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Great Comp Social Distancing

17th June 2020

SLOW GROWTH As Garden Visitors Emerge From Lockdown 

Great Comp Garden in Sevenoaks has been open to annual season ticket holders for the last two weeks and welcomed a small number of visitors back to the garden. The numbers are 2/3rds lower than normal at this time of the year, making the garden a tranquil place as lockdown eases. As shops reopen to the public, the garden is extending its opening to admit day visitors from today. The return to a 'new normal' has been slow for the garden, who rely on visitor numbers to survive. However, the Trust who run the 7 acre garden, famed for its salvias and spring trees, is proceeding slowly and placing visitor well-being and confidence at the heart of their plans. Curator, William Dyson says: "All of the visitors we have spoken to (at a social distance) have been thrilled to be able to come back to the garden they love. They have also been encouraged by how safe it feels and how few people are in the garden. And while visitor revenue is essential to us continuing on as a business, we also place, in equal importance, the safety and happiness of our visitors, so we are happy to allow people the time they need to re-emerge after lockdown. It would be easy to panic and to throw measures at this, but there is much for our visitors to readjust to." As shops reopen today and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak encourage people to spend again, smaller attractions such as Great Comp are allowing their visitors to set the pace. William Dyson adds: "Many of our regular weekday visitors are retired and will have been shielding at home for 3 months now and this will have changed the way they want to behave. A lot of how we proceed will be down to new behaviour patterns. We have noticed that visitors want to space out their visits and know that they will be able to feel safe, without crowds. Some visitors are coming early (to avoid others) and Monday was busier than the weekend. The busiest day we have had so far saw 60 people through the gates (across the day) so visitors can feel assured that they will find the safe space they crave still in the garden." The garden, which usually sees 100 visitors a day in June, is receiving just a third of that on average at the moment and is expecting the trend of lower numbers to continue this month but is happy to be able to reopen from today to day visitors as well as annual season ticket holders. Day tickets can be purchased at the gate but can only be paid for by card. William Dyson says: "It's been a struggle over the last few years to remain viable, and we were lucky enough to receive Lottery Funding two years ago to help us plan for the future. Some of these new plans and developments are on hold at the moment but we do hope to be able to reopen our renovated tearoom soon and offer small outdoor weddings. It's important to stay positive and to look after our faithful visitors."