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Open Gardens Insurance

We include below some thoughts about insurance for your open gardens event. We can't give definitive advice, merely some ideas for you to digest. Whether you opt for open gardens insurance, or how you arrange your insurance is of course up to you.

An observation

In all the years that we have run open gardens events, and indeed managed this website, we've not heard of a single case of a visitor suing a garden owner because of an injury sustained whilst visiting a garden. The problem therefore is much more in the mind than on the ground.

Another observation

Over a 12 month period, you have probably had many dozens of visitors to your garden - family, friends, relations, school pals, local villagers etc, yet we suspect that you've never given garden safety and insurance a second thought. When it comes to an open gardens event, it seems to promote concern.

 Open Gardens insurance - do you need it?

If you feel that you really need insurance ...

Here are some ways to pass on the cost ...

1. If your event is organised as part of a Garden Club, WI, Parish Council, Village Hall, Allotment Group etc, then it's quite possible that event insurance is already in place, so do a little research and find out.

2. If your event is run independently, then consider if it can be run in conjunction with any of the above, and so benefit from insurance that is already in place.

3. Most open garden events pass on most of the profit to a charity or good cause. If that's the case for your event, target the cause and ask them if they have event insurance that could be utilised. If not, get them to arrange it for you - they will be benefiting from a donation of hundreds or thousands of pounds, so they will have a strong interest in resolving it for you. It's quite likely that they will already have their own event insurance anyway, as they will probably arrange other fundraising events through the year.

If there's no way around it

Then search on-line for event insurance, or contact your local garden club, allotment group etc. It's likely that they'll have gone through the process and will be able to give advice and perhaps suggest a company.

Get insured - end of problem ?

Don't think that having open gardens insurance solves the universe - it won't. It will work in much the same way as house contents insurance - if you leave your back door unlocked and you get burgled, your insurance is worth nothing. Similarly, if you have that old mantrap at the end of the garden that you've been meaning to remove, and someone ends up trapped in it, it's likely that an insurance company will not look favourably at a claim.

The point is that you have to take reasonable measures to make your garden safe. That means removing the mantrap, and also that loose slab at the top of the steps, the rickety handrail near the pond, the old broken glass cold frame down by the shed .....

Whatever you do - do a safety audit / risk assessment

It's not rocket science. Get together two or three people from your group - you need the sort of people who have a practical eye - the sort of people who can spot a potential hazard or problem - the sort of people that you probably try to avoid at village functions. Go around each garden and look closely at the entire plot, noting anything that could be an issue. Don't miss out any areas such as behind the shed or down by the stream etc.

Note down any obvious problems, or potential issues, and resolve with the garden owner to fix them or isolate them during the open gardens event. Document this, and have in place a simple confirmation procedure which ensures that the garden can't be part of the scheme until the agreed changes are done.

It all sounds a little heavy-handed, but it needn't be. Garden owners will want to make their garden safe, and sometimes it's a welcome push to get those jobs done which they've been putting off for years.

The key things in all of this are to:

  • do your best to identify any potential problems
  • resolve them
  • document what you've done to resolve them.

Some things can't be fixed, eg the dangers associated with large ponds. In this case, make sure that your sign at the entrance to your garden makes it clear that one is present.

Don't forget to help parents to keep an eye on children - they can wander off in an eyeblink and your children may not read the "No Entry" sign by your shed.

Whatever you do - put up an information sign

We've done this ourselves and also seen it done at other events. Put up a laminated A3 notice at the entrance of each garden (or entrances if more than one) alerting people to what's in your garden. It needn't be heavy-handed, just politely reminding people of some of the minor hazards that might be encountered. Here are examples:

  • Uneven paving areas
  • Greenhouse glass / coldframes
  • Unprotected pond
  • Some poisonous plants/seeds
  • Riverbank or stream
  • (other ...)

You could also add the garden name/number, and the usual request to keep children under control.

No need to go mad - people won't sue you if they get pricked by a spiky yukka plant. If you laminate the notice, you can then ask each garden owner to use a spirit pen to tick the appropriate hazards that occur in their garden, so it becomes much more targeted and makes more sense. Leave a couple of blank lines for garden owners to specify any less common issues. Using a spirit pen then allows it to be cleaned and reused each year.

Here's an example document that you could adapt:

 Download  Word version | PDF version

That's all we can say really. If you have anything else to add to this from your own organising experience, feel free to contact us at Open Gardens. We'd value your input.

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 Open Gardens insurance - do you really need it?

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