The Long Walk at Woolbeding Gardens

The Gothic Summer House

Inspired by the classical landscape gardens and pleasure grounds of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Long Walk contrasts with the formal garden rooms around the house. Filled with a variety of follies, the Long Walk was designed to create an air of mystery and surprise.

Beyond the boundary of the formal gardens, a short walk across a field brings you unexpectedly to a ruined Abbey with a Gothic window overlooking a lake and woodland gardens called the Long Walk. A circular route with a yellow bridge that crosses the water, visitors are drawn around the garden by the unexpected follies, with every corner bringing somehting new.

Evening light on the Chinese bridge and lake
Evening light on the Chinese bridge and lake in the garden Woolbeding Gardens, West Sussex
Evening light on the Chinese bridge and lake

The Long Walk was developed over a number of years by Simon Sainsbury and Stewart Grimshaw.  In particular, in 2000 designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman were engaged to explore ways to enhance the site. They went on to extend the lake to introduce a waterfall constructed from Sussex sandstone and built a variety of follies, all the while taking advantage of the expansive Sussex views.


The planting of the Long Walk is more relaxed than the scheme in the Garden Rooms, with more naturalistic planting, including rhododendrons, Gunnera manicata, Hostas, Osmunda regalis, candelabra Primulas, Iris sibirica, Pulmonarias, Philadelphus and Hydrangeas.   There are a number of mature specimen trees, including Abies grandis, Taxodium distichum and Sequoia sempervirens.  We are continuing the emphasis on trees, most recently by introducing 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 is a folly, constructed around 18 years ago.

Edyth the elephant

A life-size baby elephant painted with strawberries can usually be found in a small pocket of tropical planting just near the summerhouse.  For the time being, however, Edyth is being kept under cover awaiting renovation.

The Hermit House

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 summer house at Woolbeding Gardens

The summerhouse

Designed by Philip Jebb, the 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 stumps and woodland

This is a cool place on a hot day, with the sound of running water from the rill and planting including Sarcoccocca hookeriana, Erythroniums, Hostas, Dryopteris ferns, Astilbe, Rodgersia, Digitalis and other shade lovers.  We continue to collect some sculptural tree stumps to line the paths. 

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 statutes of the four seasons.


The view across the lake towards Neptune

The River God

Sculpted by Tom Verity, Neptune benignly surveys his watery kingdom from the shelter of a rocky alcove surrounded by Lonicera, Aquilegia, Angelica archangelica, Digitalis lutea, 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.   

Sit and Relax

There are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the relaxing environment. On a hot day the Long Walk offers plenty of shade and the water draws plenty of wildlife, from the heron that stands in the boat to fish through to the bats that roost in the Abbey.  As well as our human visitors, badgers, deer, rabbits and foxes all roam the area (often sampling some of the planting along the way!). 

On a wet day you can take shelter in the summerhouse and Hermit House and still watch the world go by.