As a member of the Society for many years, I too, was very sad to hear that the RNRS has gone into liquidation and I wonder if the Chairman or any other senior committee member is helping the administrators to negotiate the best opportunities for the Society's assets and trying to save these lovely gardens? They are a unique attraction for the UK.
Several years ago, I contacted St Albans to let them know that Betty's, the famous, English tea-shop in Harrogate, had expanded into the restaurant at RHS Harlow Carr and might be interested in a more southerly venue nearer to London. The Gardens of the Rose would be an ideal setting for such a famous tea-shop which is extremely popular: such a quality firm could provide the economic focus for the site alongside a new, charitable trust with an arrangement to run and manage the Gardens. A high profile,promotional campaign, pump-prime funded by the Company, could actively involve many volunteers, obtain grants and commercial sponsorship (in return for profile and publicity) and have the benefit of tax relief. Such an arrangement would be mutually beneficial.
The proposed trust could run along the lines of the successfully proved Glamorgan coastline, the first Heritage Coast in the UK, where a Friends' Association set up in 1975 is still active today. Similarly, the Groundwork Environmental Trusts have successfully shown that community involvement, innovation and promotion can enlist full support from all sectors of society (people love to be associated with a success story which is also very newsworthy).
Since I sent this idea to the administrators, Kerry who worked as the Senior Horticulturalist at the Gardens, has reported that the freehold of of the Gardens is held by the British Mycological Society who now occupy the original Rose Society offfices.
However, all is not lost, surely the BMS would welcome the chance to defray their own running costs? They might be willing to an arrangement to run the site in three ways; viz:- (1) a commercial, quality cafe, (2) a Gardens charitable trust and (3) their own academic operations?
If Bettys, or a similar quality firm, were not interested, then perhaps a high profile restaurant such as Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver or James Martin might be interested?
Let's keep batting!
Sincerely Dr J Howden
Royal National Rose Society Research Scholar 1966 - 72; Bath University