This month, I’m privileged to be celebrating the seventh anniversary of my articles for Travel Research Online. Over this period, I’ve created an Aladdin’s cave of bright ideas for UK-bound travel, linked to major annual events and festivals significant anniversaries. If you click here, a quick speed read will reveal names you’ll recognise like Downton Abbey, Harry Potter, the Beatles, the Chelsea Flower Show along with tour suggestions for family travel, pre- and post-cruise extensions and Women Only travel. If you’re a real Brit enthusiast, keep reading because there are one hundred and twenty-three for you to look at, dating back to February 2015!
It represents a unique resource which you can use to create UK-travel experiences that perfectly match the interests, time frame and budget of independent travellers, four or five friends travelling together, families or small groups of ten to fifteen.
This time around, I’m highlighting some remarkable grand houses, great estates and a historic castle in the county of West Sussex, just east of the beaten track between London and Southampton. Check out the videos for Borde Hill, Arundel Caste, and Leonardslee.
Privately owned Borde Hill is a beautiful Grade II* English Heritage listed garden set within 200-acres of scenic parkland. Renowned as a plantsman’s paradise, the garden boasts rare shrubs and champion trees, stunning herbaceous borders, a quintessentially English Rose Garden (see video), a large lily pool and subtropical dells with palms and banana trees. Nestled at the heart of the Garden is the Elizabethan Mansion House (open to pre-booked groups). This is THE place to enjoy the tranquil garden rooms, an abundance of colour, woodland walks, home-cooked food, and a variety of different events throughout the season.
West Dean Gardens
Set in a beautiful valley and situated at the foot of the South Downs, the nineteenth century Gothic house, designed by James Wyatt and now a College of Arts and Conservation, it is home to one of the greatest restored gardens open to the public today. A gentle walk around the Arts and Crafts grounds will reveal an impressive collection of immaculate working Victorian Glasshouses, a restored walled kitchen garden, an immense and lush planting in a 300-foot Edwardian pergola, a sunken garden, a spring garden with flint bridges, and the occasional surreal fibreglass tree provide interest throughout the year.
Set high on a hill, this imposing 11th century castle commands the landscape with magnificent views across the South Downs and the meandering River Arun; and has seen sieges, battles, and even a visit from Queen Victoria. Today, you can explore the extensive grounds and perfectly kept gardens, including the quirky Stumpery Garden and the internationally renowned Collector Earl’s Garden. Immerse yourself in the fragrance of the Rose Garden and enjoy the tranquillity of the Fitzalan Chapel’s White Garden. Time your visit to coincide with their annual Tulip Festival (mid-April) and Medieval Jousting Tournament (26th-31st July).
Denmans is a tranquil, contemporary garden started by plants woman Joyce Robinson, a pioneer in creating naturalistic, low-maintenance gravel gardens. Just 20-minutes from the cathedral city of Chichester, the garden was subsequently redesigned by John Brookes MBE, one of Britain’s most influential landscape designers, who lived here from 1980 until 2018. A grade II post-war garden, Denmans is made up of a series of intimate spaces featuring faux riverbeds, a walled garden, conservatory, and a myriad of unusual plants, some semi-tropical. Under restoration, it is known for creative plant associations, architectural plantings, and strong year-round interest.
Often described as ‘The Finest Woodland Gardens in England’ (see video), its rich history dates back to when it was first planted in 1801. The Grade I-listed gardens are set within a valley, on a 240-acre estate with outstanding scenery throughout the year that blooms in spring and takes on the glorious colours of autumn. Explore the renowned Rock Garden and Dolls House Museum, see the rare colony of wallabies and catch sight of the deer roaming free, and then enjoy high tea. Also, don’t miss their brand-new Sculpture Park and Art Gallery.
Tucked away in the Sussex countryside, James and Margaret Beale chose an idyllic location for their rural retreat. Designed by Philip Webb, the house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship, with Morris & Co. interiors creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The house is dressed for a weekend stay in 1925, so you can imagine you are a guest of the family. A major restoration of the 5-hectare (12-acre) hillside garden has been restored to its 1920s glory, with the garden rooms showcasing year-round seasonal highlights and an award-winning plant collection.
Parham (see video) is one of the country’s finest Elizabethan houses, unchanged over the centuries and a much-loved family home, containing a superb collection of paintings, furniture and needlework. The Gardens consist of seven-acres of Pleasure Grounds and a four-acre Walled Garden; encompassing herbaceous borders, rose garden, cut flower garden, vegetable garden, orchard, a 1920s Wendy House and a Greenhouse with a fine display of pelargoniums and other tender plants. The Garden Team are currently working on a major project of clearing and replanting the borders in the Walled Garden to address a long-standing problem with perennial weeds!
Paull Tickner, owner of U.K-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at www.customgb.co.uk or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.