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We Love Harrogate's Valley Gardens

image: Parks staff holding the figures of 2012 visits
Since February last year, Harrogate Borough Council’s Parks Team has been using an electronic counting device for the first time ever to record the number of visits made to the town’s award winning Valley Gardens.
And the numbers have astounded everyone.  Over the past twelve months a massive 2,738,122 visits have been made to this much loved park. 
Chosen by Britain in Bloom as the country’s favourite park in 2009, this English Heritage Grade II listed park is also on record as being the favourite public park of gardening expert, author and TV personality Alan Titchmarsh.
Now it can be said with certainty that it is one of the area's most visited attractions.  The other three top sites are – World Heritage Site Fountains Abbey (342,499), RHS Harlow Carr (320,045) and Lightwater Valley Theme Park (324,896).
Whilst accepting that those are paid for tourist attractions, it does put the Valley Gardens up there with the best of the best.
On revealing the figures this week, Patrick Kilburn, the council’s Head of Parks and Open Spaces, said:  “We decided to do this count because the council commits a lot of resources towards the maintenance of its open spaces but we have no information to support how many benefit from that commitment.  This is just one park and these figures show just how popular and important our parks and open spaces are.  A further advantage is that figures like these are very important when submitting bids to external granting bodies and these statistics are already being used in that way.
“It was one of the highlights of my career to have the Valley Gardens chosen as the country’s favourite park.  We always knew the park was popular and now to have these figures on record, it shows that title was thoroughly deserved.”
The following are just a few of the comments on Trip Advisor about the Valley Gardens:
Torquay - Go especially in the summertime... the gardens of Harrogate are absolutely beautiful! Well done to the local council for making Harrogate beautiful!
Scarborough - We had a long walk on Christmas Day all the way through and round the gardens. Play area for children looked great. Café open an added bonus.
Dunfermline - Super gardens in the middle of town.  Always something new to see. Peaceful haven. The pergola is my favourite.
Harrogate - Living near-by it’s always nice to get out and involved with nature and this place is a treat. Gardens are always immaculately kept and lots of families out enjoying the space. A great place to chill. 
Peter Banks, Member of Visit Harrogate’s Board, the newly formed tourism body for the district, added his congratulations to the local council.  “You can see from the comments that people make special trips to visit the Valley Gardens from all over the country and of course it is always popular with foreign visitors, being a really traditional well-tended public park with something for everyone.”  ENDS
Note to Editors:  Harrogate is famed for its high quality gardens and public open spaces.  In 1983, the National Heritage Act enabled English Heritage to compile a register of parks and gardens of special historic interest.  This was completed in 1988 by which date some 1300 sites had been included.  Twelve of which are in the Harrogate district but perhaps the most famous is the Valley Gardens.  The Valley Gardens is a Grade II historic park - granted to parks and gardens whose historic layout, features and architectural ornaments considered together make them of special interest.  ENDS
Media contact:  Lynne Mee, Communications and Media Manager, 01423 556022 email lynne.mee@harrogate.gov.uk or mobile 07702 313776.