Gardening: a spring stroll
PUBLISHED: 01:16 06 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:09 20 February 2013
Why not stretch your legs in the grounds of the Ashdown Park Hotel just as spring begins to take a hold on the landscape? Leigh Clapp pays a visit
Once part of the surrounding Ashdown Forest, Ashdown Park Hotels grounds continue to be restored to complement the imposing Victorian Gothic building and fine views. The property saw many owners and uses before becoming a luxury hotel in 1993. Ongoing programmes for the garden include opening up views and replanting in the walled garden with herbaceous perennials, roses, lime trees and wall-trained fruits. The gardens and parkland extend over 45 acres, making for a pleasant stroll when they are open through the National Gardens Scheme.
The walk starts in the walled garden, with emerging planting and glasshouses used for propagation, as well as for growing houseplants and displays. Tropical strelitzia draw the eye with their striking orange flowers. Next is the secret garden, an enclosed area behind an ornate metal gate, with formal pond and plantings of daffodils that glow as they catch the dappled sunlight.
This garden is under restoration with the added challenge of a constant battle for every new plant from the prolific wildlife, the ever-present rabbits and deer. There are also natural ponds, an impressive lake, beds of mature rhododendrons and woodland walks to explore.
Visitors are given a map for a self-guided tour, that generally takes a couple of hours to wander through the gardens and enjoy the nice views across the valley. We are on hand to give more information and we also serve afternoon teas, either for the NGS or in the hotel, explains Head Gardener Kevin Sweet, who has been at Ashdown Park for 35 years.
Last summer saw the herb garden extended and beds completed in the walled garden, while this years project is to re-landscape around the front of the hotel.
Ashdown Park is a large part of my life, it is nice to see the development over the years. Trees I planted in the 1970s are now good- sized specimens, it is very satisfying, adds Kevin.
Ashdown Park Hotel, Wych Cross RH18 5JR
Sunday May 8th (2-5pm)
Sunday September 4th (2-5pm)
The National Gardens Scheme