Gigha gardens gripe leads to threat

Messages scrawled on the greenhouse at Achamore gardens.

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A Girvan pensioner who was appalled by the state of Achamore gardens, on the Isle of Gigha, threatened court action to get his entrance fee refunded.

In addition Alistair Wallace, 70, demanded £150, in an email to the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust (IGHT), which he claimed were his expenses plus the £12 admission he and his wife had paid when they visited the gardens earlier in the year.

Mr Wallace sent the Courier an abbreviated version of his email, which did not include that he had threatened small claims court action if the trust did not stump up the £150.

Mr Wallace did say, in an email to IGHT, that when he received the £150 he would donate £138 of it to a Gigha charity.

In his email to the Courier, Mr Wallace wrote: ‘I am a 70-year-old pensioner, who, with my wife and her friend, visited Achamore Gardens on June 24.

‘We found the gardens in a desperate state of disrepair with paths covered in weeds, greenhouses unkempt and strewn with debris, flower beds overgrown with weeds, just a mess.

‘When we arrived the ticket office was unmanned and it demanded £6 per person to enter, we paid.

‘When we got inside we noticed to our dismay the state of the place. We also noted graffiti on the greenhouse glass from other visitors demanding their cash back.

‘We made our way to the big house.’

‘I have the Achamore brochure in front of me and the story and pictures bear no relation to what you experience.

‘It is locations and attitudes like this that can do the Scottish tourist industry a great harm. I hope this is not normal behaviour on Gigha.’

Mr Wallace claims in an email to IGHT that it took 27 emails, four letters and 14 phone calls to get a response.

A spokesperson from IGHT said: ‘Mr Wallace’s letter to you contains some errors.

‘The unmanned ticket office cannot ‘demand money’, in fact we suggest a donation towards the upkeep of the gardens of £6. So his email is incorrect.

‘He barged into the big house – Achamore House.

‘This is privately owned so if he was aggressive and trespassing would have been shown the door!

‘He demanded £100 and threatened petty debts court.

‘This sum has risen to £150 now. He has also contacted Highlands and Island Enterprise.’

IGHT has offered to refund Mr Wallace’s money and is looking for ways to improve the gardens.

In an emailed reply to Mr Wallace, IGHT states: ‘Late last year we established the Achamore Gardens Trust with the aim of approaching the Heritage Lottery Fund to buy Achamore house and pay for some garden restoration work.

‘In the past few years the trust has had cash-flow problems in part due to necessary work to the village shop.

‘Thus funding was not available for the gardens and this coincided with the head gardener moving to the mainland.’