Prominent gardeners speak out against Chelsea Flower Show’s association with fox hunting

The 2024 Chelsea Flower Show is well under way. Attendees have been alarmed to discover that the show’s headline sponsor, luxury hotel business The Newt, supports illegal hunting. Now some of the country’s most famous gardeners have spoken out about the event’s ongoing relationship with the hotel.

Protect the Wild, along with our friends at Action Against Foxhunting, have been campaigning for The Newt to ban the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale (BSV) – one of the most barbaric and violent hunts in the country – from meeting on its land. We have repeatedly written to the hotel, asking it to sever ties with the hunt, and until recently we were ignored. So we began a petition and open letter, which has almost 12,000 signatures and counting. Eventually the hotel replied to us with an inadequate response, which we will talk about later. And so this week we have been on the ground, outside the Chelsea Flower Show, to inform the public that the event’s main sponsor refuses to disavow fox hunting.

This week, prominent gardener Sarah Gerrard-Jones, author of The Plant Rescuer, writer for BBC Gardeners’ World, and with 481K Instagram followers, has used her platform to speak out in defence of foxes. Gerrard-Jones was a gold medal winner at the 2022 Chelsea Flower Show, but this year has been vocal in supporting our campaign to ask the Royal Horticultural Society – the show’s organiser – to drop The Newt.

Commenting on The Newt’s Instagram reel, she said:

“Fox hunting is not only illegal it’s barbaric, and you allow that to take place on your grounds. Congratulations on the greenwashing working as long as it did. The truth has now been exposed.”

The famous gardener went on to share Protect the Wild’s petition, telling the Chelsea Flower Show to drop The Newt as a sponsor. She also stated in an Instagram comment that she will boycott this year’s event because of its links to the hotel.


The Newt Instagram Chelsea Flower Show
Sarah Gerrard-Jones speaks out against The Newt


Meanwhile, gardener Cleve West, author of The Garden Of Vegan, has written an Instagram post, supporting Protect the Wild’s campaign and speaking out against The Newt:

“Having enjoyed @thenewtinsomerset ‘s hospitality at last year’s show it was troubling to learn that they have allowed the notorious Blackmore and Sparkford Vale (BSV) Hunt to terrorise wildlife on their land. Apart from being disappointing it doesn’t make sense as it goes against The Newt’s own publicised ethos:

“Everything is rooted in a deep respect for the land, the locality and all the creatures living on it…we must step up our efforts to protect biodiversity, preserve our ecosystems and combat climate change.”

Hunting wildlife with a pack of dogs and tearing them to shreds is an odd way of going about it and is illegal in the UK. Trail hunting is legal but has been exposed time and again as nothing more than a smokescreen to continue business as usual where foxes, deer and even domestic animals are killed.

Over ten thousand emails have been sent to The Newt asking them to disassociate themselves from the BSV Hunt.

With #rhschelsea on the horizon I thought they’d be quick to realise the error and put out a statement severing ties with the BSV Hunt and their outdated and violent traditions.”

Cleve West Instagram
Cleve West speaks out on Instagram about The Newt’s support of the BSV

One of the worst hunts in the country

In a previous article, Protect the Wild wrote extensively about why The Newt should not overlook the illegal and violent activities of the BSV Hunt, outlining the criminal activities of some of the hunt’s members. These include a terrierman who pleaded guilty to assault after throwing urine into the face of a female hunt saboteur, and a hunt member who was found guilty of assaulting a hunt saboteur and causing actual bodily harm. The saboteur was so badly injured that he was hospitalised.

In January 2024, the hunt was suspended by hunting’s so-called ‘governing body’, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), after its hounds were caught tearing up a fox. On top of this, a study by Protect the Wild of the 2022/23 hunting season revealed that nearly a third of the BSV’s observed meets resulted in the pursuit and killing of a fox.


The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale hounds kill a fox. Drone footage by North Dorset Sabs
The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale hounds kill a fox. Drone footage by North Dorset Sabs

Damage control

After receiving over ten thousand emails from people who signed the petition, The Newt finally responded to Protect the Wild. We replied to the business, asking it to confirm whether it has banned the BSV from meeting on its land. The hotel stated:

“To further clarify our previous statement, no hunt of any type is scheduled to take place at The Newt.”

We publicly responded, arguing that The Newt is not fooling anyone with this carefully worded statement. After all, the hotel isn’t definitively saying that hunting is banned on its land – only that there are no meets scheduled to take place. In order to get more clarity, we emailed the business once more, asking three questions:

  1. Are hunts of any type permanently and indefinitely banned from using, meeting, or accessing any land or properties owned by The Newt in Somerset?
  2. Does The Newt in Somerset acknowledge that for many years the BSV Hunt has been hosted on the property?
  3. If the BSV Hunt or a hunt of any type asked to meet on land owned by The Newt in Somerset at any point under the current ownership, would your venue say yes or no to such a request?

Protect the Wild already knows the answer to the second question. It is common knowledge that the BSV has met at The Newt numerous times. It appears that the business has attempted to erase photographic evidence of this online – for example, the hunt has been much-photographed on the hotel grounds by professional photographer Emma Harris. Unsurprisingly, her photos of the BSV on the estate – which were previously made public on her website – have now been deleted (but not without being screengrabbed first!).

There are, however, some photos that haven’t yet been taken down, such as this 2021 Instagram post:

bsv hapsden instagram
The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale is photographed at The Newt


Join us at the Chelsea Flower Show!

We look forward to seeing some of you as we protest outside the Chelsea Flower Show in London this week. We will be leafleting at the main entrance points at these times:

  • 10am-4pm on Thursday 23 May
  • 10am-4pm on Friday 24 May
  • 10am-7pm on Saturday 25 May


For directions and transport options, see the Royal Horticultural Society website here.