The last decade has seen our student numbers once again rise to near full capacity with over 55 students now attending during the course of each week, carrying out a wide and varied range of activities and training.
The decade saw the majority of our students complete their first City and Guilds certificates, with many going on to complete subsequent further certificates. These were proudly received at our student awards events. We also established our first tea room.
Our themed show gardens had become a big hit at the local shows and we have continued to receive top awards and huge visitor appreciation.
Visitor numbers continued to increase and plans started to evolve to improve both our student and visitor experience. The first of these being a new glasshouse to serve as both a display area and a work/ training area for students.
This was followed by a new mess/break room to more comfortably accommodate our increased student numbers.
Most recently, following a generous bequest from the family of an ex-student we were able to replace our old shop with a new timber framed building to accommodate both the shop and a tea room, along with upgraded access road and parking areas.
Celebrating our 40-year anniversary we must pay tribute to those who, through their persistent hard work and dedication, have enabled Horticap to become what it is today.
We would like to thank:
Founding trustees and students who got the project off the ground some of whom are sadly no longer here to see what a difference they made to so many people’s lives, volunteers, Staff and students who have helped shape Horticap’s ongoing success, and the many trusts and individuals who have raised or donated funds to ensure our continued growth.
Unfortunately, the fantastic progress of the decade became marred by the emergence of the Covid virus. With the pandemic moving into full surge all building work ceased, all students had to remain at home and most staff stayed away with only a small team attending the nursery to ensure plants were looked after.
Restrictions also meant that the nursery had to close to customers at a critical time when plants, compost and pots had already been purchased for the summer season.
Fortunately for Horticap good governance ensured that we had in place a disaster recovery plan. And, having followed charity commission guidance, Horticap had maintained an emergency financial reserve, to ensure our security in the short term.
With the pandemic getting worse and the greenhouses full of plants it was obvious there would be no quick resolution, so with the help and support of Colour It In we put together an online marketing and sales page for our website. Modified one of our vans to carry trays of plants, hired a third vehicle and got the majority of staff back to work.
The website went live in spring 2020 offering online ordering and payment for a range of pre-selected bedding and perennial plant boxes, delivered to customers doors across the Harrogate district. The popularity of the venture was an instant success with three delivery vehicles being kept busy throughout the week along with a team of 3 pickers and packers each day.
By early summer we had just about sold out of bedding plants but continued to offer the service for other goods right through to Christmas when we sold trees and wreaths.
Fortunately building work had been allowed to restart in early summer and by the end of the year our new shop and tea room building was well underway and customers had been allowed back on site albeit with a raft of socially distancing measures in place.
But what of all our students who had not been permitted to attend their usual activities and see their friends? How did we keep them involved?
We made regular contact with them by telephone;
- Encouraged them to send in pictures of what they had been doing which we could circulate on social media;
- Paid them socially distanced personal visits;
- Delivered activity packs such as plant growing kits; Christmas wreath kits and encouraged them to send in pictures of their completed work;
18 months on we were able to start welcoming students back to Horticap in limited daily numbers but we could give everyone the chance to return for at least one day each fortnight.
Whilst everyone had returned by the summer of 2021 many restrictions remained in place. Our usual Christmas party had to be split into two sessions, and happily Father Christmas was able to make two appearances.