Rebecca Smith - Garden design & consultancy

The One about Woolbeding

A warm sunny day in May in Sussex. What to do... what to do... And so to Woolbeding for the first time. 


 Embarrassingly, I have never been to Woolbeding before. Owned by the National Trust, the house is one that I have passed many many times while living nearby in Haslemere, yet I never seemed to make it there. The National Trust run a coach service from nearby Midhurst and prebooking is necessary so a little foreward planning is needed when visiting this garden. But it is worth it. 

Woolbeding Borders

The 17th century house looks out onto the rolling landscape of West Sussex beyond the garden walls. From 1972, the house was leased to Simon Sainsbury and Stewart Grimshaw, who together restored the house and developed the gardens. 

Woolbeding Borders

Laning Roper worked with them in the areas closest to the house during the 1970's onwards to create a series of garden rooms. These rooms are separated from one another with a series of hedges and red brick walls and include a herb garden, swimming pool and orangery, vegetable garden, and more. 

The deep double 'West' borders near to the house were awash in a sea of blue and silvery foliage in for my visit mid-May. Forget-me-nots are woven through the planting and a fine wisteria graces the wall at the very back. White tulips add light to the cool tones. 

Yew topiary, Woolbeding

A pair of wonderful yew topiary buttresses grace the opening to the adjoining herb garden. Topiary here provides vertical interest and the brick walls are used to support espalied fruit. 

Woolbeding, Herb Garden

Woolbeding, Herb Garden

One then passes through these lovely brick arches of the Orangery into the Pool Garden. 

Pool Garden, Woolbeding

Seat, Pool Garden, Woolbeding

Throughout the garden, there are lovely seats positioned for a short rest in a spot of shade or sun. 

Pool Garden, Woolbeding

I do like this bench overlooking the swimming pool with its buttresses or bookends created from the beech hedge. It focuses the view of those on the seat straight onto the waters. 

Tunnel of Green, Woolbeding

Clipped Yew cones form a row through the Well Garden. 

Well Garden, Woolbeding

This leads to the Vegetable Garden, a colourful space filled with beautiful edibles. Though I think picking one of these lettuces would ruin the look! I love the thick edging of chives with their amazing purple flowers. Graceful cardoons form a row across the feet of the columnar fruit trees. Their arching silver leaves are a wonderful architectural part of the planting even before the purple flowers come later in summer.

Vegetable Garden, Woolbeding

Vegetable Garden, Woolbeding

Leaving the confines of the Walled Gardens, one heads out into the open air of the Pleasure Grounds towards the Tulip Folly and then to the Long Walk. 

Tulip Folly, Woolbeding

The Tulip Folly was designed in 1987 by Phillip Jebb to commemorate a tulip tree (lirodendron tulipofera) which came down in winter storms. 

The Abbey, Bannerman Designs, Woolbeding

From here the Long Walk takes one past grazing sheep, lots of lambs on our visit, and to the Abbey designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman. Best known for creating theatrical gardens, their creation at Woolbeding has their signature flair and beauty. Diverse elements such as a shaded glade with Hermits Hut, a cascade with Gothic Summerhouse, a yellow Chippendale-style Chinese bridge come together to create a space which is dramatic and yet looks completely natural. 

Woolbeding, Hermit's Hut

The rusticated Hermit's Hut has a very detailed interior:

Woolbeding, Hermit's Hut, Interior

It is the floor which I especially love...

Woolbeding, Hermit's Hut, floor detail

Woolbeding Garden, Bannerman bench

Woolbeding, Chinese Bridge by Bannerman Design

Woolbeding, View from the Gothic Summerhouse

Woolbeding, Gothic Summerhouse and Cascade

Returning slowly to the house along the river through the hornbeam tunnel, there is another marker to a tree lost. Cedra by William Pye marks the spot of a cedar tree lost to a combination of old age and winter storms. 

Cedra by William Pye

This is a garden which I think it will be necessary to visit several times throughout the year to experience it is all the season. The early summer planting will give way to full-blown June and I will be booking another visit soon. 



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