Lancashire goes to Chelsea: Paralympic star Stuart Robinson gives John Everiss's inspiring RAF garden a vote of approval

RAF veteran and Lancashire based paralympic athlete Stuart Robinson has teamed up with garden designer John Everiss in support of a very special Chelsea flower show project.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 3:52 pm

Stuart, from Carnforth, has a special interest in the garden which gold award winning designer and sculptor John, from Chorley, is creating for this year’s show – The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund garden.

Wheelchair bound Stuart, who was seriously injured during service in Afghanistan, is an ambassador for the charity and will be visiting John’s garden at Chelsea to help promote the Fund.

But first the renowned rugby player had a sneak preview of what’s planned when he met up with John at Bannister Hall Nursery, near Preston, to see some of the plants being grown for the show and discuss the thinking behind the garden, which will eventually form part of a bigger garden area John has designed for London Biggin Hill Airport.

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John and Stuart meet up at Bannister Hall, Preston

Stuart was particularly impressed with plans for a 12 foot high sculpture, constructed from 1,200 layers of laser cut stainless steel, of a RA pilot looking up to the sky.

John said: “I explained what the garden is going to be about and showed him some of the plants. We talked about what the garden meant and what it would mean to him and other veterans.”

Stuart, a father of two, said he values his own garden for the peace and quiet it provides when needed, so was interested to learn more about the Chelsea project. He said: “I thought I would see the plants before they got on to the show ground. He talked a little bit to me about the plants he’s using. I think there’s some really good ideas and plans. The garden will be a moving tribute to all those who served and continue to in the RAF, and it means a lot to be a part of it.”

He is delighted the exhibit is a way of publicising the Benevolent Fund charity which has helped him and his family enormously. He said: “Hopefully it will draw people’s attention and create some interest for the RAF Benevolent Fund.”

John Everiss (left) and Stuart Robinson examine plants being grown for The RAF Benevolent Fund garden Photo: Oliver Dixon

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Stuart especially valued its assistance as he and his family learned how to adapt to his disability.

The 39 year old lost both legs and had just about every bone in his upper body broken when he was injured in 2013 when the vehicle he was in went over an IED (improvised explosive device). He was in a coma for six weeks before starting the long haul back to recovery.

As his recovery continued the opportunity to play sport meant his talent for wheelchair rugby was discovered and developed and he is now a full time athlete performing at an elite level, recently taking part in the Tokyo Paralympics and with his sights set on the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

John too has a link with the RAF. He said: “My father was in the RAF during the war and got shot down and escaped through the French resistance.”

Chelsea Flower Show is on May 24-28. Project Giving Back has funded the garden.