AFTER much anticipation the former Woodborough Garden Centre opens its doors to the public today under new ownership.

After five weeks of renovation work, the newest branch of Whitehall Garden Centre, which is also based in Lacock, welcomes customers to the 18-acre site, which has new plants, fruits, petting animals and more space at the revamped Strawberry Fields tearoom and bistro.

To celebrate their launch, the centre is hosting a free pick your own daffodils event from today until Sunday.

Director of Whitehall, Peter Self, said: "We are so excited to open our centre to the public after five long weeks of much-needed refurbishment work. We are raring to go and hopefully customers will love it.

"We have put in a bigger plant area to celebrate our horticultural heritage. This much-loved garden centre was a popular venue for visitors all year round. However, for it to continue providing this service, the building, grounds and resident animals were in real need of attention and care.

"What we inherited will be improved as we will give the animals more space and plan on providing more farm park animal attractions too, which will be great. Children can also go on plastic tractors across the site as well.

"It’s great news on the job front too as all of the existing staff are continuing their roles, and a number of new full and part-time vacancies have been created, including customer services, plant and restaurant assistants."

Whitehall bought the garden centre from Claire and Chris Rourke who had owned it for about seven years.

The centre drew criticism from members of the public as Mr Self decided to let go three child minders who used the site for several years, as he said the tatty and aged garden sheds that they used were not in good condition.

"The commercial arrangement that the childminders had with the former owner were not part of our plans. We want to open this up to many many more people than what was there before," said Mr Self.

"We are creating a lot of attractions for the public to enjoy. That is what it is all about, getting people to enjoy the countryside on this big site."

The three childminders that were at the centre have now found a new home at Wilcott Village Hall and plan to start up again in the near future.

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