I had visited plenty of beautiful gardens in Sussex over the summer; however, Leonardslee Gardens, synonymous with being “the finest woodland garden in England”, was unique.
It was the first British garden I had visited to offer seven lakes in a luscious 240-acre woodland valley with a colony of free-roaming Bennett Wallabies!
The species was brought to Leonardslee from Tasmania in the 1800s by the naturalist and estate owner Sir Edmund Loder. Breeding increased numbers, and now they live freely in this natural oasis. Several species of deer, including fallow and sika, also call Leonardslee their home.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to catch sight of any of them running wild, but I saw a few wallabies in the maternity enclosure.
Having seen these animals during my travels to Tasmania, finding this hidden gem in West Sussex and seeing wallabies again was lovely.
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Helpful Information About Leonardslee Gardens
How to get to Leonardslee Gardens
From London Victoria, the nearest train station is Horsham, from where you will need to grab a taxi.
By car: Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham, RH13 6PP
Admissions and Opening Times are here.
Getting around the gardens
A free shuttle is available to take you down to the lakes, as access is via steep gravel pathways. Remember, what goes down must come up, and walking back to the entrance may be challenging for some visitors. Make sure you wear comfortable flat footwear.
Once you are at the lakes, the walk around the garden paths is on the flat. There are plenty of garden seating areas to take in the beauty of your surroundings. Ask for a map at the payment kiosk to plan your route around the lakes.
I spent three hours exploring Leonardslee, but I am sure I still missed a few areas! It makes a good reason for a return visit in spring to see the famous Leonardslee rhododendrons.
Things to See
- Dollhouse Mansion Exhibition
- Wallaby Enclosure
- Free-Roaming wallaby and deer (if you are lucky)
- Seven Lakes
- Woodland Garden Walks
- Gift Shop selling plants and gardening gifts
- Leonardslee House serves afternoon tea, and Restaurant Interlude offers a dining package in the evening.
Rhododendrons at Leonardslee
Leonardslee has been famous for over 100 years but was closed in the mid-1990s during a change in ownership. Since then, this Sussex garden has been restored to its previous glory and is well-known for its spectacular rhododendrons.
They burst into colour in spring, filling the landscape with their delicate blooms.
Azaleas, camellias and magnolias are abundant in spring at Leonardslee, making it an excellent place for a day out in Sussex. As my visit was in Autumn, I missed the flowering plants; however, I saw the leaves turning to their beautiful Autumnal colours, which was great.
Reflections of the russet red acers in the shimmering water of the lakes were mesmerising. Even without the flowers, the colours around the lakes were magical, allowing each waterside vista to take on a different perspective.
How to spend a perfect day at Leonardslee
My day started with coffee and cake at the Clocktower Cafe and a quick look at the Dollhouse Mansion exhibition.
I couldn’t wait to see the wallabies and was soon at their enclosure admiring these charming creatures. It was exciting to see an albino and red-necked Bennet Wallaby enjoying feeding time.
Following the map route, we stopped to admire the vineyards; Leonardslee produces the only Pinotage wine in the UK, and you can treat yourself to a bottle from the gift shop.
Pinotage is a mix of grapes from Cinsaut and Pinot Noir. Walking tours of the vineyards, wine tastings and wine pairings with cheese or chocolate can also be pre-booked for your visit.
New Pond and Lakeside Walk
Continuing along the pathway, we made our way down to New Pond and the Lakeside Walk. It is a steep walk down, but once there, we were in awe at the stillness and magnificence of New Pond.
We took our time just looking out onto its dark waters and snapping a few images.
Crossing the wooden bridge on the Lakeside Walk led us through woodland near Old Deer Park. Several species of deer live at Leonardslee, but like the wallabies, they remained elusive to us.
This area is full of ferns and magnificent trees and looks like something from Jurassic Park.
Finding the Oaks and Acer Walk, we followed the circular route and noted the different species.
If you are a fan of Acers, you will love the signs that Autumn is beckoning with the red hues of the Acer trees.
Beside the Waterfall Pond, we caught sight of hobby boats on the water. Enthusiasts had gathered and were sailing remote control boats on the lake, a lovely peaceful activity to watch and reminiscent of childhood pursuits.
Leonardslee hosts event days ranging from car rallies to craft fairs; check the website for up-to-date information.
Discover the Leonardslee Ponds
An anticlockwise walk around Waterfall Pond took us to Engine Pond, where we continued to the remaining lakes.
All were different in their appeal, from the Middle Pond with its tranquil vibe to the Leucothoe Pond with koi carp hiding beneath the lily pads.
I loved the many seating areas around the gardens to allow you to enjoy the beauty unfolding before your eyes.
We finished our route wandering back past Leonardslee House, with its stunning garden sculpture water feature taking centre stage in the forecourt.
We saw that afternoon tea could be pre-booked and enjoyed in the setting of this manor house, a pastime that I love. I guess that is just one more reason for me to return next year for a day out at Leonardslee Gardens!
If you love charming woodland settings, lakes and wildlife, then Leonardslee is a place you will enjoy exploring. You can wander around the stunning lakeside pathways and immerse yourself in the natural surroundings of this tranquil oasis.
I received complimentary tickets to Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens; however, the opinions in this review are my own.
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Christmas Illuminations at Leonardslee
I was kindly invited back to review Leonardslee Chrismas Illuminations in 2021, and I have to say they were quite unique. The theme was that of the planets and you can see from the photos that the display was incredible.
Leonardslee Illuminations is an annual event between November and December and can be booked via their online events page.