The impact of Covid-19 on parks and gardens

Covid-19 has had a serious and immediate impact on the Gardens Trust, which is having to reconsider its busy programme of lectures and garden visits. It is also having to entirely review the support it offers to thousands of volunteers across the country, looking for ways to deliver its training remotely and for projects that the volunteers can carry out from the safety of their own homes. It is also extremely concerned about the impact of the Covid-19 situation on the UK’s historic parks and gardens.

Whether they are owned by large organisations, independent charities, or private families, many historic parks and gardens are critically dependent on the income generated by the forthcoming garden visiting season so decisions to close their gates to visitors cannot be taken lightly. Even if finances allow, it is not clear whether horticultural staff could and should be allowed to continue working on site at a safe distance. But we all know how quickly a designed landscape can be lost if it is not maintained, and the sizeable cost of bringing it back to order after a period of neglect.

It remains unclear how public parks, now more appreciated than ever for the fresh air and green space they offer to urban populations, will be affected. It doesn’t look as though grounds maintenance staff are considered critical, so they will be sent home. In addition, parks revenue will be hit by the loss of income from cafes, venue hire and sports facilities. Above and beyond that, local authorities will bear the brunt of the business rate holidays declared by central government: how will that affect grounds maintenance budgets?

We would encourage those holding the sector’s purse strings to consider how they can revise their funding programmes to help now rather than later when sites are struggling with debt and maintenance problems, and we encourage those who have a local park or garden that they would  normally be visiting to consider whether they might be able to make a donation to that site in lieu of an actual trip to admire the spring flowers.

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith