Sale of Ryton Gardens to Coventry University

As members are aware Garden Organic has for some time been seeking to sell its Ryton Gardens site in Coventry. This will enable the charity to reduce its ongoing running costs and to work more locally across the UK. I am pleased to confirm that we have now completed with a full sale of the site to our key tenant and long-term partner Coventry University.

This sale will secure and enhance the long-term future of the charity, putting Garden Organic in a strong position to deliver its core aim of encouraging as many people as possible to grow organically, with a greater focus on local organic support. 

Information on this change is detailed in this statement, however the key points to note are outlined below:

  1. Coventry University will take ownership of the full site at Ryton.
  2. Garden Organic, including the Heritage Seed Library, will retain its headquarters on site, leasing back office and growing space.
  3. Garden Organic will develop a new, smaller, organic demonstration and training garden which members and the public will be able to visit on set open days and for training and courses.
  4. The charity’s community engagement projects around the country will continue as normal.

This change signifies a new and exciting era for the charity. One which will see us increase our organic growing support to members and to a new generation of growers in a variety of ways. 

We will ensure our Heritage Seed Library receives the investment in infrastructure and growth it so desperately needs, and, amongst other things, will continue and increase our campaigning and policy work, ensuring that we are representing our members during all the important decision-making processes, and making your voice heard in matters important to organic growers.

We know this has been a long period of uncertainty for all those who support and work with Garden Organic. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, and personally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks for your patience and support whilst we reached the right outcome for the charity.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Eyre
Chair of Trustees


Further details on the sale of Ryton Gardens to Coventry University

1. Organic demonstration garden
Garden Organic will be leasing an area of the site to develop into a new, smaller, organic garden, demonstrating the principles of organic gardening in a way that can easily be replicated within a domestic or community setting.

The gardens will be open to members and the public on open days throughout the year, with tours and seasonal advice available to visitors. Entry on open days will continue to be provided to members free of charge. Garden Organic will continue to hold courses at Ryton, whilst also aiming to increase the number of courses available elsewhere across the country.

The current gardens will remain open to visitors on weekdays until Monday 30th September, at which point they will then close to the public, allowing the Gardens Team, supported by our fantastic volunteers, to design and create the new garden. We plan to open the new garden in spring 2020 and will share progress throughout the development. 

Those connected to a memorial on site will continue to be able to visit the memorial, by prior appointment with the university, and the new Garden Organic garden will have a dedicated area of remembrance and contemplation to honour all those who have supported and contributed to the success of the charity. In addition, we will create and maintain a Book of Remembrance.

We will also be retaining the entire current Heritage Seed Library growing area. Whilst this will remain predominantly a working growing area, in the long-term we plan to offer supervised tours and courses to show the processes of growing for seed and seed saving.

We will continue to manage both the new demonstration garden and Heritage Seed Library growing area in accordance with Soil Association certification. 

2. Charity Headquarters
The charity’s office accommodation will be moving to a different location on site, where we will be undertaking a modest amount of work to provide our team with fit-for-purpose office accommodation. The lease for this space has been agreed on an eight year term, with the first two years provided rent-free by the university as part of the sale agreement.

3. The Heritage Seed Library
As part of the initial development work we will invest in the facilities for the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) - providing much-needed improvement to the basic infrastructure. These improvements will put the charity in a strong position to reliably maintain and grow the collection, and open up the seed saving process to more people. 

All changes to the site and facilities will be undertaken to ensure there is no disruption to the normal seed ordering process - HSL members will receive their seed list in December as normal and we will continue to work to raise awareness and grow support for this fantastic and vital initiative. 

4. Management of the remaining site
The ownership and management of the full site will transfer to Coventry University, with Garden Organic as tenants of the University.

Coventry University’s research Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, located at Ryton Gardens, is undertaking a number of large research projects, including research into organic agricultural practices as part of the Organic-PLUS project, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research funding. The purchase of the site will allow more of this kind of work to continue and put the university in a strong position to develop projects in this field of research. 

The area of gardens not leased and managed by Garden Organic will become the responsibility of Coventry University. The University is currently in talks with all tenants about the ongoing management of the site.

5. Income generated by the sale
After paying off the mortgage and other outstanding loans there will be a number of initial costs to cover, including upgrading the Heritage Seed Library equipment, refitting office space and developing our new organic demonstration garden.

Surplus funds will firstly be used to support the charity’s work and to ensure we have an appropriate level of reserves as outlined in the charity’s Reserves Policy. The remainder will be invested by the Board of Trustees in line with the charity’s Investment Policy.

6. Organic growing courses 
Organic growing courses remain an essential part of the work of the charity. We will continue to offer our advertised 2019 course programme (www.gardenorganic.org.uk/our-courses) whilst any development work is undertaken. We are already beginning to plan our 2020 course programme and will be working on our long-term aim to increase the number of locations where our courses are held.

7. Asset of Community Value
The parts of the site registered as an Asset of Community Value will be under the control of Coventry University, who will continue to follow the requirements set out within the legislation. 

8. Volunteers at Ryton 
We simply couldn’t do what we do at Garden Organic without the assistance and dedication of our fantastic volunteers and we look forward to continuing to work with them in this next phase at Ryton. 

9. Tenants
Current tenancy agreements, including those with BEST In Horticulture, New Leaf Fitness and Five Acre Farm, have been transferred to Coventry University who are pleased to continue to welcome the tenants to the site.

10. Garden Organic’s future strategy
At the start of 2019 the Board of Trustees set out a number of strategic objectives, they are as follows:

  1. We will extend access to organic horticultural knowledge and best practice to the maximum number of people across the whole of the UK.
  2. We will protect and share heritage plant genetic resources and promote improved biodiversity through organic practice.
  3. We will promote and support research into organic growing.
  4. We will be a recognised leader in developing policy for organic growing in the UK.
  5. We will manage the charity as efficiently and effectively as possible

You can read our Three Year Business Plan at www.gardenorganic.org.uk/charity-information

Further information and feedback
If you have any questions or would like to share your views, please email questions@gardenorganic.org.uk or write to The Board of Trustees, Garden Organic, Ryton Gardens, Wolston Lane, Coventry, CV8 3LG.

We will be sharing information on the designs and development of the new garden as it unfolds, to follow progress please check our website or sign up to our email newsletter at www.gardenorganic.org.uk/newsletter