Talks for Groups – Annual Lecture 2021 – ‘My Garden Saved my Life’ – Robin Hanbury-Tenison in conversation with Rachel de Thame


An extra chance to watch this acclaimed lecture filmed at the Royal Geographical Society, London. Once purchased you will receive a link to access the recording via email.


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A lifetime of exploring some of the remotest places on earth has given 83-year-old Robin Hanbury-Tenison a love of natural, wild gardens which has inspired the garden at his Cornish home. His bond with his garden was truly revealed in March 2020, when he was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth suffering from Coronavirus. Shortly afterwards he was given a 5% chance of surviving. While he was in hospital his son Merlin sent him images of their garden and Robin said afterwards “the moment I knew I was going to live” was when his bed was wheeled into the hospital garden.

Gardening broadcaster and journalist Rachel de Thame has created gardens at her homes in London and the Cotswolds. And like Robin, her gardens have played a crucial role in her recent recovery from ill health. Shortly after treatment and recovery from breast cancer Rachel said, “I have literally been clinging onto the things I love, my friends, my family and my garden…If you’re going through some chronic illness, whatever it is, it is vital to go out and be in a garden.”

In conversation Rachel will ask Robin why he credits his remarkable recovery from Coronavirus to gardens and what he has done since to support the hospital garden and to promote the idea of gardens being vital to everyone’s physical and mental health. He will ask her about the role of her garden in her recovery from cancer and how the whole experience has influenced her views on gardens and plants.

Both are passionate about sustainability and biodiversity; in the month of COP26 they will discuss what gardens can do to influence people’s understanding of the problems and what can be done.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, FLS, FRGS has explored some of the most remote places on earth since his first expedition – overland by jeep from London to Sri Lanka – in 1957. In October 2020, just weeks after recovering from Coronavirus, he climbed Cornwall’s highest mountain – Brown Willy – to raise funds for a garden at the critical care unit at Royal Cornwall Hospital. He is Co-Founder and President of the charity, Survival International, the author of more than 25 books and passionate about the impact of climate change as set out in his most recent book, Taming the Four Horsemen. 

Rachel de Thame trained as a ballet dancer and went on to a successful modelling career. In 1998 her lifelong love of gardening led her to retrain at the English Garden School and two years later she appeared for the first time on the BBC2’s Gardeners’ World, where she has been a presenter ever since. A regular television presenter at Chelsea and the other major British flower shows, Rachel writes a column for the Sunday Times, has been a regular contributor to other newspapers and magazines and has written three gardening books.

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