6 of the best Sussex garden walks
PUBLISHED: 12:14 10 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:14 10 May 2016
Combine your Sunday stroll with a visit to one of Sussex's gorgeous gardens. Hazel Sillver suggests six of the best
• Location: Ardingly, near Haywards Heath, Mid Sussex; RH17 6TN
• The garden: Wakehurst Place is the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and holds the Millennium Seed Bank. During late spring, the garden dazzles with the bright colours of rhododendrons and carpets of bluebells and in summer seduces with the scent of roses and sweet peas in the walled garden.
• The walk: There are many lovely paths winding through Wakehurst’s two woods and through Bloomers Valley, which runs between the two woodlands. Alternatively there is a nice circular walk of just over three miles along public footpaths that run along the edge of the Wakehurst estate, crossing over Ardingly Brook and passing Little Strudgate Farm and Newhouse Farm and leading back through Pearcelands Wood.
• OS Explorer Map: 135
• Where to refuel: There is a cafe and a restaurant at Wakehurst. The Cat Inn (01342 810369; catinn.co.uk; RH19 4PP) is an excellent pub one and a half miles away, offering delicious food; dogs are welcome in the bar area.
• Dogs: Not permitted in any part of the Wakehurst estate.
• Further information: 01444 894066; kew.org/visit-wakehurst
• Location: Handcross, near Crawley, Mid Sussex; RH17 6EB
• The garden: Surrounding a partly ruined Gothic mansion, Nymans’ garden is a joy in every season. In late spring and early summer, enjoy camellias, roses and wisteria, which weaves romantically around the ruined quarters of the house. Look out for the papery white flowers of the rare handkerchief tree and the flowering dogwoods.
• The walk: Do a circular walk through the gorgeous woodland at Nymans, which is carpeted with bluebells in early May. There is a two and a half mile circular route mapped out on the National Trust website.
• OS Explorer Map: 134
• Where to refuel: Nymans has a café serving snacks, hot lunches and cakes. Alternatively head to The Crabtree pub (01403 892 666; crabtreesussex.co.uk; RH13 6PT), which is four and a half miles away in Lower Beeding. The Crabtree serves delicious food, including several vegetarian options, and dogs are welcome in the bar area.
• Dogs: Welcome in the woodland, but not the garden.
• Further information: 01444 405250; nationaltrust.org.uk/nymans
• Location: Goring, near Worthing, West Sussex; BN12 6FB
• The garden: Highdown is an enchanting, informal garden that is abloom in late spring and early summer with wisteria, bearded irises, tree peonies and roses. The entire garden is prized as a National Collection of plants that thrive in chalk soils and contains some rare specimens, such as a handkerchief tree.
• The walk: From the car park walk up to the Miller’s Tomb, where miller (and alleged smuggler) John Olliver is buried. From here you can do a short loop around Highdown Hill or a longer circuit through Goring Wood.
• OS Explorer Map: 121
• Where to refuel: Highdown Garden Tea Rooms offers a tasty range of cakes and light lunches with gluten-free options; dogs are welcome. Alternatively The Swallow’s Return pub (01903 506346; vintageinn.co.uk; BN12 6PB) is less than a mile away and offers hearty pub food with some vegetarian options; dogs are welcome in the bar area.
• Dogs: Not allowed in the gardens.
• Further information: 01903 501054; highdowngardens.co.uk
• Location: Arundel, West Sussex; BN18 9AB
• The garden: The gardens at Arundel Castle are well worth a visit. The Collector Earl’s Garden is an exciting paradise of exotic planting and water features and the Stumpery is a fun, enchanting wildlife garden. There are also more traditional areas to explore, including the herbaceous borders, the potager, the rose garden, the glasshouses and the cutting garden; and if you need a little stillness, head to the gorgeous white garden by the chapel, where everything in sight is white or green.
• The walk: Enjoy a stroll around Arundel Park – you can do a circuit from the car park near the castle. Head into the town, up the hill, past the cathedral and eventually turn right into the park. Cross the grass, veering to the right of the folly; head right and then left. A path leads downhill – at the bottom veer sharp right and follow this path all the way to the road where you turn right and follow the road back to the castle. Alternatively do a longer circuit through Arundel Park to South Stoke, returning along the riverbank.
• OS Explorer Map: 121
• Where to refuel: Arundel Castle has a coffee shop and a restaurant and there are lots of eateries in Arundel town. If you are doing the longer walk circuit, you could stop off at The Black Rabbit pub on the riverside (01903 882828; theblackrabbitarundel.co.uk; BN18 9PB), where dogs are welcome.
• Dogs: Not allowed in the gardens.
• Further information: 01903 882173; arundelcastle.org
• Location: West Dean near Chichester, West Sussex; PO18 0RX
• The garden: There is a lot to explore at West Dean, including a fantastic walled kitchen garden, 13 fully functioning Victorian glasshouses containing exotic flowers and fruit, a colourful sunken garden, a water garden and a 100-metre long pergola entwined with scented climbers. But one of the most striking garden areas in late spring is the arboretum, which is ablaze with the colourful flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas.
• The walk: You can enjoy a two and a half mile circular stroll around the arboretum or there are longer walks around the 6,400-acre estate, some of which take you up onto the South Downs – these routes can be downloaded on the website (westdean.org.uk/gardens/explore/arboretum).
• OS Explorer Map: 120
• Where to refuel: There is a restaurant at West Dean offering lunches and afternoon teas. Alternatively, there are several good country pubs in the area, such as The Fox Goes Free in Charlton (01243 811461; thefoxgoesfree.com; PO18 0HU), which is dog-friendly and does great food with gluten-free and vegetarian options.
• Dogs: Welcome on a lead in the gardens (hooray!).
• Further information: 01243 818279; westdean.org.uk/gardens
• Location: Northiam near Rye, East Sussex; TN31 6PH
• The garden: Dixter is one of the best gardens in the UK. Famed for its succession planting and its topiary, it looks good all year round. In late spring and summer, the front meadow and the orchard meadow are a joy, and most of the garden areas, such as the famous Long Border, will be in flower, making your brain and eyes dance with interesting, clever combinations of colour, texture and shape. Green-fingered visitors will love the nursery, which is reasonably priced and well stocked with unusual and gorgeous plants.
• The walk: Walk two and a half mile circuit from Great Dixter, taking the public footpath west; eventually you join the Sussex Border Path (heading east) and then return to Dixter by walking through the village.
• OS Explorer Map: 125
• Where to refuel: Hot drinks and cakes are available at Dixter. Alternatively head into Rye, where there are lots of very good eateries, such as The Mermaid Inn (01797 223065; mermaidinn.com; TN31 7EY), which will seduce old romantics with its history and atmosphere; the food is very good and there are vegetarian dishes, but dogs are not allowed.
• Dogs: Not allowed in the garden.
• Further information: 01797 252878 (ext. 3); greatdixter.co.uk
• 24 beautiful gardens to visit in Sussex - With its wealth of beautiful gardens, Sussex is a plantsman’s paradise. Leigh Clapp selects some of the very best to visit this year.