RHS Wisley Review
Fancy a nice day out? Thinking about maybe going to look at a garden? Then you might put RHS Wisley on your shortlist if you live in the South East of England. Indeed, if you live somewhere else, you might still put it on your list. I don’t know; I bet even some folks from the other side of the world will want to visit it. Why not? People have done more pointless things. It’s not for me to tell you how to waste your life!
Now, I’ll just say one thing. I don’t really do organisations, and the RHS gives me the shits just thinking about it. I’ve never yet met an RHS member that I like. They always seem to be dripping with superiority. In reality, I’ll bet a wrestle with Lorraine Kelly that I have met an RHS member that I like, but they didn’t reveal that part of their life. It’s the ones that wear RHS membership like a badge of honour that seem to be up their own arses.
So, why did I go to RHS Wisley? In all fairness, I was bored and they had a Taste of Autumn festival on.
Now, let’s talk money. I will point here that I have a very basic principle about admission prices. I don’t think people have a right to complain about them unless they don’t receive what they’ve been promised. The price is whatever is charged, and you have the right to not go. So, admission to RHS Wisley is £11.00. Fair enough. However, they don’t want £11.00; instead they want that plus an additional gift, bringing the total to £12.20.
Now, the price for admission which they set is £11.00. I didn’t set the price, and you didn’t set the price. They did. On top of that they ask for a gift worth £1.50 (allowing for the tax rebate) for each individual visitor. You don’t have to pay the gift bit, but I did.
You’d think they’d be grateful. You’d think they might accept that you’ve not only paid their asking price in full without quibbling, but you’ve also given a bit more, and therefore be thankful. I’m not talking about carpeting the path with rose petals as I walk around, I’m not talking about small children having to pull a cart which I sit in; I would just hope than in return for my gift they might not take every opportunity to fuck me up the arse.
Sadly, they took the opposite approach. I don’t mind paying for food and drink, but when someone charges £4.50 for a properly dull and dry cheese and pickle sandwich, using basic ingredients and not even making any attempt to justify the cost, then they deserve to be called out on it. A very small bottle of water? That’ll be a couple of quid too.
Now, I was interested in the Taste of Autumn festival, but it was more like a small market of over-priced shit than a festival. The actual produce was generally sub-standard; there were two ‘artisan’ sausage companies. One over-spiced their sausages to mask the fact that they were using the worst quality pork, while another had added so much rusk and water the taste just washed away.
You could get a thimble-full of pressed apple juice for free from the RHS, but I couldn’t be arsed to queue. Of course, if I wanted to buy a bottle of the stuff at a very inflated price there were plenty of staff waiting to take my money. Oh, there was a display of pumpkins and squash, but I’ve seen better down the allotment.
The glass house is okay; if you’ve been to any decent botanical garden you will have seen better. Half of it was closed for maintenance, but I saw no maintenance being done.
What was interesting was that the staff I encountered didn’t seem to be too pleased that there were visitors about. In one place there were two benches. An RHS staff person sat on each and had spread out their stuff to claim the whole bench for their lunch. We tried to park ourselves on one for a few moments, and the disdain showed by the old boy who had to suffer us nearly earned him a Idiot tirade.
I made a point of visiting the vegetable garden, but it was all a bit standard. One thing they did have was some cardoons, which they appeared to be growing as an annual – obviously my cardoon experiment is growing them as perennials. There was no one around to talk to, so I went to the RHS Advice Point, which claims to answer all your gardening queries.
The bloke there tried to correct me about the cardoons, explaining they weren’t growing any. He told me they were in fact artichokes. I told him they were in fact not artichokes. He shook his head in disapproval at my ignorance. I had to show him a photo to prove they were growing cardoons. He then told me he knew nothing about them, and started leafing through a book, which contained a few sentences that told me nothing I didn’t already know. Then I was told I could buy the book in the gift shop.
I nearly asked him if he’d ever been raped for a crappy cheese sandwich and a tiny bottle of water!
Now, many people will like RHS Wisley, and I’m sure a fair few will disagree with me, but I thought it was very poor. It wasn’t exciting or engaging, the people I came across weren’t passionate or informed, and I left with a feeling that all they wanted to was to make some money and deliver as little as possible.
I do visit a lot of gardens, and have found people who will spend their time showing you what they do, explaining why they do it, and actually seem pleased that you’re interested. These might not have the prestige of Wisley, but they’re fun and informative.
Given many of the alternatives out there, I give RHS Wisley a lowly absolutely nothing at all out of ten.