Summer days out in Sussex - National Trust properties
PUBLISHED: 15:38 12 August 2014
Summer typically heralds the arrival of bright, bold flowers, warm days and family fun. For those all-important summer days out, look no further than properties in East and West Sussex
The Arts and Crafts house, Standen, near East Grinstead, is set to be one of the county’s most beautiful summer highlights, as work carried out in the garden earlier in the year continues with stunning results.
Head gardener, James Masters is overseeing an ambitious five-year restoration project, due to be completed in 2017. It has been focusing on the kitchen garden, along with restoring the rest of the 12-acre garden to its original Arts and Crafts roots. He explains, “When Standen’s original owners, James and Margaret Beale lived here, the garden reflected their love of adventure and travel, at a time when this was not commonplace. Many of their plants were exotic and had never been grown in the UK before. We wanted to recreate the Beales’ ambitious Arts and Crafts planting scheme using similarly unusual specimens. Where better to start than in the kitchen garden?”
James and his team of staff and volunteers have been transforming the garden with huge amounts of plants, trees and soil. “The numbers involved are astonishing,” says James. “5,000 vegetables have been added to the kitchen garden, while 24,000 bulbs have been planted and 35 tonnes of soil moved about. So far, the project has taken around 4,500 hours of volunteer time.”
The effort required has been worth it. The work being done to the garden follows the Arts and Crafts ethos, with an emphasis on traditional craftsmanship, simple design and plenty of romanticism. Plus, James keeps finding unexpected treasures as he works. “We have discovered all kinds of rare and unusual bulbs emerging from decades of dormancy as we clear scrubby growth. It’s very exciting as we don’t know what will turn up next!”
The kitchen garden has been extended to its original three acres and James has also been working on the rest of the garden. “Margaret was the real driving force behind the garden design and planting scheme and we have lots of her original photos and diaries to base our research on. Next steps include reinstating other lost garden features and historic plants, such as a plum orchard of 138 trees, to return the gardens to their 1920s heyday.”
Summer visitors to Standen will be able to see the kitchen garden and talk to the gardeners about the renovations. A full summer events programme has also been planned and details are available online. Standen opens daily, including the house, gardens, cafe and gift shop. Historic Sussex varieties of fruit and vegetables, grown in the kitchen garden, are regularly available to take home.
Woolbeding Gardens, near Midhurst, is not a typical National Trust garden. In fact its special viewing arrangements make a visit here more akin to a private tour – a personal experience which helps retain the garden’s feeling of intimacy.
These beautiful gardens are renowned as a modern masterpiece of design and colour, whilst beyond them, a gentle stroll over open pasture provides idyllic views of the Rother river and a picturesque ruined abbey. Paul Gallivan is Head Gardener at Woolbeding Gardens: “For a relatively small area, Woolbeding Gardens fits an awful lot in,” he says. “It is constantly changing too, as we experiment with new ideas and techniques. Our aim is to maintain it as a true plantsman’s garden, while still retaining plenty of interest for all our visitors.”
The 26-acre garden is divided into halves, then broken up further into “rooms”. “Separating the garden in this way means that there is always something new and different for visitors to enjoy,” explains Paul. “Our traditional herb and vegetable garden, orangery, long walk and Chinese bridge are always popular, especially at this time of year, when the fragrance of the herbs and summer blooms is especially strong. We have magnificent rose displays in June and July, as well as sumptuous summer borders, which contain such beauties as salvias, delphiniums, agapanthus and gypsophila.”
Like his counterpart at Standen, Paul has also been overseeing renovations in the garden, in the shape of a new orchid greenhouse, which opened to the public in June. It contains an incredible 40-year-old collection of orchids – 120 varieties that have been lovingly amassed by the previous tenants, benefactors and creators of Woolbeding Gardens. Talks on orchid care are available on selected days.
Woolbeding Garden is open on Thursday and Friday by pre-booked ticket. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolbeding-gardens for more information or call 0844 249 1895.