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Public urged to support 'the jewel in the crown' as Highdown Gardens marks 50 years in public ownership

Released: Monday, 19 June 2017

Highdown 50 logo

The public is today being urged to show support for Highdown Gardens as a 'jewel in the crown' of Worthing's cultural offer.

Worthing Borough Council is embarking on a major bid to secure the future of the world-famous gardens by applying for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of more than £900,000.

And today the council's executive member for the environment Diane Guest urged the public to get behind the bid. She said:

“Highdown is a very special place and we want to invest in it to safeguard the future. The more people we can get on board to support this bid the better our chances.”

She made the call as the nationally important gardens, nestling high above the town, prepares for two special 50th anniversary landmarks.

The gardens, on Highdown Hill are owned and run by the council which keeps them free for visitors and has launched Highdown50 to publicise the importance of the place in local and national history.

The gardens are also of worldwide scientific importance and have been designated a National Plant Collection.

July 10 this year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Frederick Stern the creator of the gardens, who lived in next door at Highdown Towers now a hotel and restaurant.

And in February the following year in the 50th anniversary of the gardens being handed to the people of the town by Sir Frederick's widow Lady Sybil. The Borough Council has cared for the gardens ever since.

Today the council's executive member for the environment Cllr Diane Guest praised the attraction and lauded its place in the life of the borough. She said:

“I am always inspired whenever I go up there”

“There's such a variety of fantastic plants, trees and other species from all around the world, all with a great story to tell and all of national importance.”

“I am extremely proud of our role in keeping these gardens in their splendid state and of course on this anniversary we acknowledge the vision and the passion of Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil in defying the odds to make this garden the jewel it is.”

The gardens are a spectacular highlight of counter intuitive horticulture. Sir Frederick's legacy was to prove that a whole range of plant species could still thrive in chalk downs. Just six inches of loam sits above the chalk face of Highdown Hill but many unique species now thrive there.

A special tree planting and plaque unveiling will take place on July 10 to mark the anniversary of Sir Frederick's death.

Interim Head Gardener Gary Prescod said:

“It's a great job working up here. The gardens give so much pleasure to so many different people, old and young alike. I always get people coming up to me asking questions about the important species we have here.”

The Heritage Lottery Bid if successful will help enhance the visitor experience at the gardens and help safeguard the nationally important collection of species.

Plans might include making the gardens more accessible for the disabled, improving the plant propagation facilities and converting the on-site gardeners' bungalow into a visitor centre. A public consultation might bring forward other ideas.

A HLF bid last year was narrowly unsuccessful but the fund has encouraged the council to bid again on the strength of the project. This project will build on recent provision of interpretation trails and leaflets at Highdown Gardens, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and installed earlier this year.

Members of the public are being asked to answer a special questionnaire on the Highdown website which will be used in framing the bid.

Deadline for views is 14th August 2017.

See also: 

Videos about Highdown Gardens presented by Head Gardener Gary Prescod:

The Chalk Garden

The Acer Griseum

The Champion Tree

The Lower Garden

The Wedding Rose

(PR17-073)

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