Borde Hill Garden: This is how Sussex botanical jewel plans to reinvent itself thanks to major funding boost

Borde Hill Garden near Haywards Heath has won substantial financial support to ‘reinvent’ itself as a thriving destination for the 21st Century while honouring and celebrating its rich and important botanical history.

Set within the rolling hills of the Sussex High Weald, Borde Hill is one of Britain’s truly great heritage Gardens. The vision of Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke, who from 1893 dedicated fifty years to creating a magnificent collection of rare trees and flowering shrubs from around the world, the plantings are a supreme example of the best in British gardening.

The botanical collection includes many plant species found nowhere else in Britain, and one of the country’s largest privately owned collections

of champion trees.

Borde Hill Rose Garden - photo Julie Skelton

Key components of the new project include a cycle / pedestrian route creating car-free access to Borde Hill from Haywards Heath and its train station for the first time, making it one of the few visitor gardens in Sussex to be accessible with ease via public transport. An all-year-round Eco Lodge on the edge of tranquil Robertsmere Lake serving as a visitor and community hub, with learning and wellbeing spaces, toilets and a café, plus an extensive focus on outdoor learning across Dinosaur Wood to the west of the lake.

A Growers Community Garden and Propagation Project will highlight the importance of biodynamic, locally grown produce and good horticultural practice, enabling community groups and individuals to connect with nature. Important interpretation exploring the significance of Borde Hill’s botanical history, and an established learning and volunteers programme will see initiatives across propagation, growing, outdoor learning and environmental sustainability.

It has been awarded a £231,000 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop the proposals for its ‘Reinventing Borde Hill’.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to connect communities with the restorative power of nature, help local people feel mentally and physically replenished, and inspire future generations through outdoor learning.

The funding of £231,000 will help Borde Hill Garden progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

Key supporters of the project include the RHS, Historic England, Mid Sussex Active, Cambridge Botanic Garden, Dimensions and the Alzheimer’s Society.

Commenting on the award, Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke from Borde Hill said: “We’re delighted that we have received this support thanks to National Lottery players. This is a community focused initiative which will see our South Park transformed into an accessible, inclusive space for children and adults of all ages to embrace the restorative power of nature.”

Borde Hill is a beautiful Grade II* English Heritage Garden of 35 acres. It is set in 200 acres of parkland in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with magnificent views across the Ouse Valley viaduct. The Garden, near Haywards Heath in West Sussex, has been a registered charity since 1965. It was purchased in 1893 by Colonel Stephenson Robert Clarke with the express intention of creating a magnificent plant collection. The Colonel was a horticultural pioneer and sponsored plant hunting trips to Japan, China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes.

The Colonel’s great-grandson, Andrewjohn, his wife Eleni and their children Jay Robin and Harry are the current custodians of the Garden.