Alnwick Garden, in the North East of England, has toasted one of its best ever years after good summer weather attracted record numbers of visitors.
A busy events calendar throughout the seasons and the arrival of leading leisure operators to take over its catering, helped to boost income from admissions to £2.545m, up from £2.506m, at the gardens, which have now been open for 18 years.
More than 7,000 tickets were sold for its Christmas light show and 1,700 for its first ever Halloween evening show.
Highlights for the year included the official opening of the Elderberries drop in centre by HRH The Prince of Wales, as well as a big award win when it scooped the North East tourism large attraction accolade.
The garden also welcomed the arrival of Searcys, a UK leading caterer, which took over the Treehouse restaurant and Pavilion cafe and also opened a bakery.
Searcys is famed in London for its luxury venues, including St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar and the restaurant and bar at the top of the Gherkin skyscraper. Coming to Alnwick marked a homecoming of sorts for the catering business.
Searcys was originally founded in 1847 by John Searcy, the confectioner and pastry chef to the Duke of Northumberland. Wanting to spread his wings beyond Alnwick Castle he revealed his plans to the Duke and Duchess and they loaned him the funds to get the venture off the ground.
Accounts published by the trust show how income from admissions, including friends and gift aid takings, have increased by 23% in the last three years, with the group’s reserves also increasing to £13.8m.
Total incoming resources rose to £5.179m from £5.099m, while total resources expended dropped to £6.193m from £6.213m.
In the trustees report by chairman Jonathan Blackie, he reveals that recent research calculated that the Alnwick Garden has contributed £282m to the local econony since its inception, £120m of which has been spent on local suppliers.
The report by Mr Blackie continues: “This year was one of the best ever. We welcomed a significant increase in visitors during the long, hot summer.
“We also attracted a record number to our Christmas and Halloween events, and in both summer and winter The Garden never looked better.
“Jane, Duchess of Northumbeland, continues to inspire us to extend and complete The Garden.
“We are grateful for support from Northumberland County Council , both in gaining planning permission for the new play area Lilidorei, and helpung is to be included in the new Borderlands Growth Deal.
“We have agreed with Northumberland Estates to extend our lease to 2047 and we are considering how we will improve our infrastructure for visitors across the site.”
“As always we appreciate the advice and backing from the Duke of Northumberland and Northumberland Estates and the town and traders of Alnwick.”
Following the publication of the accounts, director Mark Brassell said: “It has been a fantastic year for The Alnwick Garden, and the team and I are very happy with what we’ve achieved.
“Our commercial success this year has allowed us to significantly expand our social impact across the Region through increasing our resources within the Community and Education team who deliver on our charitable vision.
“This has included expanding existing services to reach more people than ever before who benefit from our provision, as well as implementing new programmes, one of these being our Drugs Education prevention project, working with children and young people across the county.
“Through its expansion, putting support in communities and responding to needs, The Alnwick Garden Trust has really demonstrated how we are a pro-active charity organisation and we look forward to expanding further reaching those who need support the most over the coming years.
“Our Halloween and Christmas offer this year proved a resounding success, engaging, attracting and interacting with new audiences. Feedback has been wonderful and gives us the drive to achieve bigger and better next year to meet public demand.
“We very much look forward to 2020 – being our 20th anniversary of the first spade in the ground – as we look ahead to what further innovation, charitable programmes and new and engaged audiences will bring to The Alnwick Garden Trust.”
Originally published in BusinessLive.