A 94-year-old gardening expert and a two-year-old tot have taken the top prizes in the North Gwent Cardiac Rehabilitation and Aftercare Charity’s annual Potato Growing Challenge.

Bryan Jones from Govilon, who has been growing potatoes for more than 80 years, secured his win in the adult’s class with a 1.47kg harvest recorded at the weigh-in at the Abergavenny garden Centre last Saturday, June 24.

Green-fingered youngster, Hallie Davies, from Monmouth won the children’s class with a yield of 1.28kg. Runner-up prizes went to Abergavenny’s Sheila Booth (1.06kg) and 10-year-old Lily Jacques, from Monmouth (0.49kg).

Local Cardiac Charity
Lily Jacques, aged 10, from Monmouth, runner-up in the heaviest harvest Children’s class receiving her prize of a garden kneeler from the Charity’s Suzanne Indge. (Local Cardiac Charity)

Meanwhile, Hallie’s 5-year-old brother Archie Davies proved that gardening runs in the family by winning 1st prize in the children’s class for Funniest Spud, judged by Garden Centre manager Gavin Trinder. Raglan’s Poppy Harper, also aged 5, was runner-up. And in the adult’s class, prizes went to Abergavenny residents Richard Booth (Sheila’s husband) and Jenny Morgan (Poppy’s grandmother).

Local Cardiac Charity
Abergavenny Garden Centre Manager Gavin Trinder with his pick of the Funniest Spud, grown by Archie Davies, aged 5: “It looks just like a little mouse!” (Local Cardiac Charity)

The three-month Challenge, which started on March 12, is run as a fundraiser for the Charity, which provides community-based cardiac rehab exercise classes for people living with heart conditions across North Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent. Sponsored by the Garden Centre, this year’s contest drew a record 120 entrants and raised over £700 for the Charity.

It was the second win in a row for Bryan, who got his first allotment for his 10th birthday and “except for three years of National Service” has been growing potatoes ever since. He put his success down to experience. “I make sure I plant the potato in its pot on the very first day of the competition, to maximise the growing time, and I start it off in my greenhouse where it’s warmer. Once the pot goes outside it’s important to keep watering – and to keep an eye on the weather. If there’s any chance of frost overnight in the early weeks, I always take the pot back into the greenhouse.”

Prizes for the challenge, provided by the Garden Centre, included gift vouchers, padded kneelers, a gardening apron, bug hotel and colourful garden ornaments, and were awarded by Suzanne Indge, from the Charity’s volunteer fundraising team.

“We’re really grateful to everyone who took part in the challenge,” said Suzanne, “and of course to the Abergavenny Garden Centre for sponsoring the potato-growing kits and prizes, and hosting the kit collection and weigh-in. I’d also like to say a big thank you to my fundraising team colleagues who did such an excellent job of turning out the pots and weighing all the potatoes in sweltering conditions.”

• To find out more about the North Gwent Cardiac Rehabilitation and Aftercare Charity (Reg No.1056887) and their programme of cardiac rehab exercise classes, visit cardiac-rehab.org.uk or call Tony Lowery on 07856 692148.