A garden in which horticultural attractions, live music, theatre and a diversity of organised events are delivered stands a good chance of encouraging return visits.
A visitor experience that gives value for money is one thing, but I also applaud The Alnwick Garden for the way it has extended the charitable aspect and engaged with a broad spectrum of the community.
Through the highly successful Elderberries programme it is addressing the issues of loneliness, isolation and poverty experienced by elderly people living in the county. Current choices include a clinic café, pilates, zumba, tea dances, drop in activities, a pen-pal service and treatments (foot care, facials and manicures). These sessions are well attended.
The Gentleman’s Garden offers allotment sections, where clients come and tend for two hours each week. George, the senior gardener in charge of activities, tells me they are so keen that they always want to stay longer. Last week he was constructing a hen pen, the latest addition, and eagerly anticipating the arrival of chicks. They will certainly be a hit with all clients.
This and several other community activities are based in the Roots and Shoots Garden, which is overseen by senior gardener Clare and open to the public on a daily basis. There’s a heritage apple collection, observation beehives and flagged pathways offering access to the vegetable beds, even an honesty box for any excess produce.
Local and urban schools beyond the county adopt and cultivate the dedicated allotment areas over several visits throughout the growing season, culminating in a display of their produce. In the process they are absorbing aspects of healthy eating and lifestyle.
Blooming Well offers adults with early onset dementia or memory loss therapeutic gardening and wellbeing activities.
Forget Me Not provides short breaks for children with disabilities. They are accompanied by their families in a safe and stimulating environment. You should see their shared garden area and the joy they get from it. Long may these important projects continue.