RAYMOND BLANC visited Watlington to support the town’s entry in the Britain in Bloom competition.
The chef planted thyme and strawberries in Mansle Gardens and a blackcurrant tree in the grounds of Watlington and District Care home.
Blanc, who had asked to be put in touch with his local Britain in Bloom group after launching the competition’s “incredible edibles” theme, said he was impressed with the town’s sense of community.
He said: “It’s wonderful to see a community really gathering together, really connecting with food, connecting with planting and connecting with blossoms.
“We in Great Britain have lost this simple connection with food and now we are connecting with that and it’s marvellous to see that happening in Watlington.”
Blanc also wished the town luck in the large village category of the national final during his visit on Wednesday.
“I must be totally impartial but let the best win and I hope that all the efforts that this community has done will bring its own fruits of success,” he said.
Tim Horton, chairman of Watlington in Bloom, said Blanc’s visit was inspirational.
“What Raymond brings to us is a fantastic expertise,” he said.
“He, at Le Manoir, has his own garden, his own orchard, and we are looking to extend the facilities that we have, the public garden, as well as private gardens and allotments, to do even more than we are doing at the moment.”
Blanc met members of Watlington in Bloom and Peter Thompson, who is a regional judge for Thames and Chiltern in Bloom and is mentoring Watlington in the upcoming finals, at the town hall before taking a tour of the high street. He then visited Calnan Brothers butchers, where he was shown some local venison, and the Granary delicatessen, where he tasted some quince jam and cheese produced by Quince Products, of Ingham Lane.
He then visited the Paddock where he was asked for his suggestions for improving the area. His ideas included planting fruit trees and hedges and a children’s garden.
Blanc also visited Mansle Gardens where he was met by members of the It’s Your Neighbourhood group who look after the area.
He was shown grapevines which were given to the town by their French counterparts four years ago to mark the 20th anniversary of the towns being twinned.
Aherb garden was recently created in a planter which was made from larch wood grown and sawn locally and put together by Tom Bindoff, a member of the Watlington in Bloom committee.
Blanc planted thyme and alpine strawberries, which he confessed were his favourite variety, in a second planter.
Kate Dew, of Church Meadow, helped plant the herb garden and was among the group who met Blanc.
She said: “It’s really exciting because this is a really important part of my environment and it’s such a lovely open space. With something like this we hope people will come along and do a bit of weeding and take some herbs.”
Blanc’s final stop was the care home in Hill Road where he looked around the gardening club’s greenhouse. Produce grown in the home’s garden is used in the kitchen.
The chef planted a blackcurrant tree, assisted by head gardener Peter Hemmins, and met some residents who were potting lavender, rosemary, basil and hot peppers inside the home.
Julie Cooper, manager of the home, said it was “wonderful” to welcome their special visitor.
“Many of our residents enjoy gardening as they like to get outside in the fresh air and feel the wind on their faces,” she added.