The Windlesham Trophy, first awarded in 1983, is presented by the gardening charity each year to the best kept prison garden in England and Wales.
Dartmoor, previously a runner-up in 2018, won the award for the first time, beating nine other prison gardens in a tightly-fought competition.
RHS judges were impressed with the very high quality of entries this year, following the postponement of the competition in 2020.
The judges singled out Dartmoor Prison’s biodiversity, plant propagation and creative design for praise and were particularly impressed by the gardening team’s ability to work within confined spaces and against a challenging climatic backdrop.
Gardeners at Dartmoor have installed planters and raised beds to transform the 200-year-old prison and bring colour to previously austere yards. The gardens supply an extensive range of vegetables to the kitchens allowing the prison to be partially self-sufficient.
There is also a significant focus on wildlife with ponds and grassed areas left to grow wild. A hibernaculum for reptiles and amphibians, and insect hotel have been created from recycled materials providing winter homes and breeding sites, and an apiary contains Cornish Black bees.
A sensory garden has also been built to support everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.
RHS Head Judge Jon Wheatley said: “The wonderful gardens display quality horticulture and management that shows excellence, commitment and teamwork throughout. There is a whole-team ethos at Dartmoor that is clearly evident as soon as you enter and was described by one inmate as a life-changing learning and working experience.
“Crop production is diverse and of a very high quality. It is also a huge credit to everyone involved to have cultivated such high quality gardens.
“The many values of gardening and horticulture that inspired Lord Windlesham to establish the trophy are clearly there to see at Dartmoor.”
HM Prison Dartmoor Governor Steve Mead added: “I am extremely proud of the fantastic work our prisoners do. Dartmoor was built over 200 years ago during the Napoleonic Wars. Working with very old infrastructure and challenging environmental conditions, our prisoners have transformed the site into an attractive, colourful and reflective space among the moorland.
“Winning the Windlesham Trophy is a huge achievement and an acknowledgement of the dedication and effort shown by the gardening team. Congratulations to them all.”
RHS Community Development Manager Kay Clark commented: “Gardening and green space are important for everyone’s health and wellbeing, but this importance is greatly amplified in a custodial setting. The gardeners at Dartmoor have worked hard to make the prison a better place to be for all the prisoners, staff and visitors. They have shown great accomplishment, and everyone at the RHS congratulates them on their victory.”
Additional photographs available upon request.