A unique and ‘world’s first’ attraction will be installed at The Alnwick Garden, as the Duchess of Northumberland eyes completion of the project.
And visitor numbers are on the increase at the iconic and globally-renowned destination, which is celebrating its 15th birthday.
The Duchess, who two decades ago had the vision to create The Garden, feels the time is finally right to finish her ambitious creation.
With a strong team in place and with visitors numbers rising, she believes The Garden is in a strong position, and there are some exciting developments in the pipeline.
The Duchess said: “The Alnwick Garden, like any other attraction, has been through ups and downs – it’s been a bit of an obstacle race – but we’ve come through every time.
“Things are going really well here now and I am confident that The Garden is in better health than it has ever been, with excellent senior management in place. This allows me, for the first time in the past six years, to concentrate on fund-raising, designing and building to complete The Garden and to finalise designs.
“Many people assume The Garden is finished, but there is so much more to come.
“I have the support of excellent trustees and a fund-raising consultant and I believe that it is now possible to complete The Alnwick Garden according to the original vision.
“I can’t go into too much detail yet, but we are working on installing something which has never been seen before.
“It will be an attraction within an attraction and there is nothing quite like it in the world – it is unique.”
The recently-published Annual Review 2016 shows that paying visitor numbers increased by 16 per cent, compared to the previous year, with 259,879 visitors in 2014/15 and 302,206 in 2015/16 and well over half-a-million visitors across the site.
The new Garden of Fairy Tales installation attracted 37,926 visitors, while the production of A Christmas Tale, in partnership with Enchanted Places, attracted more than 7,000 visitors in the lead-up to Christmas 2015.
The Garden has generated a cash surplus of almost £594,000 this year and much of this has been reinvested in the capital refurbishment plan and to fund The Garden’s charitable programmes. This included structural work at The Treehouse and under the Grand Cascade.
Since opening in 2001, The Garden has welcomed 5.143million paying visitors.
This footfall can be nearly doubled when taking into account non-paying visitors through the shop and Treehouse restaurant.
According to the annual review, The Garden has contributed £236.8million to the local economy since its inception. Of this, £115million has been spent directly with local suppliers. In 2015, The Garden employed the equivalent of 123 full-time employees.
Thousands of people have also benefitted from the attraction’s charitable programmes, which are aimed at children, the elderly and enterprising young people.
Garden director Mark Brassell said: “In the 15 years since opening to the public, never have we witnessed such a well-rounded success across the board. We have exceeded our financial goals, welcomed more visitors than previous years and breathed new life into many areas of The Garden.”