A tour for all: what interests you?

Sheffield Park summer lakes

This September we're running a series of tours that delve a little bit deeper into the history, projects and horticulture of Sheffield Park and Garden. Join our staff and volunteers on a free tour that interests you.

There's so much more to Sheffield Park and Garden than a beautiful garden. With the oldest tree in the garden reliably dated to 1485, this English oak, Quercus robur, goes back to the year Henry VII seized the English throne at the Battle of Bosworth. With such a vast passage of time, various gardeners and landscape designers have all left their mark in the garden so what we see today has much historical significance, as well as providing a home to many species of animals and plants.

The garden in late summer

September is a great month to visit the garden. As the children go back to school, the garden becomes a peaceful retreat which much colour still to be found and enjoyed as the sun sets lower in the sky as the days pass. Look out for these highlights when you visit:

•    Nymphaea (Waterlily). Throughout the summer and into autumn, several species of waterlily can be seen in Middle Lake and Ten Foot Pond, with colours ranging from white, through pink to crimson.

•    Magnolia grandiflora. A large evergreen tree with glossy dark green oval leaves and large creamy-white cup-shaped flowers (20 - 25cm across) which are highly fragrant.

•    Catalpa bignonioides (Indian Bean Tree).  The Catalpa has large bright green heart-shaped leaves. The flowers are white in colour and appear during July. Later on in the season the fruits appear as long thin pods containing the seeds The Catalpa on Coke Road was severely damaged in the 1987 hurricane and has survived due to the use of stout props. 

•    Clerodendrum trichotomum (Harlequin Glorybower).  This has very fragrant, pretty white flowers in Aug-Sept, followed by outstanding and eye-catching metallic-blue berries in autumn. These berries are enclosed by colourful, maroon calyces (sepals of a flower). The fruit are toxic and must not be eaten. 

Crimson waterlilies on the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Crimson waterlilies on the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Crimson waterlilies on the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex

•    Pseudolarix amabilis (Golden larch). The golden larch is not a true larch, hence the botanical name Pseudolarix, or false larch. There is just one specimen in Sheffield Park which is a particularly good example of this tree.  It is an endangered species in its native region.

•    Eucryphia. There are several varieties of Eucryphia in the garden, including E. glutinosa (origin C Chile) and three species of hybrids. E. x nymansensis is a hybrid that was cultivated at Nymans Gardens in 1915. A number of Eucryphias can be found in Eucryphia Glade, north of Ten Foot Pond.

•    Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree). A deciduous tree from eastern Asia similar to a Judas tree. There is a group of 10 in the garden near the Gentian Beds. In late summer to early autumn the foliage turns pale yellow to smoky dark pink with the aroma of burnt sugar or caramel in favourable conditions. 

The lovely autumn leaves of the Katsura tree
a close up of the bright autumn leaves of the Katsura tree at Glendurgan with a clear blue sky in the background
The lovely autumn leaves of the Katsura tree

•    Ligustrum lucidum (Chinese privet). Small evergreen tree with oval glossy leaves. Flowers are small and creamy-white, in panicles up to 15cm long. There is just one example of this shrub in the garden, close to Pulham Falls.

•    Euonymus hamiltonianus sieboldianus (Hamilton spindle).  This small tree has dull green leaves that turn pink and red in Autumn. The pale green fruits appear early autumn, and turn to rose pink with orange seeds.

•    Cornus kousa (Strawberry dogwood).  This is a small deciduous tree 8–12 metres tall. At this time of year, green fruit berries around 2.5cm diameter appear on the tree.  These turn from green to magenta red in later Autumn. These berries look similar to strawberries and tend to grow larger towards the end of the season if they remain on the tree.

•    Euonymus planipes (Flat stalked spindle tree). We have several species of Euonymus. This particular species produces small flowers in August which then give rise to round, bright red fruit that open out to reveal orange seeds. The leaves turn bright red in autumn. This plant is also called Euonymus sachalinensis.

Autumn berries
Spindle berries in Hatfield Forest
Autumn berries

•    Acer. There are 29 species and 250 specimens of acers in the Garden. They are particularly attractive as they begin to develop autumn colour.  

Find a tour that interests you

Our 'Tour for all' season gives you an opportunity to learn more around a subject that interests you. Whether you would like just a quick overview before strolling at your leisure, or a more indepth historical tour, or whether you're interested in the woodland, wildlife or the impact of the  Second World War on the garden. Take a look at the schedule of tours and reserve your place. There is no charge for the tour, just your normal admission to the garden.

A group listening to a tour guide
A group tour
A group listening to a tour guide

Introductory Tours

If you just want a quick introduction to the garden history and highlights, join one of our 30 minute tours running several times a day, Monday-Friday. One of our knowledgeable volunteers will walk you down to First Bridge and give you an overview of the garden history and answer any questions you may have.

Fungi Walk- Monday 3 September

Easily unnoticed, the fungi species at Sheffield Park are wide and varied. This walk, led by Ranger Laura, will give you an introduction to fungi identification and help you discover some of our more unusual varieties.

Garden Tour - 4, 6, 11 & 13 September

If you'd like to delve a little bit deeper into the history and horticulture of this Grade I listed garden, join one of these 90 minute tours led by our experienced volunteers.

Second World War Tour - Wednesday 5 September

Sheffield Park and Garden has a rich history during the Second World War as the training ground and home to thousands of Canadian soldiers who were based here before travelling to fight in Europe. Join this tour to hear about the war years and the impact it had on the garden, as well as the signs still visible in the landscape.

Evening Walk to the River Ouse - Friday 7 September

As part of our Heritage Lottery Funded river restoration project, we are offering this out-of-hours tour down to the river valley to look for the native bat species living in this part of the parkland. Join our ranger, Laura, as she leads you on the walk.

Family Wildlife Walk to the River Ouse - Sunday 9 September

Almost a year into the River Ouse restoration project, this walk will show you the work that's taken place around the banks of the River Ouse to improve the surrounding habitats and encourage wildlife.

Head Gardener Tour - Wednesday 12 September

Join Andy Jesson, Head Gardener of 16 years, on a tour of the garden as he points out his horticultural highlights, unpicks the layers of history in the planting and discusses how the team maintain and look after this Grade 1 listed landscape.

Woodland Tour - Friday 14 September

Take a tour with Woodland Officer Tom Hill as he points out interesting historical and natural features including fungi, wildlife and archaeological remains in Walk Wood that only opened to visitors a couple of years ago.

Plan a trip to the tearoom

If all that walking and exploring has left you in need of refreshments, then head to the tearoom in Oak Hall. Here you will find a selection of drinks, hot and cold meals, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, cakes, biscuits and more. If the weather is warm, then take a seat in the garden or courtyard and maybe enjoy a Jude's ice cream too, the flavours are very unusual.

Jude's ice cream available at Sheffield Park and Garden
Jude's ice cream available at Sheffield Park and Garden
Jude's ice cream available at Sheffield Park and Garden

On busy days and weekends in the garden, look out for The Shant which sells drinks and light refreshments for you to enjoy on the go too.

Take home a souvenir

No trip is complete without a browse in the giftshop and at Sheffield Park and Garden you're spoilt for choice with two to choose from. At Visitor Reception, you will find home furnishings, cards, gardening accessories, food and drink as well as books, scarfs, children's gifts and an outdoor plant centre. In the shop next to the tearoom, you will find outdoor clothing, picnic sets, Sheffield Park branded souvenirs and a small selection of sweet treats. 

The giftshop at reception at Sheffield Park and Garden
Sheffield Park and Garden giftshop
The giftshop at reception at Sheffield Park and Garden