Princess pushy's haughty culture (Mirror)

diggers350 tony at
Wed May 21 10:51:28 BST 2003


May 21 2003

By Richard Smith

PRINCESS Michael of Kent has got a group of prisoners to do her gardening for free.

She called for their help, unpaid, after seeing the award-winning garden they created at this week's Chelsea Flower Show.

The royal - dubbed Princess Pushy - had earlier told TV's Alan Titchmarsh she didn't have enough staff to do the weeding at home.

But after meeting Richard Booty, governor of Leyhill prison, Gloucs, she can now expect a visit from inmates to her nearby Nether Lypiatt estate near Stroud in Gloucestershire.

They won gold for their woodland-themed garden, No Time To Stand And Stare, in the show garden category. It was inspired by William Henry Davies' poem Leisure.

The prison previously won silver at Chelsea in 2001 and gold in 2000.

The princess's five-acre garden featured on BBC2's coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. A royal aide said yesterday she wanted to show her support for the prisoners.

He said: "She went to the stand and spoke to the person in charge.

"She thought the garden was exceptional, unbelievably beautiful.

"It came up in the conversation that she would be interested in employing a number of prisoners to work on her garden. She also said she would be very willing, once they have left prison, to employ them on a more permanent basis."

The garden was designed by head of inmate activities Jeff Goundrill.

He said: "I am absolutely thrilled with this garden, both for the team at Chelsea and for the staff and prisoners at Leyhill who can't be here. This is the icing on the cake."

The garden includes wild and native plants, ranging from bluebells and wild garlic to cowslips, willow herb, rushes and grasses.

A footpath leads over an arched bridge which goes through the garden to a woodland walk.

Inmate Jez, 24, described the award as a "once in a lifetime achievement". He added: "It is a feeling like I have never felt before - it is absolutely incredible." While serving time, Jez has achieved an NVQ in bricklaying. A second qualification in machinery meant he was able to operate the digger which helped build the garden.

He plans to ditch a life of crime and stick to gardening. He said: "I definitely want to continue in this line of work, landscaping."

Leyhill open prison has 520 inmates coming to the end of their sentences. It runs a successful community placement project with inmates working in charity shops, private gardens and factories.

Last night, a spokesman for the Prison Service said placements were a "valuable tool" to help inmates get accustomed to being back in the community.

He said all prisoners had risk assessment over the possible danger they might pose, adding: "We feel these schemes make a valuable contribution to reducing re-offending by easing prisoners back into the community."

Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service, last night praised the Leyhill team.

He said: "I am immensely proud of Jeff Goundrill, the prisoners and all at Leyhill who produced a garden of exceptional quality."

Enver Solomon, policy officer at the Prison Reform Trust, said: "This is a very positive thing - prisons should be about providing prisoners with opportunities."

Four years ago, Princess Michael was accused of bringing traffic to a standstill when she travelled to the flower show in a limousine with police outriders.

And Buckingham Palace recently "humiliated" the princess and her husband Prince Michael of Kent by giving them seven years to move out of their apartment at Kensington Palace.

They had previously been told the rent-free apartment, given by the Queen as a wedding present in 1978, would be theirs for life.

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