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Funding boost for Liverpool’s hidden horticultural treasure

One of the UK’s oldest horticultural hidden treasures is set to get a new lease of life thanks to a vital funding boost.

Following a successful bid which Liverpool City Council submitted to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, £245,000 has been awarded which will be invested in creating a permanent home for Liverpool’s historic Botanical Collection.

Located within Croxteth Hall’s walled garden, a detailed project plan is now being developed which will see the culturally significant collection nurtured and developed, with plans to open it up to the public to become a leading visitor attraction in the city. The collection dates back to 1803 and was founded by William Roscoe.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery Players initial works will get under way to restore The Peach House, which will become the gateway to the collection and will house some of the key botanical exhibits. Currently in a state of disrepair, new glazing is required in order for it to be a suitable home for the hundreds of varieties of plant species in Liverpool’s ownership.

It is hoped that this funding will act as a catalyst for other funding streams, to help build on the ambition. Future plans include:

• The restoration of a number of greenhouses and brick buildings in order to cultivate and grow the collection.

• Developing a brand new education programme which will see the introduction of a pilot project working with around ten primary schools across the city. The aim of this is to encourage youngsters to connect with nature and showcase the links between botany and health and wellbeing.

• The introduction of horticultural and agricultural training courses as a result of educational partnerships with establishments such as Myerscough College and the Learning Foundry.

• There will be focus on how to make the collection a key visitor attraction, given its shared location with the Grade II* listed Croxteth Hall and the Country Park. Guided tours, workshops and open days will be created and attracting events will be a priority in order to support the future of the collection.

• Supporting mental health and wellbeing and tackling loneliness will be developed through partnerships with local and national organisations to create new pathways to ensuring members of the community who are vulnerable or isolated can access the collection regularly through an engagement programme.

• Establishing a digital offer, for example creating a dedicated website, is also on the wish-list, which will open up the collection to people across the world who may not be able to visit in person. It will also ensure connections will be established with other worldwide botanical collections.

The overall ambition is for Liverpool’s Botanical Collection to become a centre of horticultural excellence, revive the collection and establish key collaborations with Kew Gardens, RHS Garden Bridgewater, as well as local botanical organisations such as the Eden Project North

The overall ambition is for Liverpool’s Botanical Collection to become a centre of horticultural excellence, revive the collection and establish key collaborations with Kew Gardens, RHS Garden Bridgewater, as well as local botanical organisations such as the Eden Project North.

The City Council will be working with the botanist team at National Museums Liverpool, as well as the universities, to redevelop Liverpool’s rare orchid collections – with Liverpool being the first city to successfully propagate orchids more than 200 years ago.

The Council will also work with the new Liverpool Botanical Trust which was formed in June 2023 with remits of preserving, protecting, and enhancing the Botanical gardens in Liverpool.

The Botanic Collection at Croxteth Park has ‘National Plant Collections’ status which recognises it as a globally respected collection. It has held the title since 1985 and includes Fuchsia, Codiaeum, Dracaena and Solenostemon.

The collection is made up of thousands of different plants, including orchids, ferns, begonia and tropical species, which are all maintained by a small, dedicated number of gardeners based at the Hall.

Councillor Harry Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Health, Wellbeing and Culture, said:

“We are massively proud of Liverpool’s Botanical Collection and this Heritage Fund grant is an essential stepping-stone to us making positive changes which will future-proof the Collection, allowing it to develop and flourish.

“The botanical importance of this collection can never be underestimated – it includes rare plants that are of medical, educational, scientific and horticultural significance and as one of the oldest of its kind in the world, we need plans in place do it justice.

“It’s not good enough that it’s a hidden gem. We want this vital asset to bloom in every sense and for it to become yet another reason why we attract visitors to the city.

“We’re at the early stages of the project but our heritage team is already having encouraging conversations which will hopefully result in more funding which means we can make these ambitious plans a reality.”

 Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It is wonderful news that we are able to support Liverpool City Council with this project to help preserve this nationally important botanical collection.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, local people and visitors from further afield will be able to enjoy the beautiful and rare plants at Croxteth Hall and Walled Gardens – a location that is bursting with heritage – for years to come.”