No increase to entry fee for Islanders at Ventnor Botanic Garden (updated)

Although there will be a change in entry fees for visitors to the Garden from 1st August, Islanders’ rates remain the same.

Ventnor Botanic Garden

This in from Kirsten on behalf of the Ventnor Botanic Garden. In her own words, Ed

After one year in operation without the aid of Council subsidy, Ventnor Botanic Garden is holding its admission fees for Island residents for another season.

With large capital investments, big changes have been happening at VBG over the past 12 months. John Curtis, Director of the Community Interest Company running the Garden explained,

“The Garden costs £1,528 a day to run and we are nowhere near breakeven at this stage.”

On top of these running costs, the Garden has had to cope with years of under investment in the facilities by the Council.

Chris Kidd, Curator of Ventnor Botanic Garden said,

“Over the last year, we have worked hard with our Chef, Martyn Cutler, to deliver fresh, vibrant, island grown dishes in more elegant surroundings.

“At the same time I have extended the Olive Grove, extended the Mediterranean Garden, and put in solar panels to heat our greenhouses with the support of EcoIsland and the VBG Friend’s Society. I don’t think any botanic garden has done so much, so fast.”

New sticker system
VBG is continuing to make it clear that there are no parking charges and that entry to The Plantation Room Cafe, edulis restaurant and The Garden Gallery is free.

Having previously had problems with the ‘honour system’ – the Council and the local police are helping VBG respond to people entering the Garden without paying and so making it fair for all visitors. A new sticker system now makes it very clear who has a ticket or a seasonal pass to enter the Garden.

Pay monthly
Through listening to local parents VBG has introduced special tariffs for local schools and pre-schools and a selection of seasonal passes. There is even a pay as you go option for those who prefer or need to pay monthly, initially pushed for by OnTheWight.

VBG has done a huge amount to improve the Garden and bring this Island jewel back to strength. Dean Miller, a gardener who has been at VBG for over 30 years commented,

“John has shown us how to get those who care about the Garden involved through his monthly Design Walks.”

John Curtis has made a huge personal contribution to saving the Garden – he describes his aim is to fix the business, not indefinitely subsidise it. He often explains the sustainability drive at VBG is not just environmental, it is financial as well.

A VBG staff member explained that active or modern philanthropy is like the shift in development aid – it is less about providing fish and more about providing fishing rods and the skills to use them.

Ventnor Botanic Garden has a busy summer ahead and looks forward to welcoming visitors.

2012/13 Entry tariff for Ventnor Botanic Garden

Update: 1 August 2013
The new entry tariff from August 2013 is embedded below for your convenience.

Image: Simon under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 29th July, 2013 5:55pm



Filed under: Isle of Wight News, Top story, Ventnor

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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61 Comments on "No increase to entry fee for Islanders at Ventnor Botanic Garden (updated)"

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That’s nice. Could Mr Curtis also find it in his heart to refrain from shouting abuse at local teenagers who make the mistake of going in without paying? Remember, John, a lot of us still feel we own it. We use Ventnor park now as it’s far nicer.


VBG is a mess compared to the way it was two years ago.

“No subsidies”? What about the IWC’s £200,000 in the first year and raids on the reserves built up over the years by the Friends of the Botanic Garden?


That sounds a sad state of affairs, Cicero. I haven’t been there since the change, but loved the place before that. It was lovely to feel we owned it and cared for it as our own community resource. I wonder if JC will respond to you.

One wonders how many of the Friends of VBG have rejoined this year having seen the Membership fee and annual visiting pass rising to £47 from the £15 it was that included visits. (Newly joining members will pay £55). I know several previous members who have now rejected renewing their membership because of the new pricing structure and the raids on the Friends’ reserves in the last… Read more »

No subsidies in the first year?

Cicero is right, someone at the botanical gardens is suffering severe memory loss.

It’s well known and well reported that the council gave them £200,000 in their first year.

Makes me trust the lot running it now even less.

I haven’t heard great things about the changes – low numbers, few children in the play area, dust clouds from the new gravel and high priced foods. It is such a great place, but the admission fees and changes to the offering really do seem to have taken their toll. Now that they are a good way in, I’d be reviewing everything to see what is and… Read more »

I haven’t noticed any advertising.

Lily Waters

I was in the public meeting when John Curtis said they would take into account some people entering the gardens without paying. I remember clearly because he referred to it as “revenue leakage”.

He also said it wouldn’t be policed (I thought this meant by them), and now we read in their statement above that they’ve actually got the Police involved!


The information missing from this article is how much the charges are going to be ….

Sally Perry

Good point. The tariff was pretty hard to find on their Website, but link now added above (and below)

Entry tariff for Ventnor Botanic Garden


That still doesn’t have the new prices, it says you should call them for prices from 1st August … why the great secrecy – when they put out a press release?

Sally Perry

The purpose of the release was to let people know that Islanders’ prices were to remain the same.

As you say, new prices for all other entry to be released on Thursday.

The Ventnor Botanic Garden price “menu” is unreal! There is a list of over 20 different prices!! It gave me a head ache just reading it. Take a look at Kew Gardens by comparison: they have just Three different prices yes, THREE – adults, concessions and a reduced price for entry after 3.30pm. Moreover children under 16 are FREE. What type of business announces last minute price… Read more »

Even the likes of Robin Hill, a theme park, have a less complicated menu of prices.

I have been a regular visitor to the Botanic Garden since its opening. I visited in May this year and can safely say that I have paid my last visit. The lady on the admission desk was very rude and did not believe me when I said I had walked from Ventnor and was most reluctant to charge me the reduced admission price. To add insult to… Read more »
Ancient Matelot
I have had a look at the news reports when the Council were “consulting” with the public about the future of the gardens. It was quite clearly stated that there would not be an admission fee, and no fences. Within a few months of the gardens being taken over, fences were erected, and the footpath alongside the cricket pitch allowing people access to Steephill Cove was closed.… Read more »
I’m glad to see VBG making headway (compared to the awful situation with the Winter Gardens building). Practically there is a wage bill to pay every month and other costs. I’m okay for now with waiting to see how it all pans out. I’ve paid for a season ticket – barely £1 per week and have visited half a dozen times since early Spring. Practically I find… Read more »

The footpath along the side of the cricket pitch to Steephill Cove is legally a public right of way because it can be proved to have been in constant use by the public for more than twenty years. New landowners often try this ploy. Who fenced it off?

Old Knobby
If the path alongside the cricket club is a public right of way because it was used by the public for twenty years then surely every path through the gardens should be similarly. Would make an interesting legal challenge! I take it the coastal path is still open across the back? I’ve not been through there recently, although we used to pass through the gardens once or… Read more »

The only public right of way in the Botanic Garden is the Coastal Path V90 and that has not changed in any way.

Old Knobby
According to the Natural England website, a public right of way can be deemed dedication where a right of way has been in use for 20 years or more. As the gardens were public property for circa 40 years, with free access along the various paths, then that sounds pretty much like it fits the bill. Posted more as a point of interest than anything, as it… Read more »
Ancient Matelot
Steephill Jack is correct if he is saying there has been no official Public Footpath across the gardens. However, a right of way can be established if there has been regular and uninterrupted use for over 20 years. However this has to be registered. I have contacted the council to find out what the requirements are as I see no reason why the path alongside the cricket… Read more »

I like the cut of your jibs, Old Knobby and Ancient Matelot!


How to raise £1528 a day ? That is the question.


Easy peasy! Turn VBG into a gated high-value “ecological” second-home housing community, hiding a wind/solar farm out of sight on the seaward side of the property.

Watch this space! :-((

Sally Perry

The new entry tariff was released today (1 August 2013) which sees the adult entry price of £5 increase to £6.75.

It’s not clear what the entry fee for Islanders now is, does it remain at the former £5 per adult?

We’ve put the question to VBG and will let you know once we receive an answer.

Sally Perry
VBG has confirmed that last year’s rates still apply for Islanders, ie. £5 for adults, £4.50 for seniors, £12 for families and £3 for 6-16 year olds. You need to specify when you buy that you live on the Island. When we asked why they hadn’t included Islanders’ rates on the PDF that you have to download from the Website in order to find out entry prices,… Read more »
Man in Black
Thanks for the update. £5 -> £6.75 is quite a jump, but then I suppose John Curtis has to fill the £200,000 gap that he won’t be getting from the council in this next year. Btw, I realise you are just the messenger, but it doesn’t “clearly state” that “Island Residents should enquire for discounted rates”. It says at the bottom of the sheet in different type… Read more »
Sally Perry

Well spotted Man in Black. Following your comment the VBG have now changed their Tariff sheet to read “ISLAND RESIDENTS PLEASE ENQUIRE FOR DISCOUNTED RATES”.

Much clearer, but they still have the barrier of visitors having to download a PDF in order to see how much it’ll cost to get in. Why not just list the rates on the Website like they did last year?


Good to hear that the owners of the garden are listening to us at last, perhaps they can now answer some of the many questions we’ve posed over the last year?

Like why say you won’t fence the garden, then do? Why say you won’t police it, then do?

Mind you, not sure I’d trust anything John Curtis had to said anyway.

Add to that list Steephill Jack and Craighy why say it costs £1528 a day to run the place. That’s a lot of wages for a few workers at IOW rates to run a glorified park that nobody seems to be going to anymore. Where is all of that being syphoned off to. Have you actually met anyone personally who has been there more than once since… Read more »
Ah well Oldie, you remember the good old days when the Council put in £200,000 and admission was free. How to make £1528 a day ? That is the question. There’s more to it than just paying the staff. Just think of the overheads in such a huge place: the consumables for the garden, the Council business rates. Consider the cost of the changes and re-furbishments that… Read more »
Ancient Matelot
Not quite so easy to get to Steephill Cove now unless you want to pay to go in as you have to walk along the main road and down the other side of the cricket ground, whereas there used to be a footpath through. Also, if, like me you put a plaque in commemoration of a loved one in the grounds you now have to pay just… Read more »

I hadn’t realised that the rights to Steephill Cove more or less came with the Gardens. I wonder if the closing of the footpath can be challenged.

Sad to be cut off from the plaque unless you pay – that’s not at all in the spirit of what was intended when you had it placed there.

I sympathise with your feelings about your loved-one’s plaque, but I do not understand why the current owner is being blamed for trying to keep the place going when the problems have been caused by the withdrawal of County Council funding: he stands to lose a lot of money. I have no problem leaving the garden and walking down to Steephill Cove: the path and steps are… Read more »
Ancient Matelot
The reason the current owner is being blamed is because he told the public, on several occasions during the public consultation that there was no intention of fencing in the park and that any charges would be on an “honesty” principal. Within a couple of months of the park being taken over, fences went up and the reason given that not as many people were paying as… Read more »

I remember too those things being said about not fencing and the honesty principal. I daresay a search of past OTW items would provide evidence of that.

Quite a lot of people can’t walk very far.

Ancient Matelot

Here a selection of articles (supplied to me by Sally Perry) in which it was made clear that the park would not be fenced or a fixed fee for entry be charged.


I see from OTW article 13th March 2012 that entry fees were mentioned right from the start.
If people then try to get in without paying, what can be done other than tighten up the controls ?
How to make £1528 a day ?

Sally Perry
That’s right. From the first public meeting prior to signing contracts John C said that they would probably have to charge entry in order to cover running costs. He did say at the time that they expected some wasteage due to some people not wanting to pay and they (VBG) would swallow that (paraphrased). He said at the same meeting that this would not be policed. In… Read more »
A further point to Ancient Matelot’s comments on the fencing off of the footpath to Steephill Cove, which can be easily proved to have been used freely for much longer than 20 years (not to mention that this was reduced to 9 years by law in 2009) is that the new owner is still only a leaseholder – he does not own the freehold. A leaseholder can’t… Read more »

We must all get down there to take a look – there might be an unexplained upward blip in their takings over the next week or two! This is really worth us checking out.


“A leaseholder can’t just do anything he likes without the permission of the freeholder.”

Depends on the terms of the lease and its review periodicity.

Have the details of the IWC lease of VBG agreed with the CIC ever been published?

As far as I am aware, the owner went into this with all the information – he knew that the council were to provide a £200k investment and that he would have to make it viable to avoid losing money after this investment. It was said £800k was going to be invested by the CIC over five years. Whilst I may not agree with the council selling… Read more »

@steephilljack “he stands to lose a lot of money.”

…… or make a lot of money sitting on a 125 year lease of 29 acres of prime development land?

In the know
I wish people would stop referring to Mr Curtis as a philanthropist. He’s an investor. He’s in it for the long term and intends to make a lot of money. Forget about the entry costs for a moment, they’ll get that right at some point, in the meantime he’s building a brand that will be recognised worldwide. Online sales of seeds and plants, a high-end restaurant where… Read more »

With the Royal’s food having been reported so enthusiasticlly here, I would have been willing to occasionally pay the entrance fee to get to this treat. While the garden itself is apparently not looking so good, an attraction like the Royal’s cookery could have kept people coming in all year round. (Mouth watering as I write…)


That should not be possible if the Council’s contract has the necessary conditions. I hope it has !


How does John Curtis make money from a CIC ?
“A Community Interest Company (CIC) is a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners “.

Retired accountant

As an example, money can be paid from a CIC to another company that might perhaps licence the brand or provide consultancy services.

That aside, there may also be a management loan, meaning Mr Curtis has all the money he has invested in the CIC repaid to him – meaning he’ll get back what he puts in.


I would be very happy if he gets back what he puts in when the Botanic Garden makes a surplus, because that would show that he got it right… but he might not get it right, so then he will lose his money.


You are quite a supporter of JC, steephilljack. Do you know him or someone close to him?


I belong to the Friends of the Botanic Garden and visit frequently. I see JC working there and I hope he can keep the Garden going.
I also see the staff and volunteers at work and I admire them for trying to make the Garden a success.
But there are plenty of suspicious and ignorant snipers ready to take a pot-shot at every opportunity.


@steephilljack your response is arrogant and offensive

Thank you for replying steephilljack. It’s good to know that you are speaking from the point of view of having a lot of involvement with the Gardens. You’d be entitled to your point of view anyway, of course! It doesn’t sound as though you have had anything to do with JC himself – I thought it would be informative to get a direct, one to one impression… Read more »
@tryme. I hope you enjoy your visit and I look forward to your comments. I have met with JC but I was representing another Ventnor organisation. I found him enthusiastic, creative, helpful and amusing to deal with. I may not agree with everything he does but I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt for now. I also think there are people who see… Read more »

Thanks again steephilljack. That’s a useful additional comment, and gives a warmer impression than JC gave initially when interviewed by OTW, (perhaps the presence of a tape recorder makes us all a bit cagey!)

Davy Jones

I think if Steephilljack actually puts his hand in his pocket to support the gardens he is entitled to have a view on whether it is being run properly without being insulted.

I expect a copy of the lease could be obtained by using the Freedom of Information Act – so we could find out whether the footpath has been fenced off wrongly.

Ancient Matelot
Re the above two posts. It is quite right that Steephilljack is entitled to his views without being insulted. However, not everyone who is questioning the way the gardens are being run is ignorant or sniping. I am know that there are many devoted and hard working people in the gardens and our thanks to them for their efforts. However, that does not mean that we should… Read more »

Hear Hear Ancient Matelot. Steephill Jack is entitled to his opinion, but in my view wrong to try and deride those who are asking valid questions about what’s happening at the gardens.