Watch your back! Charlie Dimmock talks about sunscreen and answers The Questions

I was approached to see if I would help promote the campaign that Charlie Dimmock is fronting urging gardeners and particularly male gardeners in their 50s to check their sunscreen habits.  Charlie Dimmock says; “gardening is a wonderful pastime and getting active outdoors is a positively healthy thing to do at any age, however we ALL need to be more aware of the dangers of the sun. Men especially can be reluctant when it comes to applying sunscreen, visiting their doctor or checking their skin for signs of change. With this attitude not only do we all risk melanoma, but all other sun related cancers”.   More information on this can be found here:

There are going to be a series of 'Watch Your Back Clinics being hosted at some garden centres, please check local press for details.  The first ones start on Saturday 30th April 2016.
I have to admit that I could not resist asking Charlie a cheeky favour (on the premise that if you don't ask you don't get) and she very kindly agreed to answer The Questions.  

The Questions
In which garden do you feel happiest?
My own, there's something lovely and relaxing about pottering.
If you could only have five gardening tools, which would they be?
I'm taking this to be hand tools.....! So a good pair of secateurs, a border fork, a combination hand hoe, a rake and a folding pruning saw.
If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?
 This is going to be broad brush strokes - a good reference book like RHS encyclopaedia of plants and gardening, plant catalogues - covering all - so seeds, bulbs, trees, perennials, shrubs etc. that I get annually.  And a couple of big 'coffee table' books with beautiful pictures of gardens and plants from all round the world.
What are you most proud of?
I don't know about proud.... but meeting Nelson Mandela was pretty amazing and very, very special.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I don't know, nothing too outrageous (sorry), I'm quite sensible really .... out friends and family financially, pay off my mortgage that type of thing. 
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)
My grandad, Jim Saunders and I have to say Mr Titchmarsh – Alan was so lovely encouraging and helpful to Tommy and I when we were doing Ground Force – he gave us lots of advice and help especially when it came to the TV side of things.
What skill would you like to learn and why (does not have to be gardening related)
I would love to be able to sew/knit/crochet well – I really enjoy doing craft type projects when I have time and for me those skills are a little lacking to say the least!
If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
Gardens by the Bay – Singapore, I was out there last year and unfortunately only had 4 hours there which was nowhere near enough time, I only managed to do the biomes and that was at a rush – so next time (if there is one) I’d love to spread it out over 3-4 days making sure I’m not rushed and its broken up into sections otherwise it gets a bit too overwhelming.
What is your current plant obsession?
Succulents, annual climbers and growing flowering plants in the veg patch so I can cut them for the house without feeling guilty.
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?
Secateurs – I do end up using them for many jobs that they are not designed for, opening tins of paint etc., cutting wire/string, tightening up screws, opening bags of potting compost etc.  Needless to say most of my secateurs have damaged blades.
What do you wish you could do better?
Writing – I get asked to write articles, tips, blogs and such like and I find it a real chore, so tend to put it off until the last minute which then leads to it being even more like hard work.
What makes a perfect day for you?
Being at home on a lovely sunny spring day, spending time in the garden pottering, while drinking lots of tea and listening to Radio 4, going out for a late lunch at a local pub with mates and then spending the afternoon/early evening sat in the garden wrapped up warm reading a book.
Gnome or no-gnome?
Personally- some gnomes yes, some gnomes no, at the end of the day you put what makes you happy in your own garden – I do have gnomes in my garden – they’re not painted just stone and they have a little humour to them.

and finally, this is the ten point Gardeners Sun Safety Code: 

1.       Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 and a sunblock on your ears and lips. Re-apply both every hour or so as their effects will be reduced by sunlight.
2.       Limit time spent outside in sunny weather and try and stay out of direct sunlight between 11.00am and 4.00pm.
3.       Wear clothing that protects arms, legs and hands – ideally choose a UVP branded product as this will offer higher protection.  Remember that not all colours provide the same amount of protection; wear darker colours as these will stop more of the sun’s rays than lighter colours.
4.       Plan gardening activities in advance during hot, sunny weather.  Set time aside to do indoor or shed tasks between 10am and 2pmwhen the sun is at its very hottest.
5.       If you are prone to sweating, choose a highly water resistant sunscreen; I recommend the type sportspeople wear.
6.       Don’t forget your sunscreen on overcast days; dangerous UVA and UVB rays still make their way through the clouds and dramatically increase the risk of developing melanoma.
7.       Sunscreens do not offer 100% protection and should be used in addition to protective clothing. 
8.       When working in a greenhouse or conservatory, glass will not offer you protection from harmful rays.
9.       The shade offers protection but you are still in danger of ‘reflective radiation’ so ensure that your skin is protected, wherever you are in the garden.
10.    Your forehead, scalp and ears are high risk areas for melanoma, and even more so if you are bald or have thinning hair so don a suitable hat with a legionnaire flap at the back. This will also protect your hair from drying out and becoming brittle too.


  1. I read the heading for the last list as "Gun Safety Code" and thought, "Good Grief, Charlie!". Great piece, thank you.

    1. Oh my - that would be a very different campaign!

  2. It's a good campaign Charlie is doing. I confess when I first moved to the UK from Oz I didn't think I'd need sunscreen again, but I have learnt that you can easily get burnt if you are outside on a sunny 15 degrees day. Now i wear sunfactor 60 (I have very pale skin).

    I'm with Charlie on the secateurs. They would be a desert island item.

    1. I would be lost without my secateurs too & I also mistreat them dreadfully!

      I always wear sunscreen - usually sf30

  3. Hurrah for this! My dad died from melanoma when I was 7 years old. Needless to say, I always protect my skin when I'm gardening. Gardeners can't always choose to spend certain hours in the shade or the shed, but at least we can follow the rest of the advice and give ourselves the best chance of avoiding this hideous cancer.

    1. That is a very sad thing to happen. I agree, following the advice is really important.


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