A GARDEN centre reborn after a devastating fire in 2018 is looking forward to a bumper year as it welcomed a visit from the treasurer.

Rishi Sunak called in at Strikes Garden Centre in Stokesley which was damaged by fire in April 2018.

A temporary structure was put in place but the centre only re-opened fully at the end of 2019.

Despite the adversity, the centre is flourishing and has even taken on extra staff.

Manager Caroline Scaif said: “We had only been trading a few months when the first lockdown came in.

"We had a lot of new season plants that we just had to give away – to the elderly, staff at James Cook University Hospital and care homes.

“But as soon as we were able to re-open trading was strong as people re-discovered their gardens during the pandemic.

“We have seen a growing interest in people growing their own vegetables – that’s a definite trend in the last year.”

She added that the centre had taken on additional staff over and above the seasonal workers who would help during the peak spring and summer months.

Mr Sunak said: “The completely rebuilt Strikes is most impressive as are their displays of new-season bedding and shrubs.

“It is great news to hear they are recruiting additional staff as the business develops on the back of people’s renewed enthusiasm for their gardens.”