Spa park tops three million visitors in a year

A north Yorkshire park has seen more than three million visitors in the past year.

Councillors Richard Cooper and Phil Ireland with Michael Newby, parks staff, members of the Friends of Valley Gardens and pupils from Western Primary School
Councillors Richard Cooper and Phil Ireland with Michael Newby, parks staff, members of the Friends of Valley Gardens and pupils from Western Primary School

Valley Gardens in Harrogate had 3,151,852 visits – up 158,534 on 2013.

Since February 2012, Harrogate Borough Council’s parks team has been using an electronic counting device to record the number of visits made to the town’s gardens.

The Valley Gardens, along with an area known as the Pinewoods, covers 6.9 hectares of park, woodlands, and floral displays. The park also contains a greater number of mineral springs than any other known place on earth - with 36 of Harrogate’s 88 mineral wells found within the gardens.

The park also features historic buildings, such as the Sun Pavilion and Colonnades, a children’s play area, outdoor games facilities including tennis courts, pitch and putt, and crazy golf, a skate park, boating pool and the Magnesia Well Café. For music lovers, band concerts take place on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.

Visitors in 2014 were also able to enjoy the newly created rock and sensory garden, and see the restored Magnesia Well Pump Room.

The English Heritage Grade II listed park which was named by RHS Britain in Bloom as the country’s favourite park in 2009, received further plaudits in 2014 when Harrogate scooped Gold in the Small City category at the RHS Britain in Bloom UK awards.

Judges commented that "visitors to Harrogate are left in no doubt that this is a floral town. Beds, baskets and the Valley Gardens create an outstanding display".

Harrogate Borough Council leader councillor Richard Cooper said: "The Valley Gardens and Pinewoods are the green jewel in our floral crown. They are award winners and a magnet for tourists, local walkers and young people. It is always a pleasure to walk in the Gardens and Pinewoods and see so many people there. The Valley Gardens is a major factor contributing to Harrogate's special character."

Cooper said the sites were not successful by accident, adding that they were so attractive "because of the work of the council parks team who, week in and week out, maintain and improve them.

"I also pay tribute to the outstanding work of the Friends of Valley Gardens who do a magnificent job in partnership with the council team. Maintaining and improving the gardens happens because of that community and council partnership. The new visitor figures show that it is a partnership that has been given over three million thumbs-ups in the past year."

Cabinet member for the Environment, Transport and External Affairs Councillor Phil Ireland, said: "It is great to see that the number of visitors coming and enjoying the gardens is increasing, and is a testament to all the hard work undertaken by the parks grounds staff."

Director of Visit Harrogate Michael Newby said that gardens across the district were seeing an increase in visitor numbers.

"RHS Garden Harlow Carr has seen a 30 per cent growth in visitors over the last four years, while Newby Hall and Studley Royal have also seen some significant increases."

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