Always a regular viewer of the program I had aspired to one day visit it and see where George the Tortoise (1920 – 2004) once roamed, this was that day!
Designed by Britain's “first celebrity gardener” Percy Thrower MBE (1913 –1988) back in 1974 and later adapted to an Italian sunken garden in 1979 the Blue Peter garden has remained as much a regular feature of the program as the advent crown. The garden flourished over the years, despite several vandal attacks (the most notorious being the 1983 incident) and when the program's production moved from London Television Center to MediaCityUK in 2011 the garden too was relocated and officially reopened to the public by HRH the Princess Anne in 2012.
The garden still contains elements of the past as seen in this article from the 24th -30th edition of the Radio Times from 1982 (right) within it such as the impressions of Percy Thrower, Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Simon Groom along with the pets Shep, Goldie, Jack and Jill and Freda the tortoise! It was amazing seeing them in person! Standing in the corner, standing guard almost was what I especially wanted to see the bronze statue of Petra, Blue Peter’s first pet. As I have previously mentioned I was a regular viewer of show, tapering off at around the time of the unearthing of the Blue Peter time capsules. However my earliest memory of the program was the time they relocated the Petra bust from outside BBC Television Center into the garden and from that moment on I have always admired this magnificent statue.
When it came to the plinth several people contacted the Blue Peter office wishing to donate granite to the cause when it was suggested “on the air” that concrete would have to be used as it was all the program could afford. Although they were offered granite from the original London Bridge, they went with the first offer they received by Gelli Stone, a quarry in South Wales, which had the appropriately named Blue Pennant stone on offer (which had also been used to repair the Tower of London). Once the right piece of stone had been selected the quarry’s most experienced mason, Des Wilkins cut the plinth to size adding the inscription and Blue Peter ship before transporting it to London. Then on the 23rd of March (Peter Purvis’ last episode) the bronze was erected. With Lesley Judd pouring the concrete onto the top of the plinth as Peter Purvis and John Noakes lowered the head on. It stood outside BBC Television Center until 1984 when the building was extended when it was relocated (along with the 1971 time capsule) to the safety of the garden and it has been a part of it ever since.