Thursday, 29 January 2009

Garden Visiting

Day visiting by residents is the biggest area of tourism in the UK with 870 million tourist days spent per year. This was first popular in Victorian times when the advent of the railways enabled ordinary working men and women to go out for day trips. Garden visiting is one of the most popular activities for the ‘day-out’ which is such a part of English Family life. In the crowded cities, most people have small gardens and live in close proximity to their neighbours. By visiting a garden they get the benefits of the countryside, fresh air, pleasant surroundings but without any risk. They have the security of the being in a safe environment among other people, but without any need to interact with them. They know they are entitled to be there as they are members or have paid their fee and there is the comfort and confidence of nearby facilities, - toilets, restaurants. Gardens evolve throughout the year, so visiting in different seasons gives different experiences. Many gardens now stress their environmental credentials by having wildflower and wildlife habitats. These all contribute to the visitors feeling of well-being and of taking part in a worthwhile activity. Many of the great gardens have substantial visitor numbers. For example Wisley , the home of the Royal Horticultural Society - 800,000, Kew gardens and Wakehurst Place (housing the Millenium seed bank) joint visitor numbers of 1,900,000 .

Alton Towers

Alton Towers has 2.7 million visitors a year. It started life as an attraction in 1814 when the owner developed the garden in the ‘picturesque’ style, by filling it with a collection of foreign buildings – a greek monument, roman colonnade, gothic temple, greek temple, a Chinese pagoda, fountains , grottos and many other decorative features.. These were sited in a bare valley and planted with sapling trees. John Loudon a noted horticulturist of the time said it was ‘ in excessively bad taste…the mark of a morbid imagination joined to the command of unlimited resources’
150 years on the trees have grown up around the buildings and mellowed them and the park is home to a new collection of bizarre buildings , forming the Alton Towers theme park. The attractions are mainly aimed at teenagers on day visits, although the site has been trying to appeal to families more without losing its attraction to the younger thrill-seeking audience. The fanzine website of Alton Towers claims it is considering cloud-seeding as a way of controlling the climate and giving visitors a perfect day out weatherwise. If true, this would be the ultimate in manipulating the environment in pursuit of profits.
Arthur Hellyer 1980 Gardens of genius Hamlyn page 31

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