Garden attractions lead the way in visitor growth in 2014, latest figures show

Upturn in visitor numbers to gardens in 2014 to date attributed to good weather as well as events and initiatives at venues.

Howick Hall: increase in visitors
Howick Hall: increase in visitors

Gardens are outstripping all other attractions for visitor growth compared with last year, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has found.

They have seen a 16 per cent rise so far in 2014 compared with four per cent for museums and galleries and six per cent for heritage sites and cathedrals.

ALVA director Bernard Donoghue attributed the upturn to good weather as well as events and initiatives at the gardens. "It's a great boost and recognition of considerable effort in making sure that the UK's leading gardens are seen by the public as 'must-visit days out' and that visitor experience gets better and better," he said.

Media attention may also be contributing to the trend with World War One centenary coverage bringing more visitors to National Trust sites such as Dunham Massey, which was converted to a military hospital during the war. The trust's overall visitor numbers are up nine per cent from March to June and properties with strong garden and outdoor offers are the most improved.

A representative said: "We saw particularly strong increases in visits during March and April resulting from much more favourable weather this year. Properties with strong garden and outdoor offers have tended to see the strongest increase."

Howick Hall Gardens has seen visitor numbers rise by 30 per cent (6,000) after appearing on Robson Green's Tales from Northumberland programme on ITV. Kew director Richard Deverell hopes the series Plants: From Roots to Riches on BBC Radio 4 will "spark interest" and improve on their already four-to-five per cent increase in visitor numbers this year.

RHS VISITOR RECORD

"We've welcomed a record 907,651 visitors to RHS gardens in the first half of 2014, up by 14 per cent from last year, showing how RHS gardens continue to be great destinations for fun days out, providing horticulture inspiration, fantastic events and enjoyment for our visitors." - RHS representative.


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