A NEW restaurant at a popular tourist attraction in Romsey is set to take root this year as part of a £1.3 million scheme.

Throughout 2020, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Jermyns Lane, will be building the restaurant in a bid to keep up with the growing number of visitors flocking to the Gardens.

The restaurant is expected to be completed over the winter, and open in spring 2021, providing indoor and outdoor seating.

It will also offer customers an alternative to the self-service café and the tea-room at the Gardens, which will both remain.

Visiting the site to mark the start of works, leader of Hampshire County Council, cllr Keith Mans said: “With its collections of trees and plants that attract thousands of horticulturalists from all over the country, and indeed the world, the Gardens are an arboretum of huge significance - as well as a popular destination for local families and garden enthusiasts, who enjoy days out all year round.

“Last year the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens welcomed more than a quarter of a million visitors, and numbers are growing year-on-year, which requires expansion of the facilities and catering on offer.

"The start of this work marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Gardens, where our planting and garden design will be inspired by the future, and will aim to engage visitors with the horticultural issues of our time - such as climate change.

"The facilities and visitor experience on offer will be elevated to match the quality and national significance of the Gardens themselves.”

The tea-room will also be temporarily closed during the building work, but a selection of food and drink can still be bought from the temporary café - the Tilia Tree, doubling as temporary art gallery.

The improvements are part of a new project at the Gardens, focusing on the future of gardening in a changing world.

Garden designer, Tom Stuart-Smith, will be leading the creation of a ‘frontier garden’ featuring plants at the limits of outdoor conditions in the British Isles.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens specialises in gardening, conservation, education and recreation.

Set in 180 acres, it is home to 14 national plant collections, and more than 600 champion trees – the largest collection of any garden in Britain.