That was the message from organisers and visitors at The Garden Show at Stansted Park, Rowlands Castle, marking the return of one of the major events in the region.
The popular show was a sell-out as people soaked up the glorious sunshine while taking in the variety stalls showcasing garden plants, art and design, accessories and interiors, as well as delicious food and drink.
Operating at a reduced capacity of two-thirds meant the show was only able to accommodate up to 4,500 people a day as opposed to the usual 6,500 for the three-day event - leaving some frustrated visitors being turned away.
Jane Sterck, who organised the event with her daughter Emily Clay, were pleased to be back in business after a difficult 18 months.
‘This is our flagship event so it is great to be back,’ Jane said. ‘It’s been nice to see the joy on people’s faces with everyone having a good time.
‘It’s been a difficult time for us as a small business. We were in survival mode and had to take out a big loan to survive. But are now moving into revival mode.
‘We intend to be here next year and actually like the reduced capacity as people have more space.’
The event was the 27th annual garden show Jane has put on after launching it nearly three decades ago with friend Lizzie Dymock, who died in 2016. ‘I want to keep the same ethos going that we had with Lizzie,’ Jane said.
‘We are a small family business working for other small family businesses. We are keen to support local artisan work which is a big movement.’
Despite giving birth five days earlier, Emily was present at the event with her new daughter Layla. ‘It’s been nice to be back,’ she said. ‘We held a belated event last September where the flowers looked different which people liked so lockdown has given us new ideas.’
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The organisers admitted some people were frustrated with the reduced capacity while others without tickets were turned away. ‘We’d like to say sorry to those people who were turned away but there was nothing we could do as we couldn’t operate at full capacity,’ Jane said.
Those who made it in had enjoyed the experience. Mark and Edweena Lucani had travelled from Eastbourne. ‘It’s a nice thing to do coming here...it’s our third time. We really enjoy it,’ Edwina, 62, said.
Mark, 61, added: ‘It was a bit strange being surrounded by so many people at first but we soon got used to it and felt very safe.’
Graham Willsher, of East Sussex business business Willsher Woodturning, was enjoying his first experience there. ‘It’s a very well organised event and is good to see so many people here and the wide variety of stalls,’ he said.