Thousands sign petition calling for free access to Hampton Court Palace gardens outside summer peak

By Ellie Brown - Local Democracy Reporter

1st Feb 2022 | Local News

HAMPTON Court Palace gardens should be free to explore in the winter, according to a petition signed by more than 2,000 people.

The petition, started by Patrick Wylde, calls on Historic Royal Palaces to open up access to the "stunning" gardens in the winter months, or to offer a concessionary rate for access outside of the summer peak.

Mr Wylde, who lives in Thames Ditton, said when Queen Victoria opened the gates to Hampton Court Palace in 1838 she wanted the gardens to be enjoyed by all and that now it was vital during the pandemic for people to have access to such spaces.

He said: "The social aspect is paramount, Hampton Court Palace gardens with all its beauty should be enjoyed by families, friends and support groups alike following a time of loneliness for so many people."

He said his hope was to work with Historic Royal Palaces to reinstate free or concessionary access to the gardens and that he would like to discuss the idea of voluntary roles within the gardens.

He added: "This is about much more than people before profit, it's about the garden's historical context, the very gardens deemed 'open to all' by royalty.

"Queen Victoria opened the gates in 1838 to be enjoyed by everyone near and far.

"This is also about acknowledging an important and vibrant open space during a time of great perplexity courtesy of Covid-19.

"The gardens are a fantastic place to clear your head."

A spokesperson for Historic Royal Palaces, which manages Hampton Court Palace, said that the impact of the pandemic on the charity's finances meant it was no longer possible to open parts of the gardens for free.

They pointed out that the public could access the 750 acres of Home Park and the Barge Walk along the river Thames.

They said: "We're committed to exploring other ways to share the story of this unique landmark and its collections with those who may be unable to visit in person."

The spokesperson also said digital content on the charity's own channels including downloadable educational resources and videos documenting conservation work the Channel 5 show Hampton Court Palace: Behind Closed Doors allowed the public to see behind the scenes at the palace.

In 2019 Hampton Court Palace recorded 1,072,823 visitors, a figure which dropped to 227,447 in 2020.

A Historic Royal Palaces statement said: "The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our finances. With our sites closed for prolonged periods, in the last financial year we lost almost all of our income, leaving us facing a shortfall of £100m."

An adult ticket to the palace costs £25.30, and for a child, a ticket is £12.60.

The petition can be accessed at www.change.org/p/reopen-hampton-court-palace-gardens-return-our-free-access

     

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