A tale of lupins at Terwick Church

Lupins in flower at Terwick Church

The church field at Terwick, near Woolbeding in the South Downs, is much loved for its striking display of colourful lupins each year. It’s a beautiful and unusual sight and people often wonder how the lupin field came to be.

The field was once owned by a Reverend Laycock who spent 40 years using it as a market garden. He planted lupins which self-seeded and bloomed year after year. 

The field was later given to Mrs Jane Patterson Hodge who adored the view of the lupin flowers, in the field in front of the small picturesque church, framed by the South Downs in the background. The surrounding fields are arable farmland so Mrs Hodge wanted to ensure that the view was protected and the lupins would continue to flower. 

She gifted the field to the National Trust in 1938 with the condition that lupins were grown in part of the field. The Trust accepted the gift with the promise of growing lupins as Mrs Hodge had wished. Through the decades the National Trust has worked with the Rogate community and our local farmer to try and ensure new seed is planted and the number of lupins are maintained.

White lupins in flower at Terwick Church
White lupins in flower at Terwick Church
White lupins in flower at Terwick Church

Historically lupins were grown as a crop, and seed drilled in to parts of the field. Today, the field still holds hundreds of lupins plants, but within this is a mix of wild grasses and flowers such as ox-eye daisies, poppies, vetch and meadow cranesbill, which have self-seeded and become part of the meadow.

Harvest mice also live here and the space has become more than just a flower bed for lupins.  It is now a ‘naturalised’ meadow which gives space and opportunities for wildlife to flourish amongst a more formal and farmed landscape. 

We manage the field in a similar way to a hay meadow. A cut is taken late in the year once the lupins have seeded, and then the grass is baled and removed. Russell mix lupin seeds are sown into the bare ground in spring. 

" The lupin field and view of the church caught the heart of Mrs Hodge. Thanks to her gift - and with the help of people in our community and the Coastal West Sussex Mind group - the lupins continue to bloom."
- Fiona Scully, Ranger

To care for the field we work with the Coastal West Sussex Mind group. Mind is an independent local mental health charity working in West Sussex. It offers mental health services, along with associated training and support. It also works in communities to raise awareness and challenge stigma and discrimination. The services support young people, adults, older adults, carers and families affected by mental health problems. Working on the land and gardening helps alleviate some of the impacts of depression and promotes a sense of wellness.

The lupin field and view of the church caught the heart of Mrs Hodge. Thanks to her gift - and with the help of people in our community and the Coastal West Sussex Mind group - the lupins continue to bloom.

Although the flowers are beautiful when viewed from passing cars, we would love to invite visitors to take a moment to stop and stroll through the field and enjoy the quiet calm and tranquil beauty.