Bicton Park Botanical Gardens says new prices essential to cover conservation costs

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 January 2018

The Play Barn at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens.

The Play Barn at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens.

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Curator Neville Evans explained that many botanical gardens were closing and giving away their collections due to funding issues – despite their conservational value. He added that Bicton’s 300 year-old landscape was ‘pretty special’, with ‘plants here that you will never see anywhere else’.

The Madagascan Tahina Spectabilis plant is one species housed in Bicton Park Botanical Gardens' Tropical House as part of the park's conservation work. There are only around 100 left growing in the wild.The Madagascan Tahina Spectabilis plant is one species housed in Bicton Park Botanical Gardens' Tropical House as part of the park's conservation work. There are only around 100 left growing in the wild.

A popular East Devon attraction has defended new price increases, saying they are essential for funding unique conservation work.

Bicton Park Botanical Gardens has revealed a new pricing structure for 2018. Among changes, the membership fee for a family of four has risen from £41.95 to £63.95.

And the news has been met with vitriol by some regular users of the park, which is popular with families.

However, Bicton Park, which is completely self-funded, says increased overheads and costly conservation work necessitates the new pricing.

One of the plants inside Bicton Park Botanical Gardens' Tropical House.One of the plants inside Bicton Park Botanical Gardens' Tropical House.

Sarah Johnson, from Exmouth, was annoyed that the soft play area, previously free, would soon carry a charge of £1 for children above the age of one.

In a post on Facebook, shared more than 35 times, she wrote: “Surely I’m not the only one annoyed about this? I know it’s only £1 but it all adds up.”

Speaking to the Journal, Ms Johnson added: “To target people who have already paid the membership and loyal customers is just cheeky!

“My partner’s sister has children who are two and four. They go once a week, because the youngest is too young to go to school.

A young Picea Koyamae conifer at Bicton Park and Botanical Gardens. Indiginous to Japan's Akaishi Mountains, there are currently less than 300 growing in the wild.A young Picea Koyamae conifer at Bicton Park and Botanical Gardens. Indiginous to Japan's Akaishi Mountains, there are currently less than 300 growing in the wild.

“That will be an extra £104 on top of the membership they have already paid for.”

Charissa Evans, from Exmouth, paid for annual family membership partly because it included soft play. She said this new charge and the increased membership fee may put her off renewing next year.

She said: “The fact is a 28 per cent increase is just ridiculous. Do they actually want to encourage families to come?”

Bicton Park manager Valerie Lister said: “Our 2018 membership prices compare very favourably with other local establishments.

“We do feel we have a lot to offer families within our 64 acres – let alone all the facilities at Morwellham Quay.”

She added that increased running costs meant the £1 charge for soft play was ‘the fairest way, to charge the people who use this facility, rather than push total prices up for everyone’.

Gardens curator Neville Evans explained that many botanical gardens were closing and giving away their collections due to funding issues – despite their conservational value.

He added that Bicton’s 300-year-old landscape was ‘pretty special’, with ‘plants here that you will never see anywhere else’.

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