CHESHIRE’S Gardens of Distinction project 2008 has been hailed a major success.
Independent evaluation shows the county’s Year of Gardens 08 project exceeded targets by 800%.
It aimed to involve 2,200 participants and more than 8,000 took part in 88 activities that attracted more than 40,000 people.
The programme was developed by Visit Chester & Cheshire in partnership with Cheshire County Council, the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), Rural Enterprise and Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction.
VCC reported that its gross economic impact target of £15.1 million had been achieved at £15.3 million.
An independent evaluation by Arts About Manchester also revealed across-the-board increases on all targets, including an eight-fold rise on estimated PR value from the programme, from £250,000 to £2 million.
During 2008 more than 4,000 volunteer days were recorded, with an estimated value of £400,000, and £45,000 worth of grants were awarded to support community projects.
The CYOG arts programme involved 136 artists, 200 education sessions at schools, and more than 2,800 participants – and reached an audience of 1.4 million.
Chris Brown, chief executive of Visit Chester & Cheshire, said: “We’ve demonstrated that innovative thinking and creative partnerships can generate significant benefits for the local economy.”
Attracting more than 346,000 visitors – organisers are convinced these increases are a direct result of the partnership between Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction and organisations big and small across the country.
Lord Ashbrook, owner of Arley Hall and Gardens, added: “Cheshire Year of Gardens 08 has been a really exciting initiative which has made a real contribution to tourism in Cheshire and has thereby greatly benefited the local economy generally.
“We at Arley Hall and Gardens have been proud to be associated with it and I much hope the momentum can be maintained in the coming years.
Felicity Goodey, chairwoman of the year of gardens steering group, added: “The economic impact of the campaign has surpassed all our expectations. But even better has been the impact on an astonishing number of communities up and down the county.
“People of all ages and from all over Cheshire have taken part in an array of garden-related activities and made the most unlikely corners of the county ‘bloom’ in a delightful variety of unexpected ways.”
Award-winning garden designer and broadcaster Chris Beardshaw played an integral role in last year’s project.
He said: “This was an inspired initiative and among all the benefits reaped, including increased tourism and economic growth.
“It is clear that the gardens in the Cheshire region are now making a unified approach and starting to present themselves not just for now but into the future.
NWDA director of tourism James Berresford added: “This was a remarkable success for the sub-region and a great example of what can be achieved through effective partnerships, not just between the organising bodies but the 60 business that participated.”