ONE of Britain’s leading organic gardens will remain open to the public – albeit on a limited basis – after it was sold to Coventry University.
Ryton Organic Gardens, which has been based in Ryton-on-Dunsmore for more than 30 years, has been bought by the university for over £2.3million.
The site faced possible closure when charity Garden Organic put it up for sale in early 2018 because it was too expensive to run, with annual visitor numbers down from 30,000 to 8,000 in the space of eight years.
The charity said the sale of the 22-acre site will ‘protect and enhance’ its long-term future.
Garden Organic will remain as a tenant and continue to open the gardens to the public for free – albeit only on open days which the charity says will take place ‘throughout the year’.
The gardens will close to the public on September 29 so that a new, smaller organic demonstration garden can be created on land leased by the charity, due to open next spring.
Garden Organic will continue to manage the new demonstration garden and the existing Heritage Seed Library growing area.
Those with memorials to loved ones onsite will still be able to visit by prior appointment with the university.
Garden Organic’s Chief Executive, James Campbell, said he was delighted at the sale.
He said: “Running costs of Ryton were limiting our abilities to operate to our full potential.
“Ryton has special significance to Garden Organic and our loyal supporters so I am pleased we still have an ongoing presence at the site.
“This change signifies a new and exciting era for Garden Organic, opening up opportunities for us to deliver organic growing advice in more ways to reach thousands of our members across the UK.
“It means we will have the resources to support more local groups and organisations, increase our campaigning and invest further in our member experiments and Heritage Seed Library.
“We have a rich 40-year history with Coventry University which has seen us collaborate on important research on organic farming, sustainable agriculture and horticulture. We are looking forward to finding new ways of working together in future to strengthen our relationship.”
Coventry University’s deputy vice-chancellor for research Professor Richard Dashwood said: “We have worked closely with Garden Organic for 40 years and I’m pleased that they will continue to operate from the site.
“Our focus is to sustain and strengthen research at Ryton through our Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, whose work helps to promote food and water security internationally.”
Chris Pampling, chair of the Friends of Ryton Organic Gardens group, welcomed the university’s commitment to respect the terms of an Asset of Community Value designation granted by Rugby Council in 2018, which protects the site from development.
She added: “We have a meeting to discuss this next Monday (September 16), after we have spoken to James Campbell to discuss what the announcement means.
“We look forward to working with both Coventry University and Garden Organic in whatever way we can in the future.”
Coventry University has now taken ownership of the site and is currently in talks with tenants about its ongoing management.
Garden Organic’s Board of Trustees confirmed funds raised by the sale will be placed in an ethical investment fund to be used on projects to further the aims of the organisation.
Garden Organic members will be sent an email and a letter updating them on the sale. Visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk/ryton-gardens for more information.