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RHS Chelsea 2019 Diaries – Dan Riddleston – part three

There are just a few weeks to go now until RHS Chelsea opens its gates. As we prepare to go onsite, everything is progressing well.

There’s still a lot to do, but because we’ve already built as much as we can off site, we can now focus on the finer details. With the pavilion’s steel frame erected we’ve been able to take measurements for the copper fascia and the timber cladding to go on the underside of the roof, so we can now position the joints exactly where Helen wants them.

We’re aiming to complete most of the pavilion in advance including the dry stonewalls, so by time we get to Chelsea, 70% of them will have been built. We’ve even tested how we will transport them to the showground, vigorously shaking them on a fork lift truck to test how they will fare in transit.

Of course, we can’t expect everything to go smoothly. It takes just one late delivery to throw things out of sequence, leaving us to think on our feet and reorganise our plans. Our experience of building large show gardens means we’re adept at dealing with most problems, though.

The most important thing to do when we arrive on site is to make sure we can plug the kettle in. After that the construction equipment will arrive and we’ll begin setting out and excavating. Space is always tight so it’s important to coordinate deliveries with the garden next door – we don’t want to fall out with our neighbours – but our skilled workforce is expert at manoeuvring all types of vehicles and knowing exactly what to use for each job.

Unusually, on the Warner’s Distillery Garden, there will be more filling than digging as the floor of the pavilion is 45cm above ground level rising to 70cm at the back. We’ll lift in the structures as early as possible before moving on to the paving and boulders. The proof will come when the pavilion is in position and we’ve installed the beautiful copper work that will form the central water feature. We don’t want it to be damaged so this will be one of the last things we do as well as fitting the bespoke glass panels that will form one wall.

By the second week most of the construction work will be done and we’ll release the rear of the site to the planting team, having visited Deepdale in Easter to work out the delivery schedule for the trees.

Everything’s on track but there’s still work to be done off site, not least finalising all the health and safety documents to make for a smooth arrival on the 30 April, and keeping a close eye on the weather. A warm, dry build makes everyone’s life easier but if there’s one thing we can’t control it’s the elements.

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