– Harewood announces closure of Bird Garden
– A woodland garden will take its place, bringing historic walks back into existence
– Trust looks to its long-term future, with a focus on programming, its audience
and the environment.
In 2021, Harewood quietly marked 250 years since the completion of Harewood House being built. This stunning Palladian home, built by John Carr of York with interiors by Robert Adam, and landscapes by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, has seen incredible changes during its lifetime. Since 1986 the care of Harewood has been entrusted to a charity, Harewood House Trust, with a board of Trustees and an administration tasked with ensuring its long-term future and providing a place for the public benefit.
The last few years have been especially difficult, particularly in light of Covid-19, and as we enter 2023 we are all acutely aware of the financial pressures that we face.
Harewood is not immune to these difficulties and in spite of having a record-breaking year with visitor numbers, the Charity remains reliant on the support of the Lascelles family, its Members and visitors, Arts Council England and others in order to offer a great experience whilst balancing conservation needs of the site, with ever greater pressure on our resources.
As the Trust looks to its long-term future it has to consider what Harewood will look like in 5, 10, 25 years’ time from now and beyond, to ensure we stay relevant and able to remain open for everyone to enjoy.
Harewood’s Bird Garden is now over 50 years old and, as visitors have pointed out to us consistently over the past few years, the birds’ environment is not on a par with more up-to-date zoos. At Harewood’s last zoo inspection, the team were praised for their excellent care and the health of the birds, but sadly they identified many problems with the site’s physical infrastructure that the charity cannot sustain.
Over the last six months we have been researching options for the charity going forwards, however, with a need for a £4 million investment to just the Bird Garden alone, the Trust has had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close this part of the Harewood experience. The Trust simply cannot make the Bird Garden the place that we, and you, all want it to be.
Over the next six months or so, the birds – many of which are exotic or endangered – will be re-homed at places better equipped long-term to ensure they continue to have comfortable and enriched lives and to ensure their life-long care. The closure date of the Bird Garden will be published later in the year once these dates become clear.
In its place, we will create a new woodland garden, making it an environment where native wildlife can thrive. You will be able to observe woodland and water birds, red kites, otters and more. It also provides us with an opportunity to recreate some historic walks, part of which is expanding the South Park walk that opened in 2021.
Harewood’s Farm Experience will remain but we will look at the opportunities to improve the area surrounding Harewood’s Courtyard to provide a better visitor experience and open up some incredibly beautiful views of the site.
We realise that many of Harewood’s visitors love the Bird Garden and have children who love it too. It has been an incredibly difficult conclusion to reach but it is the most responsible and ethical decision to make, to ensure the health and care of these beautiful creatures, but also to ensure Harewood can stand the test of time and be here for as long as it has stood already.
Emily Shard, chair of Harewood House Trust, comments:
‘It is with huge sadness that the Trustees have reached the conclusion that the Bird Garden must close. Harewood and the Lascelles family have long been committed to the care and conservation of wildlife and nature, but the wellbeing of the birds is paramount. The investment needed to create a modern zoo and maintain this each year is too much for the Trust to afford.
We therefore realise that we must make this change and focus on the long-term ambition of this wonderful place, and on the opportunities that Harewood has to support our environment, represent the people and the communities that live in this area today, and to continue to develop Harewood, to serve its best purpose into the future.’
Harewood’s winter season begins once again this weekend when we will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until our full all-week opening from Friday 17 March. We will also be open throughout Leeds half term week, Monday 13 to Sunday 19 February.
We will be announcing 2023’s programme of exhibitions and activities in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, thank you to all our Members, visitors, volunteers and supporters for your continued support and your understanding.
Harewood looks forward to welcoming you throughout the next year and beyond, and will continue to update visitors as the Birds go to new homes.