The Duchess of Northumberland is back at the helm of The Alnwick Garden even more determined than ever to complete the project.
But she admitted to the Gazette that a five-year experiment bringing the garden and castle under one management umbrella had not worked.
“There has been a perfectly amicable split between the castle and the garden.
“We realised they are two such different attractions with such different values,” she said.
“One is a private business and one is a community charitable enterprise and having watched it for five years being run by one person trying to tick both boxes, it is very, very difficult.”
The re-organisation at the twin attractions was cemented last month with the departure of David Ronn, whose role as managing director at the castle and garden was made redundant.
“For any visitor attraction to work well, it needs to have competition,” said the Duchess.
“You should not be worried about that, you should see it as a challenge.
“So we now have new garden offices, a good strong team, sales and marketing consultants who have come out of retirement from Bourne Leisure [owners of Butlins, Haven and WarnerLeisure Hotels].
“It’s amazing what is happening already,” said the Duchess. “I’m tremendously excited.”
As part of a new vision for the future, the Duchess is looking to franchise out more areas of the garden. On Friday, Ramside Catering from County Durham took over the food and drinks provision at the Pavilion and other parts of the Garden, with plans for a retro ice-cream van and other outlets.
“We always knew the garden would have to be commercial to fund its charitable output, which is what it’s all about, and to be sustainable long-term.”
Not only will there be competition between the two attractions, there will be competition within the Garden itself, with night-time dining in the Pavilion going head-to-head with meal offers at the Treehouse.
“I am passionate about the garden and its role in
the community and this is the start of a new and exciting phase for us,” said the Duchess.
In recent years, there has been a joint ticketing arrangement for the attactions but this is currently under review, with details to be announced soon.