A NEW era has begun at one of Hampshire’s most famous gardens, as a new director takes the helm.

Clare Goddard joins Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, near Romsey, replacing Wolfgang Bopp, who was director for 14 years, after he left for New Zealand to work as head of the Botanic Gardens and Garden Parks.

Clare joins the gardens having previously been instrumental in overseeing the restoration of the award-winning Victorian Garden at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich. Most recently, she was Manager of Painshill Park, Surrey, considered to be one of the finest Eighteenth Century English landscape gardens.

Clare’s love of plants and flowers started as a child, and has seen her forge her career on developing world-class visitor attractions and centres of learning; creating inspiring and enjoyable experiences for all who visit.

She said: “I am overjoyed and consider it a great privilege to have been appointed Director of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. I very much look forward to working alongside all the talented staff, volunteers, supporters and public who make it the very special place that it is today.

“It is an honour to be joining such a prestigious organisation at this exciting stage in its development.”

Clare will be at the helm of the gardens spanning 180 acres in size and growing over 12,000 species of plants. There are also 14 national plant collections and around 400 champion trees – more than any other collections in the UK. Hillier Gardens now attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually and has over 22,000 members.

In 1977 Sir Harold Hillier left the gardens under the sole trusteeship of Hampshire County Council who now run it as a charity to promote horticulture, conservation, education and recreation.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said: “We are very pleased to have Clare join our team of dedicated staff and volunteers at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.

“Clare has a fantastically diverse career in the heritage, business and arts sectors and we are sure that under her leadership, the gardens will continue to grow, not only through the fantastic work being done to promote horticulture, conservation, education and recreation, but in its popularity with visitors and members of all ages.”