Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University's Botanic Garden Is to Close; Announcement Is a Shock to Academics

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University's Botanic Garden Is to Close; Announcement Is a Shock to Academics

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor ? 0191 201 6224 ? tony.henderson@ncjmedia.co.uk

A CITY'S only botanic garden is to close in what is its 90th year, and only months after it secured a cash boost from lottery funds.

Newcastle University, which leases the four-acre Moorbank botanic garden off Claremont Road from the city's Freemen, will not renew the agreement.

Moorbank's grounds and its desert house and tropical glasshouses house important plant collections.

Around 2,000 adults visit each year on open days and almost 1,000 youngsters on educational visits.

In February, the garden was awarded a PS12,200 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to prepare a bid which would have seen Moorbank open to the public on a regular basis.

Moorbank was described by Ivor Crowther, head of the HLF in the North East, as a "wonderful hidden garden".

Over the last five years it has reached thousands of people through environmental projects via the Big Lottery-backed Open Air Laboratory (Opal) scheme.

John Richards, retired professor of botany at Newcastle University, set up the Friends of Moorbank which has provided volunteers to work in the garden. He said that the closure plans left him "shocked, alarmed and disappointed".

"This will reflect badly on the university.

A number of leading figures in the university are disappointed," he said.

The garden contains many specimens from the collection of Northumberland plantsman Randle Cooke, who lived near Corbridge and donated them, along with his house, to the university.

The late Lord Ridley of Blagdon also donated plants and the Friends have given 1,000 specimens.

A Friends spokesperson said: "The garden is open to the public regularly for charitable purposes, and plans were afoot for it to open on a weekly basis.

"The garden fulfills many of the university's key aims for widening participation and public engagement. "In 2013, it was planning to play a part in the university's contribution to the British Science Festival.

"Parties visit Moorbank to enjoy guided walks and these visits have contributed PS7,000 to the National Gardens Scheme which supports cancer charities. …

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