The Wonders of Woolbeding20th April 2015 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
Making a garden tricky to visit is the horticultural equivalent of catnip to a cat. The more barriers you erect, the more attractive it becomes. Woolbeding is one of those gardens. Although owned by the National Trust it is privately tenanted which means that is only open on Thursdays and Fridays from April to September – and then only if you pre-book and use the shuttle bus from nearby Midhurst as there is no parking at the garden. So, a certain amount of planning is needed. Is it worth it – absolutely. A series of walled or hedged gardens surround the beautiful house (it’s never open) including a pair of magnificent herbaceous borders – first laid out by Lanning Roper – that frame the view to the front of the house, an ornamental potager and a contemporary courtyard garden.
Away from the house, undulating parkland leads down to the River Rother and to a picturesque garden laid out by Julian & Isabel Bannerman in the 1990s that features cottage orne ornament, a marsh-marigold-yellow bridge, a river god and an authentic looking ruined church that was built by the Bannermans as an entrance to this part of the garden.
Woolbeding has an amazing selection of seating, some beautiful, some timeworn and some decidedly quirky, but all adding to the character of this garden which is gloriously uncrowded. There is always a quiet corner where you can avail yourself of one of these seats and soak up the atmosphere.
Should you feel like indulging yourself, The Spread Eagle Hotel at Midhurst (in conjunction with the National Trust) has arranged a monthly Gardening Masterclass on different themes with Woolbeding’s head gardener. The package includes overnight accommodation at the historic hotel, dinner, bed and breakfast as well as transport to and from Woolbeding, the masterclass, a tour of the garden and a cream tea in the orangery. I was fortunate to attend a press preview and can confirm that I enjoyed every minute! Prices start at £139.50, based on two people sharing a room.