We are delighted that the lovely Advolly Richmond presented for us on the BBC Radio 4 Charity Appeal. If you would still like to listen you can visit the BBC page here

Learn all about Advolly in our interview with her below:

“I’m a garden historian basically.  A plant historian and a social historian, encompassed as a garden historian.”

“I was inspired by a lecturer whilst studying for RHS exams, to become RHS qualified.  The lecturer talked about the history of plants.  I hadn’t thought about it, but everything has a history, books you know, everything.  This led to my interest in historic plants, in historic places, gardens and palaces and how they were brought there.  I’m interested in the movement of plants from one part of the world to another which involves, gardens, people and places.

I was working a 9- 5 job as a buyer and wanted to do something outdoors.  I was in my mid 30s and wanted to do something different by the age of 40.  I took evening classes for RHS, and gardening and then discovered plant history and my interest in historic plants grew.

My paternal grandfather was into gardening and my late maternal aunt, well she had a really productive garden with bananas and all sorts of food grown for the family, with any excess food sold at the local market.

I’d always liked gardens on an amateur level and going from buyer to gardening just appealed to me.”

“My life’s passion to share the history of gardens, plants and people. So many people don’t know, understand the importance of what we do, raising awareness of historic gardens and their vulnerability. 

Gardening at any level is for everyone and I want to share this with as many people as possible.

I’ve had lots of interest and reaction to my podcasts and people tell me they loved this one or that one because they hadn’t realised, about what they share, the people and places behind the individual plants and what was involved.

It allows a glimpse into something different. The podcasts are a thread to unravel, about people you wouldn’t normally be interested in, for example, military gardens, and people behind the movement and introduction of individual plants.

Essentially, I suppose, to share information.”

“I love Italian Renaissance gardens and, closer to home, the Arts and Crafts gardens of the late 19th and early 20th century.  They’ve taken inspiration from the Italian Renaissance Garden with the greenery, topiary and laid out formality etc.

I like structured gardens, and I’m not a fan of bare gardens with lots of stone and things, I like the planting in a garden.  So lush planting as well as structure.

I call my garden “romantic chaos”.  There’s structure and lots of different “rooms” and all the planting is crammed in.  I allow them to grow, to self-seed and to do what they want.

Some people spend their life trying to create something which is not meant to be. For example, you can’t create a traditional cottage garden in a desert. I see it that you work with what you’ve got, and if certain plants take well, get them in different colours!”

“The Flame Lily is gorgeous and it’s also the national flower of Zimbabwe.  It grows everywhere in Zimbabwe and here it is an indoor plant, and very exotic looking.

I remember as a child playing with Flame Lilies, almost like you do with conkers here.  They have spurs and you have to sort of hook them together and once the flowerhead came off, you lost!  It seems strange to take the flowerhead off as they are so exotic here, but they were everywhere in Zimbabwe, you know like daisies or dandelions are here.

I also love roses. I really love roses and have lost count how many I have in my garden!  I like scented ones, those with repeat flowering certainly and with a scent.”

“I think it would have to be Monet’s Garden, at Giverny in France, with the nasturtiums, draping roses, plants and lilies, particularly waterlilies. I’m getting a passion for waterlilies. I bought my first one this year, named Mrs Richmond, and it flowered for first time a couple of days ago! I tweeted about it!

I really want to see the waterlilies that inspired him and the nasturtiums, I have lots and lots in my garden.“

“Laughter, I think.  I try to not take things too seriously, it’s so stressful in life, I just cackle away!“

“It’s what you grow up with. I remember trailing after my aunt, being very young and I was probably more of a hindrance really, fetching water from a river. There would be other children there and you just want to play in the water. I’m sure I was a hindrance rather than a help.

You accept it as your lot and it’s only when you come to another country that you realise it can be different.

I can’t really remember, but the pattern would be collecting water first thing in morning and then later in the day presumably, for cooking and washing.

I was 8 years old when I came to the UK. It was cold.”

“I think improved health definitely, it’s such a major thing and goes hand in hand with improved sanitation. If you’ve got good sanitation, it’s in the Appeal, people are healthier. Healthier children go to school and healthier parents are in a better position to nurture their family. Having health puts you in a position to reach your potential.

To me, lack of potential, it’s not a lack of education, but a lack of ability to be able to attend school if you’re unwell. If parents aren’t well, they can’t enable to you to go to school to get an education. It’s a real chain of events all leading from safe water.

I grew up in a matriarchal family like a lot of societies, with very strong women in my family. My late aunt I mentioned earlier, she was still working in her market garden in mid-70’s

Water enables people to reach their potential.

If you lose a parent all of a sudden, the onus is on children to take their place and they lose out on education.

Water is the cycle.

I think the whole pandemic has really focused on this need for safe clean water. The only way you can protect yourself is by washing your hands several times a day. If you can’t do that you can’t protect yourself and most of us, take it for granted

I mean, I wash my hands all the time, when I come in from shopping, before cooking or touching food etc. We all do.

The pandemic really has focussed attention on this need.”

“Well, it’s local. Very very local and it’s not very often that one is in a position to support a charity that is so close to home. And also the work that they do. I like the way they work, their business and charity model, aiming for a long-lasting effect, not just an immediate remedy. Always looking ahead, you know with ensuring infrastructure is in place so that people, even if they’re no longer there, the communities are able to continue, to mend their own wells and machinery – rather than throwing money at X, you know, what’s the phrase; ‘teach a man to fish’.

I also like the fact that we monitor closely the outcomes of our charitable work, so we can prove the impact.

It’s a charity I can relate to, experience myself, and I also see my own family experiencing.”

“Oh, my goodness me! I think the thing I would say is to be kind and also, before you judge anyone just imagine yourself in their shoes. It’s what I live by and what my mother installed in me. People are so quick to judge and so removed from, I suppose it’s social media, removed from reality to a certain extent.

Just put yourself in someone shoes just for a second. Walk in someone’s else shoes for just a mile before you judge them.

“I remember as a child growing up in rural Zimbabwe having to help carry water from the river, and what a lot of time and effort it took. Village Water’s work really resonates with me personally”

Listen to Advolly on why she is supporting Village Water:

More about Village Water

Our integrated approach

Our integrated hygiene and sanitation training with schools and communities alongside bringing safe water supports long-term behaviour change. Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene practices mean improved heath, more chance to work and greater access to education.


Many girls drop out of school once they reach puberty due to the lack of decent and private facilities.  Providing year-round safe water, private toilets and showers encourages girls to remain in school and learn.  Just £30 could bring safe water and sanitation to 10 more

Solar powered water systems

With so much free sunshine in countries like Mozambique and Zambia, using solar power is cost effective, environmentally friendly and it works, particularly for schools with a large number of students

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