£4.8m for new projects at RHS Wisley
There is much excitement in the world of horticulture after RHS Wisley was awarded a £4.8m lottery grant. The grant was given from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is to be used by the RHS to: “further enhance its flagship garden, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.”
£4.8m is a lot of money!
Is sure is, but … only £121,000 has been handed over to begin with. This figure is designed to enable the RHS to develop plans and then to apply for the full amount. They will need to apply within the next two years.
Will £4.8m cover the whole project?
Unfortunately not. The projected total is thought to be around £65m.
“Wisley is such an important site in the history of plants and gardens – a superb setting for some rare and fascinating plant specimens along with thousands of books, artifacts and photographs. This project will help build on the traditions of the place to reach out and attract new visitors and ensure people come here to learn about and enjoy horticulture for many years to come.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East
What is the plan for the money?
- To “further develop the historic garden as the home of horticulture, including restoring its Grade II listed Laboratory to open it to the public for the first time and the creation of a new centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, which will disseminate horticultural research and learning nationwide”.
- To pay for the ground floor of a whole new centre design for learning and science in horticulture
- The new centre will include an atrium and events space
- New facilities for the herbarium, which is already considered to be of national importance.
- Three ‘Future Gardens’
In the current herbarium, there are in excess of 80,000 specimens. These are plants that are considered to be of national and historical importance. One of the most notable specimens is a lavender specimen that was originally collected in 1731 by Charles Darwin on an expedition on his ship, The Beagle. If RHS Wisley is successful in gaining the full grant amount, the hope will be to continue with the preservation of this wonderful collection and to digitise the specimens for future generations. This injection of money into the specimen preservation will hopefully mean that greater numbers of exhibitions will be able to be held for the public. The collection also currently holds 23,000 specimens of insect which will also receive the same treatment should the grant in be received in full.
There are plans already in place for the design and implementation of three new gardens at RHS Wisley. These are planned to have the themes of:
- Gardens as Nature Reserves
- Health and Wellbeing
- World Kitchen Garden
“We are absolutely delighted to receive this initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a strong endorsement of our plans to celebrate Wisley’s historical and horticultural significance, as well as making it a garden that is vibrant and relevant for the future. Our ambitious programme of fundraising still continues apace but this is a significant and joyous step forward in seeing our plans come to fruition.”
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General
Why Wisley, why now?
Interest in gardening and the natural history of the British Isles is seeing a real resurgence. RHS Wisley has seen their visitor numbers increase over the last decade from 750,000 visits per year to well over a million. These new plans are all part of a wider vision from the RHS to ‘enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.’
Let’s hope that RHS Wisley can achieve the full grant, and more, to see their plans achieved and a wonderful garden and resources preserved for generations to come.