Two very different Sussex hilltop gardens
It's a strange thing about gardens ... they're very personal ... so what happens when you visit one that you've heard a lot about and it leaves you cold?? I'm afraid this happened to me today, but I think the property in question is important, given it's magnificent location and history. The garden I'm talking about is Arundel Castle Garden in West Sussex, but I suspect I'm alone in my interpretation, since it "delighted" well-known garden writer, Mary Keen.
The location is fantastic (although not for the disabled, or anyone with walking difficulties, as the garden is at the top of a steep hill), perched atop the ancient town of Arundel; and the castle backdrop is astounding (above); but the garden is more like a theme park without the rides, than the peaceful haven I was expecting.
The Collector Earl's Garden is the main attraction here - opened in 2008 by the Prince of Wales - it's filled with huge modern structures, designed to look ancient, with a central canal pond (above) and a rather heavy domed pergola (below) and a lot of large rocks that seem completely incongruous in the shadow of the fine Norman castle. The garden is named after Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, who was known as "The Collector", because of the large number of paintings he acquired during his lifetime.
On a positive note, the park surrounding the castle is lovely and there are many fine trees, a rose garden and wonderful views of the castle, so all in all, I'm sure it makes a great day out.
But I needed an antidote when I left here, so went to one of my favourite Sussex green spots, which is just a 15-minute drive away - Highdown Gardens, near Worthing - creation of Sir Frederick Stern, high on another hill overlooking the sea, and always filled with wonderful flowers. The irises and peonies are already quite stunning and the Rose Garden will soon be in full bloom. You can rest assured, there's always something to see in this lovely garden and it's completely free!
Iris in bloom at Highdown - Sussex's much-loved chalk garden