The Game Fair Gardens


As the Chelsea Flower Show closes, those craving their next horticulture fix can find three days of gardening glory at the historic Hatfield House, home to Lord and Lady Salisbury, with the world’s largest show garden at this year’s Game Fair. Emma Sandham investigates…

For the Londoner craving a weekend in the country The Game Fair’s bi-annual visit to Hatfield House in leafy Hertfordshire is the perfect way to escape the city and experience the very best that the Great British countryside has to offer. More than 120,000 visitors are expected to attend the 3-day show, which will showcase everything from traditional countryside pursuits to contemporary fashions, heritage crafts to craft gins, and delicious produce from all over the land.

Gardening has always been an important part of The Game Fair, and Hatfield House’s gardens are famous all over the world, but 2019’s sees the organisers take on an ambitious new project, that of creating the world’s biggest ever show garden. The show garden is sponsored by the investment firm Charles Stanley and is being created in association with Capel Manor College, the only college in central London which offers students the chance to study land-based subjects such as Garden Design and Horticulture.

Construction of the show garden – which is more than 1 acre in size – began in May, with students and staff from Capel Manor College doing much of the work. The garden, which has been designed by the college’s RHS Gold Medal winners, aims to create an immersive, interactive experience which tells the story of the countryside, estate and country gardens, traditional practices and innovations through a number of themed spaces.

The focal point for the garden will be an event space which will be the venue for a variety of Q&A’s, demos and debates over the course of The Game Fair. Visitors can also expect to see examples of a traditional kitchen garden and traditional crafts as well as art, sculpture and design.

The Game Fair Gardens, as the show garden is called, including areas designed by students from Capel Manor. The Herbaceous Border was designed by Plants and Planting Design student Andrew Smith, while his course-mate Christina Garcia-Mora has designed the Prairie Planting area. Garden Design and Plantsmanship student Katherine Goddard masterminded the Estate Planting area, and the college’s Horticulture apprentices assisted with the creation of The Pottager Garden. With more than 5,000 plants and trees, 400 roses and even 20m of dry-stone walling and 500m2 of turf, the team have quite the task to complete the work in just 90 days.

The Capel Manor students with their winning designs

The involvement of Capel Manor is something of a coup, since the College decided to forego their usual appearance at Chelsea Flower Show in order to work on the project. Their involvement is thanks in no small part to Lady Salisbury, the current owner of Hatfield House, who is a patron of Capel Manor College.

Lady Salisbury said, “It is wonderful that this year The Game Fair is encouraging our apprentices and students to use their skills and knowledge to create a spectacular garden at Hatfield. I know this RHS award-winning team will provide inspiration to gardeners and will show with a good design, what can be grown. Seeing what people can do is always a pleasure as well as providing a vital contribution to our green open spaces.”

The Game Fair is a great day out for the whole family with the chance to watch and even try traditional activities such as clay pigeon shooting, fishing, falconry and ferreting, and more modern ones like off-road driving. A true celebration of the countryside wouldn’t be complete without amazing food and drink. Foodies should opt for one of the Silver, Gold or Platinum packages, which give access to The Game Fair Enclosure and Restaurant, and should make a beeline for Gin Makers’ Row (no explanation needed!) and the Kitchen Theatre, where expert chefs will share advice, techniques and inspiring stories.

The Game Fair 2019 runs from 26th to 28th July. Entry to the Game Fair Gardens is included in the standard Game Fair ticket price and VIP packages, but The Game Fair has teamed up with Capel Manor and Hatfield House to create The Gardens Experience ticket which offers the chance to visit some of the most glorious gardens in the country over the rest of the summer. The Gardens Experience ticket includes entry to The Game Fair itself, but also to Hatfield House’s own stunning gardens, woodland walks and par and the award-winning gardens at Capel Manor College. For more information, and tickets, visit