After I published my previous post on a visit to Garden Organic at Ryton, near Coventry, several people have been good enough to let me know that the gardens owned by the charity have been put up for sale in a somewhat secretive and subversive process. It’s an action which has shocked and which many find beggars belief!
First, I have to say massive thanks to those who flagged up the Garden Organic Trustee’s action to me. Living near Leeds, some hundred plus miles from Coventry, word had not filtered through. Exactly I suspect as intended by the Trustees! It would seem that the 20,000 members of Garden Organic – whose subscriptions have presumably been maintaining the gardens up to now – were informed of the ‘for sale’ action late last year through an innocuous looking letter which didn’t mention the word ‘sale’!
None the less it seems the garden were put into the hands of land agents, Bruton Knowles, in January this year with an instruction to find parties interested in taking them over. All options were said to be still on the table, but an outright sale for ‘development’ definitely not ruled out. Expressions of interest were requested by Bruton Knowles by 15th February – yes lots of time for everyone to think about it!
Those expressions of interest are now being considered by Garden Organic trustees and those of interest worked up into more detailed plans. It would seem that the charity has struggled to control the costs of maintaining the gardens, and hence the extraordinary decision to seek to dispose of them. Such are the levels of openness and imagination that have been applied, that no ideas have been floated or discussed with members. The best the trustees can do is to invite those with potential interests to submit expressions of commercial interest! Surely when an operation gets into trouble, the last people to have any real inclination of how to get out of that trouble are the ones who oversaw its creation in the first place! Is that not what we have here?
Whilst personally, I would never be able to subscribe to preservation for the sake of preservation – we live in an ever-changing world that is underlyingly wonderfully dynamic – surely when a heritage such as that which is represented by Ryton Gardens is involved, every effort must be made to creativity evolve that heritage into a new form. Bunging something up for sale should be an anathema. But then, I’m not a trustee of Garden Organic! With the ashes of founder Lawrence Hills scattered at Ryton, words fail to describe their action.
So…..OK, sale of Ryton is not the biggest issue the world currently faces. But, the mindset and thought process which seem to have gone into the action is surely symptomatic of that which has caused so many problems we currently face. The trustees having accepted responsibility for the legacy of Ryton, should be ashamed of themselves. It is beyond belief that literally none of them are prepared to make a stand and say an imaginative, forward-looking, transparent and community-supported answer MUST be found which takes the gardens forward as a financially viable operation whilst building on the of the heritage to be currently found their. Surely that is not too much to ask, is it?