Anxious volunteers call public meeting to 'safeguard' Harrogate's Valley Gardens

Part of the damaged grass in the Valley Gardens.
Part of the damaged grass in the Valley Gardens.

Reassurances from both council and organisers have failed to allay the fears of volunteers who cherish and protect Harrogate's beautiful Valley Gardens.

The normally mild-mannered Friends of Valley Gardens are organising an open meeting about the park's future in the aftermath of The StrEat Food and Family Fun Festival.

The event, the first of its kind in Harrogate, proved hugely popular but major patches of grass were damaged forcing Harrogate Borough Council's small team of gardeners to fence them off and reseed them.

After the Friends called for the event to be moved next year, Harrogate Borough Council, which licences such events, said they were determined to put measures in place to prevent any future harm to the Valley Gardens.

But FOVG remain so concerned that they have now called an open meeting to discuss how the Valley Gardens are to be used in future in light of the council's expressed intention to support the growth of more such popular events.

To be held at Brostoff Hall on Thursday, October 20, the public meeting will be chaired by former Harrogate Mayor Jim Clark.

Chairman of Friends Of Valley Gardens Jane Blayney said: "There has been much written in letters received by the Harrogate Advertiser about the state of the Valley Gardens as the result of the StrEat Food Fest.

"The event was a large event and was enjoyed by thousands of people. But many have expressed their concern not over the success of the event but the suitability of Valley Gardens to host this format and size of event.

"The key is the community must have their say on the Valley Gardens’ usage for large events, on this beautiful area.

"I feel strongly that an ‘Open to All’ meeting will give an opportunity for everyone to voice their opinion. It is community land and the community must have their say."

Organised by Harrogate businesswoman Cathy McConaghy of StrEat PR, it is estimated the StrEat Food Festival attracted 110,000 people over four days at the August bank holiday.

Harrogate Borough Council confirmed they were in discussions regarding the StrEat Food Festival coming back next year but a decision had not yet been made.

Coun Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council said: “Harrogate is developing an enviable reputation for the diversity and quality of events that are held within the town.

“Whilst, feedback from people attending the festival has been very positive, it is important that we consider how we can address any issues that arose, such as how we can minimise any damage to the gardens for any future events. “

“We are committed to working closely with event organisers to consider potential issues and how to address any issues which arise as soon as possible."

The Friends of Valley Gardens is a charity whose unpaid volunteers work tirelessly to improve and safeguard the park for all the town to enjoy.

For example, The Friends are currently working on a funding application for the restoration of the gates at Green Park Entrance to be known in future as the King Edward VIIth Memorial Gate

Two weeks ago, the group also lodged an application for £92K for the restoration of the Japanese Garden in the Valley Gardens.

The Friends have also recently launched a Heritage Tour of the Valley Gardens for scores of local schoolchildren with volunteers showing pupils round its highlights and giving its history.

For further information on the open meeting and FOVG, contact Jane Blayney, chairman of Friends Of Valley Gardens, at 07794583888 or visit the web site