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Things to see and do at Woolbeding Gardens

A view of the ornamental fountain, church and south front of Woolbeding House (not National Trust) at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex
View of the ornamental fountain at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Explore the 26-acre garden and take in the garden rooms, each with a carefully chosen colour theme, from deep reds to pastel pinks. Discover the array of modern planting, set against the formal backdrop of the walled garden, visit the winding paths of the new Silk Route garden, admiring plants from the ancient trading route, or walk across the meadow to discover the Long Walk, a pleasure garden with summer houses, waterfalls and a river-god grotto.

Please note Woolbeding Gardens is closed for the season and will reopen on 18 April. Onsite there is a café serving teas, coffees, cake, sandwiches and ice cream, and you can also purchase plants and second-hand books.

The garden rooms

When you arrive, you’ll be welcomed into the entrance garden, which was formerly the old farmyard. This area was completely transformed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman by creating a dry garden with formal water pools surrounded by informal perennials and olive trees.

The west borders

At the heart of the garden are the west borders. A palette of blue, white and pale yellow, roses, tulips and forget-me-nots line the avenue, perfectly framing the view beyond the gates into the countryside. The walls are full of climbing roses and the borders are bursting with blooms in summer.

The well garden

Admire the combined textures, tones and shapes of the leaves that make up the four immaculate Euonymus-hedged beds surrounding the Italian well. Here you will find collectors’ items such as Schefflera from Taiwan or Oreopanax from Mexico that share a flower bed with native British species.

The herb garden

This corner of the garden features a sundial at the centre and spiralling topiary balls alongside Falstaff apples trained in diamond shapes up the walls. The beds are filled with lavender, thyme and other edibles.

The fountain garden

Hidden within the walls of the formal garden, the fountain is one of the hidden gems at Woolbeding. From here you’ll see that each corner of the garden is laid out in a colour wheel from rich pinks, splashes of blue to sunset oranges, with many flowers for you to enjoy during your visit.

The orangery

The orangery houses an array of potted citrus in winter and is a perfect place to sit and relax in summer with views over the swimming pool. Designed by Philipp Jebb in the 1970s, the orangery is the centrepiece of the Formal Gardens.

The greenhouse garden

Behind a hidden door you’ll discover the greenhouse, which holds an exotic jungle-like collection of plants and ferns that are kept constantly warm to encourage them to grow all year round.

The vegetable garden

Traditionally used to grow vegetables for use in the main house, the vegetable garden is home to the ornamental potager made up of around 1,200 lettuces that surround a topiary box swan.

Eupatorium maculatum 'Atropurpurpeum', or Joe Pye Weed, growing in front of the gothic summerhouse at Woolbeding Gardens
The gothic summerhouse at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex, surrounded with pink-flowered Eupatorium maculatum 'Atropurpurpeum', or Joe Pye Weed | © National Trust Images/Jacqui Hurst

The Long Walk

Inspired by the classical landscape gardens and pleasure grounds of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Long Walk at Woolbeding Gardens contrasts with the formal garden rooms around the house.

The Long Walk was designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman for Simon Sainsbury and Stewart Grimshaw in 2000. It’s a circular route with unexpected follies that draw you around the garden, with every corner bringing something new.

Planting

The planting of the Long Walk is more relaxed than the scheme in the garden rooms, with more naturalistic planting, including rhododendrons, Gunnera, hostas, osmunda, various primulas, irises, pulmonarias, philadelphus and hydrangeas.

There are a number of mature specimen trees, including Abies grandis, Taxodium distichum, Sequoia sempervirens, as well as a small grove of Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

In spring there are daffodils and cherry blossom and in summer red valerian, campion, cow parsley and foxgloves flower freely around the ruins.

The abbey

The ruined window arches, cracked walls and stone pillar bases give the abbey an impression of great age and antiquity. In fact, it’s a folly that was constructed in around the year 2000.

The hermit hut

Beautifully hand-crafted, this thatched folly has wands of hazel and pine cones lining the interior, a paddle stone floor and four knobbly elm tree trunks as pillars.

The summerhouse

Designed by Philip Jebb, this octagonal gothic pavilion stands at the head of the waterfall. The seats inside have one of the best views in the garden, across the lake and to the surrounding hills.

The stumpery and woodland

This is a cool place on a hot day, with the sound of running water from the rill and planting including Sarcoccocca, Erythroniums, hostas, Dryopteris ferns, foxgloves and other shade lovers.

The four seasons

Water bubbles from the top of a 2.5 metre high tufa monolith, catching the light as it pours down to the rill that ultimately feeds the waterfall. Looking on from leafy alcoves are statues of the four seasons.

The river god

Sculpted by Tom Verity, Neptune benignly surveys his watery kingdom from the shelter of a rocky alcove surrounded by honeysuckle, Angelica archangelica, Digitalis and Alchemilla mollis. His cloak is made of oyster shells and he rests one arm on an urn gushing water around his feet.

The bird hide

A hide made from locally collected hazel and chestnut is surrounded by woodland. There are bird feeders around the hide so that you can watch the local bird life, including tree creepers and great spotted woodpeckers.

Evening light in July on the modern water feature and the south front of Woolbeding House (not National Trust) at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex
The modern water feature at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

William Pye fountain

Inspired by a former cedar tree that once stood in the same position, the impressive William Pye water fountain is a four-metre-high sculpture.

Watch how the water is allowed to perfectly spill over the edge of the bowl into the central trunk to resemble a tree shape.

All Hallows church

Accessible by a secret door from the garden, the parish church of All Hallows neatly borders the garden. Inside the walls of the Grade I listed church, you’ll see beautiful stained-glass windows and original Saxon features.

The church is still run and maintained by the local parish of Midhurst and is open for visitors in the summer months.

The Tulip Folly

The perfect shelter from any passing showers, here you can take in the views towards the River Rother and surrounding countryside.

Designed by Philip Jebb, this classical temple folly is named after a tulip tree that fell in the winter storms of 1987.

The hornbeam tunnel

Take the steps down from the Tulip Folly, walk slowly along the tunnel and admire the hornbeam trees, twisting at every turn. This is a historic feature of the garden.

From here, walk along by the River Rother. Here you’ll find meadows of buttercups, daises and yarrow growing wildly into the sweeping landscape.

The Woolbeding Glasshouse and Silk Route Garden

The National Trust has supported The Woolbeding Charity to construct and open to the public a bespoke new glasshouse and garden, designed by Heatherwick Studio. The striking ten-sided glasshouse and landscaped series of garden zones exhibit plants, shrubs and trees that depict the key regions of the Silk Route.

Evening light in July on the south front of Woolbeding House (not National Trust) at Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex

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Find out when Woolbeding Gardens is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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