the average family £680.

I was tempted by almost everything on sale in the Farmers' Market, and admired the line-up of electric eco-cars. It was also a real thrill to be able to see first-hand what Prince Charles has achieved in the grounds of Clarence House since he moved in after the Queen Mother's death in 2002. (More to come on the blog about this and the recycling of his curtains.)

The festival is part of the Prince's Start initiative, which has seen him touring the country in the royal train (which runs on bio-fuel) looking at projects that help the environment and discussing with business leaders how companies can source goods ethically and recycle more.

Entrance to the Garden Party to Make a Difference is on the corner of Green Park and the Mall and is open from 10 am - 6pm until Sept 19. Tickets cost £15 for adults.
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