East Sussex Holiday
Report by Lesley Struck

July 2017

Sunday 16th July. An early start today 8:00 am from Minehead , we have a long journey ahead. 43 happy holidaymakers from the West Somerset and Quantock National Trust Associations making our way to East Sussex. Lorraine is driving us and Sue is our leader.

We stop for coffee at Sue's newly discovered Rosebourne Garden Centre near Andover. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to take in everything but this place is definitely worth returning to. Onwards to the first visit of our holiday.
This enormous house, the home of descendants of the Earls of Northumberland, Dukes of Somerset and Earls of Egremont for 900 years now holds the most important art collection in the care of the National Trust. From Petworth we journey to our base for the holiday.
East Sussex National Hotel.
Hidden in the countryside an enormous complex consists of the hotel, Health Centre and two 18 hole golf courses.

Day 2. Now the fun begins and didn't we have a lovely time the day we went to Brighton! Our guide, Rick, joined us on the coach and took us on an informative tour around the town, showing us many points of interest and giving us loads of fascinating facts. We split into two groups for the second part of our tour, this time on foot. The afternoon was spent in The Brighton Pavilion. What an opulent Regency extravaganza this is. Although George IV was liked by the locals, bringing tourists and their subsequent wealth to the town he has since been voted the most unpopular Monarch ever.

Day 3. Two more, very different National Trust properties.
First Sheffield Park.
The grounds and gardens once belonged to The Earl of Sheffield. There are woodland walks with many specimen trees. Large and small lakes and ponds with pink, white, yellow and red water lilies floating in abundance. The house is now occupied by private tenants.

Back to the coach but why was Sue hurrying us on? We soon found out. We had a train to catch. What a a total surprise. We were not going all the way by coach but on the wonderful Bluebell Rail Line. A preserved steam railway running to East Grinstead. One of our party even got a ride on the footplate!

Lorraine and the coach met us at the terminus station and took us to Standen House. A lovely Arts and Crafts family home with delightful Morris interiors, set in a stunning hillside garden. This proved to be a little gem. In 1972, the National Trust took over Standen. The house was in need of serious repair and the first custodian of the property set about revitalizing the house and bringing it back to its former glory.

Day 4. Three visits today. First Alfriston Clergy House. The first built property to be acquired by the National Trust. It was purchased in 1896 for £10. Originally built around 1350. A rare surviving example of a Wealden timber framed hall house. We dividend again into two groups as this property is very small. At one point there were so many people in the tiny upstairs room that I feared for its survival!

Moving on for lunch after which there was a short walk to Monks House, another National Trust small family home. A tranquil 17th-century weather-boarded cottage which was inhabited by Leonard Virginia Woolf from 1919 until Leonard's death in 1969. The property is still as it was left containing the couple's furniture, and extensive collection of belongings.

...“ every visit I think this is my favourite and then the next day I change my mind! “...

And now for something completely different. Visit three.
Sussex Prairie Garden.
Britain’s largest “Prairie,” or “Naturalistic,” garden, with eight acres of stunning garden to roam around. Unlike most gardens of a comparable size, there is no castle or stately home attached. The owner Pauline was so enthusiastic and obviously totally dedicated to her lovely garden. At the end of our visit we had tea or coffee and delicious homemade cakes.

Arundel Castle, home of the Duke of Norfolk was our first destination on Day 5. A restored and remodeled medieval castle with nearly 1,000 years of history. The latest restoration project was completed in 1900. Many of the staterooms are open to the public, including a vast long gallery which was used during the filming of BBC's Young Victoria to depict a banquet held at Windsor Castle.

Today there are spectacular and inspirational gardens, which have been open to the public since 1854. Strolling through the tranquil grounds we discovered different themed gardens. A White Garden, Rose Garden, a Stumpery and a glorious Cut Flower Garden. One of the many highlights for us in this awesome place being the floating crown in the Collector Earl's Garden. A large jet of water holding up a crown, rising and falling with the flow..

All too soon we had to leave this magnificent castle and gardens and make our way to Nymans, another National Trust garden and House. This charming house and garden have been in the hands of the Trust since 1953 willed by the Messel family. It has suffered a few disasters over the years. A large part of the house was destroyed by fire in 1947 caused by a blow lamp whilst trying to unfreeze water pipes. Much of the property is still a garden ruin. The garden also suffered much damage in the great storm of 1987, losing 486 mature trees and many of the shrubs. The last member of the family to live in the property was Anne, the mother of Anthony Armstrong Jones and mother in law to Princess Margaret.

Our last day and after a leisurely breakfast we start on journey home. But it was not quite over. Our final visit was to Woolbeding Gardens. Nestled in a quiet corner of West Sussex this is a true horticultural haven bursting with colourful planting, sensational views and a whole host of surprises. Dream gardens, grottoes, ruined abbey, follies, statues and fountains. The garden was designed by Stephen Sainsbury and his partner. There was a swimming pool and orangery hidden in one of the “garden rooms” which looked very inviting.

More plants were bought to add to the growing collection in the coach and reluctantly after lunch we began our long journey home.

To summarize we have seen large stately piles, small family homes, castles, ruins, trains, royal pavilions and gardens a plenty. We all had our favourites, in fact one of our party said “every visit I think this is my favourite and then the next day I change my mind!”. Myself I particularly liked the garden at Arundle Castle and the house at Standen or was it the garden at Woolbeding and Nymans! All so good. Once again Sue has given us an enjoyable, action packed, holiday with loads of variety, fun and laughs. Bring on the next one!