On a Sunday afternoon in April, I headed to Borde Hill Garden in Haywards Heath, West Sussex. I had been invited to visit and was eager to explore the beautifully themed garden rooms and the sensational countryside views across the Sussex High Weald. As a fan of spending lazy days wandering around English gardens, I was looking forward to discovering the enchanting sights that Borde Hill had to offer and, of course, taking lots of photographs to share with my readers.
The Grade ll listed English heritage garden is privately owned and consists of an Elizabethan manor house and extensive gardens, with 200 acres of parkland. The historic estate has been in the same family since the late 1800s, making the current owners Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke fourth-generation custodians. Over the years, Borde Hill’s historic landscape has been lovingly tended and, in places, re-designed into the spectacular grounds that visitors can see today.
Events at Borde Hill
On my visit, Borde Hill Garden was preparing for a sculpture trail event running from May until early Autumn 2021. As I love art and form, this allowed me to wander around the formal gardens and discover sculptures scattered within stunning natural settings.
Follow my photographic journey through the tranquil landscape and be inspired to visit Borde Hill on your next day out to the West Sussex countryside.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bookings are taken online, and guests are greeted at the check-in kiosk. A garden plan is provided, and a one-way route is in place. This ensures that visitors are heading in the same direction and not crossing one another on narrow pathways.
How to Get to Borde Hill Garden
By train – London Bridge or Victoria to Haywards Heath (45 minutes) and then by taxi from the station.
By car – postcode/sat nav RH16 1XP Haywards Heath
Entry Prices and Opening Times
Adult– £9.95 / Child (aged 3-16) – £6.70
Child under 3 – Free
Carer – Free
13 February – 31 October 2021
10 am to 5 pm daily (6 pm weekends May to September)
Last admission one hour before closing
Where to Eat at Borde Hill Garden
The Gardener’s Retreat, Cafe Elvira and Jeremy’s Restaurant offer casual and fine dining options.
Where to stay near Haywards Heath
South Lodge – 5 star
The Cowdray Arms – 4 star
Okenden Manor Hotel and Spa – 3 star
The Ardingly Inn – 3 star
The Birch Hotel – 3 star
The Gardeners’ Retreat
I’m not sure about you, but I always like to start my visit with a coffee and maybe (well, nearly always) a piece of something sweet! The Gardeners’ Retreat serves a perfectly made flat white and English tea, something that is often lacking in other establishments.
It is located near the Old Rhododendron Garden showcasing some of the first Chinese Rhododendrons to be introduced to Britain in the 19th century. Wooden picnic tables are dotted about the South lawn and provide the perfect view of the far-stretching Sussex countryside, South Park and the beautiful Borde Hill House.
Borde Hill House
The Elizabethan country mansion house has stood within the grounds since 1598 and was built by the physician Stephen Borde. His grandfather had connections to royalty, including Henry Vlll.
The property was sold several times before Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke purchased it in 1893. Through the centuries the family has set about transforming the grounds from a simple garden into enchanting gardens for everyone to enjoy.
Borde Hill Sculpture Trail
What caught my eye and drew me across the South Lawn was the sculpture “Greer – Guardian Angel ” by Ed Elliott. As I love mythical beings, this one really caught my attention. I liked the juxtaposition of the new sculpture against the backdrop of the old house, and for me, they worked together in perfect harmony.
If you fancy a walk before or after visiting the outdoor garden rooms, South Park is an area of parkland across from the South Lawn and comprises two lakes and three routes, all of varying distances taking from 15 minutes to 80 minutes. The larger lake is named Robertsmere after Robert Stephenson Clarke, the great grandfather of the current owner, and the smaller is Harry’s Lake, named after his grandson.
Jay Robin’s Rose Garden
After taking a ton of photos of “Greer”, I continued back across the south lawn to the mesmerising Jay Robin’s Rose Garden named after the owner’s daughter. The striking centrepiece of the garden is the water fountain designed in the form of a beautiful woman holding a posy of flowers, with her long hair trailing down her back.
Small pathways lined with lavender and box hedges lead you through beds planted with 100 varieties of David Austin roses. In summer, they are in full bloom, and I hope to return and experience their scent and colour for myself at the Rose Event in June. The display is apparently phenomenal, making Borde Hill one of the best gardens to visit in Sussex.
Mediterranean Garden and Greenhouses
One of the pathways led through to the Mediterranean Garden, where I discovered the Victorian greenhouses still used today. I spotted a small lemon tree growing inside one of them – perhaps in readiness for G & T’s on the lawn in the summertime!
In the 1930s the estate gardeners would spend much of their time tending and propagating ornamental trees and plants in these greenhouses.
Back in Jay Robin’s Garden, I was delighted to find another sculpture by Ed Elliott. This one is named “Charred Angel” and sits on a plinth looking towards the house. You will also find some other fabulous sculptures in this area but keep an eye open as I nearly missed the tiny figure sitting in this white marble column.
The Italian Garden and Pond
Walking away from this area, I headed along Paradise Walk to the Italian Garden. I had previously seen photographs of it and was eager to experience it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed; the Italian Garden was delightful.
It might surprise you to find out this area used to be the family’s tennis court! The current owners converted it in 1980 to this show-stopping garden.
The garden’s centrepiece is the pond, complete with its kinetic water sculpture named “Aquapoise” by the artist Angela Connor.
Hedging around the pond was lined with the most amazing show of plants called Fritillaria emeralds “Rubra”. They were quite unusual, and I hadn’t seen them planted in any other formal gardens I had visited. I was so enamoured by their hanging tulip-shaped orange flowers and spiky green tufts that I will plant some in my own garden in the Autumn.
My eyes were drawn across the water to the white statue of a female with her arms outstretched entitled “Welcoming the New Year”. She looked as if she were rejoicing at the vision before her because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t!
Wooden benches located around the pond offer the perfect place to sit and enjoy the scenery and tranquillity.
The Round Dell
Continuing along Paradise Walk I came to a tropical sunken garden which was quite different from the formal Italian garden next door. A long structured pathway finishing at a point leads you through tall ferns to a waterfall structure at the end. The sound of running water in this shaded spot was quite magical.
I wandered along the winding paths that led around the structure and found a small area planted with bamboo. The sun was glistening through the foliage onto the mossy floor and if I used my imagination, I could have been in the bamboo forests of Japan!
Old Potting Sheds
At the end of Paradise Walk, are the old potting sheds used up until 1990 as a herb garden. Being early spring, there was not much life here, but as the year continues, it will come to life with plant species from Chile and New Zealand.
Garden of Allah
Passing along Josephine’s Way and Long Dell will bring you to the entrance of the Garden of Allah. Here you can see some beautiful ornate perspex discs hanging from the blossom tree as part of the sculpture trail. They catch the sunlight and turn gently in the wind, making them a simple but stunning addition to this area.
Wandering into the Garden of Allah takes you along a pathway lined with magnolia, rhododendron and camellia trees. Once in full bloom, these trees fill the area with both vibrant and pastel colours. Some of the varieties were established from seeds brought back from the East by the 1920s great “plant hunters”.
A wooden gazebo offers a shady spot to rest on warm sunny days with views across the surrounding Sussex parkland. On my visit, the gazebo offered a vantage point to enjoy even more perspex discs, this time with initials inside them, hanging from the huge tree in the middle of this sheltered dell.
A grassy track leads from the Garden of Allah to Stephanie’s Glade, the perfect place for a woodland walk. In May and June, this area is awash with huge rhododendron trees and a carpet of bluebells. Sadly I had arrived after a cold snap, and the bluebells hadn’t shown their heads yet, however I am assured that the display is fantastic.
There are two routes: Warren wood is a circular 30-minute walk. The Warren Wood and Stephanie Glade combined circular walk take a leisurely 60 minutes. Keep an eye out for rare and exotic species in this area. The “Pocket Handkerchief Tree” introduced in 1901 and displaying leaves looking similar to handkerchiefs and the “Temple Juniper” introduced in 1861 is regarded as a sacred tree from Japan often planted close to temples.
Parkland Views to the Ouse Valley
Following the pathway along the edge of Borde Hill, we were rewarded with stunning views of the English countryside. You can see the Ouse Valley Viaduct from this point, another popular place to visit in West Sussex.
Completed in 1842 and given the title “the most elegant viaduct in Britain”, the Ouse Valley viaduct was used to carry the London to Brighton railway line over the River Ouse. It is now a popular spot for photographers due to the height and design of its 37 arches.
I visited the viaduct last year and had a great time capturing shots from different angles, as can be seen in the link above.
Azalea Ring and Children’s Playground
Arriving back at the start of the circular walk around the grounds, you will find the azalea ring. In late May, the Azalea Ring bursts into a kaleidoscope of colour. Blooms of orange, yellow, red, pink and white will delight all visitors. I arrived too early in the season and missed this glorious event, but it gives me a reason to return!
A well-equipped children’s playground, for the little ones to let off some steam, can be found here as well as a lovely shop to purchase plants and gardening gifts as a memento of a perfect day out in West Sussex at Borde Hill Garden.
If you are a fan of beautiful English gardens and reconnecting to nature, you will love Borde Hill Garden. You can spend the complete day here and incorporate lunch at one of the on-site eateries. Or why not bring a blanket and your favourite nibbles and enjoy an alfresco picnic.
If you still have time to spare, pay a visit to Ouse Valley Viaduct, just along from Borde Hill Garden.
I received an invite to Borde Hill Garden; however, all opinions about this visit are my own.
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