Cummings’ goings: Love is like a butterfly

The Butterfly Garden

The Butterfly Garden - Credit: Archant

Mark Cummings of BBC Radio Gloucestershire explains why he’s honoured to call Chris Evans (not the one you’re thinking of) his friend.

Last seen with commentating legend Jim Magrath… have you seen these ladies, especially the one on th

Last seen with commentating legend Jim Magrath… have you seen these ladies, especially the one on the far right as I’m missing her - Credit: Archant

When I say to my colleagues I’m off for a pint with my mate, Chris Evans, most presume it must be in a swanky London club with a fellow breakfast radio buddy. They speculate that I probably got to know him on some obscure radio station in the north when we were kids. When his name pops up on my phone or an email drops into my inbox they often ask for the latest gossip from The One Show.

I can’t provide any ginger-related showbiz sparkle because my Chris Evans is a local horticulturalist who I’m honoured to call my friend – over the next few lines I’ll explain exactly why. Chris runs Dundry Nursery in Bamfurlong, a location which provides untold inspiration on a daily basis that has just been rewarded for its stunning work with a top honour.

I got to know this mad man many years ago when he challenged me to join him on a three-day comedy caper around the UK raising awareness of male cancer. I found myself challenged to carry a rugby ball from Kingsholm to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, up to Murrayfield, to Twickenham and finally back to Kingsholm after handing in a petition at 10 Downing Street.

Along with Chris and the late Charlie Matthews, we had to blag lifts and food along the way as we weren’t allowed any money! On this adventure this special man and I chatted during the long hours on trains, HGV lorries, tiny four-seater planes and a police motor launch up the Thames.

Over the next few years to raise awareness of various causes he has ridden a lawn mower from Cheltenham to Birmingham, danced at the Royal Opera House in a tutu, spent 24 hours playing the bagpipes in a phone box and covered an entire building in Cheltenham with a gigantic camouflage sheet to stop the council closing what he thought was a brilliant space for the youth of the town to meet and perform on stage.

When he told me he’d had an idea for a new project, involving creative use of part of his land, I had a feeling something wonderful was about to flourish. His inspiration was to make part of his Garden Centre into a special area that could provide therapy to those “looking to escape the world and those looking to re-enter it”. Six young autistic students were the first to use this four-acre paradise called The Butterfly Garden and now up to 30 students a day receive education, recreation and therapy. People with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental health problems and refugees with disabilities can all be found working together at the winner of the Telegraph Gardening Against the Odds Award.

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The whole project has taken over Chris’s life and when I ask him how it’s going, I usually bank on a good half an hour before he comes up for breath having eulogised with untold wonder at the fulfilment of his daily connection with his students. To witness what goes on in The Butterfly Garden is a real privilege and to see the blossoming of minds developing hand in hand with nature is an inspirational story I wanted to share with you at the start of 2014.


Mark can be heard on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s morning show 6am-9am

104.7FM and 1413AM, Stroud 95FM and Cirencester 95.8FM