Ryton Gardens update – February 2018

In September last year we sent a letter, with the Organic Way magazine, to all members informing them of the Board of Trustees decision to explore options for our headquarters at Ryton. We are looking to secure the long-term future of the charity and release the financial pressures from owning and managing the land and buildings. We also sent a letter to the relatives of people who have memorials on the site and contacted groups who use the gardens regularly.

As part of the exercise to understand what future options the organisation has, the site is being marketed by property advisors, Bruton Knowles, with expressions of interest requested this week. Over the weeks following the Trustees will be considering any expressions of interest and will start to discuss proposals with interested parties. Discussions could take the form of a full sale, a partial sale, a partnership or otherwise – it is simply too early to tell.

The Board of Trustees will evaluate the options available on the merit of their ability to protect the future of the charity. They will be considering all elements of our charitable work to ensure we are in a position of strength to continue and expand the work which delivers the most charitable benefit, both to our members and our project beneficiaries.

As members will be aware, Garden Organic is a national charity with a mission to encourage people to grow organically. We have over 20,000 members across the UK who access information and advice from our website, magazines and newsletters, and through our outreach work. At our base at Ryton we have an organic demonstration garden open to the public, plus a number of buildings which we manage.

In recent years, it has become clear to the Trustees of the charity that the running costs of the full site at Ryton are limiting our ability to operate to our full potential. The site is expensive to run and means that we are unable to fund as many projects as we would like in other parts of the country where we believe we could make a real difference. In addition visitor numbers to the site have dropped as there are many different sites across the country where organic gardening can be seen in practice and many television programmes, magazines, online resources, etc. promoting organic gardening. 

We currently undertake some outreach work using our amazing volunteer Master Composters, Master Gardeners, Growing Buddies and Food Buddies to support individuals, community gardens, schools and horticultural therapy projects at grassroots level across the UK. Our Heritage Seed Library is also going from strength to strength, with the support of our volunteer Seed Guardians, and we are building partnerships with venues to grow and display varieties with local and historical relevance. We would like to do much more of this outreach work, which spreads the organic message far and wide.

Garden Organic has had to evolve many different times since it began. It is this willingness to move forward that has allowed the organisation to continue for 60 years, and will put it in the best position to continue for 60 more.

We will continue to provide updates via our website and The Organic Way, however if you have any comments or questions on this in the meantime please email questions@gardenorganic.org.uk.

Read the January 2018 update.

Read the September 2017 update.