Historic water feature returns to Highdown Gardens

Released: Thursday, 23 March 2023

An historic water feature is to return to life at Highdown Gardens with the help of 21st Century sustainable solar-powered technology.

The water feature at Highdown was built in the 1930s and has long been a visitor favourite, providing a calming space and delicate backing track for people to enjoy on their walk around the pond and gardens.

However, in recent years the display has been inactive due to the original system coming to the end of its life and no longer meeting the garden's environmental standards, which include cutting back on the use of fresh water.

Following the death of founder and owner Sir Frederick Stern, Highdown Gardens were handed over to Worthing Borough Council in 1968 by his wife, Lady Sybil. We have carefully managed the gardens and their famous collection since.

As part of our sustainability drive, staff at the gardens have been on the lookout for new technology to power the water feature that could recycle the pond water, be cost effective and restore the flow down the fall to the pond and surrounding alpine rock gardens.

A solar powered battery and water pump were identified as the best solution to get the water feature flowing again, however, we lacked the funding to bring the historic feature back to life.

The generous donation from a businessman and garden visitor has enabled the sustainable adaptation of the feature for the 21st Century.

The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, made a private donation of £12,000 to fund the work and also donated a stunning, large Himalayan quartz crystal that will sit in the cave next to the pond. The crystal was quarried from the same mountains many of Stern's exotic trees and shrubs were collected from.

Stern's stunning plant collection has drawn important visitors from all backgrounds, including politicians and royalty - one of whom being his close friend, Prime Minister David Lloyd George. The former PM and his daughter Megan are pictured by Highdown Gardens' pond during their visit in 1926 (see photo of them below, and see also the Highdown Visitor's Book on the Highdown gardens website).

On a sunny day, the solar panels will produce abundant energy to power the water pump, any excess energy will be stored in the rechargeable lithium batteries, ensuring there is sufficient energy to power the pump on cloudy days.

The project to revitalise the water feature was offered to a number of expert contractors in the area, but each deemed it too challenging to run a pump solely on solar energy. Much of the work was therefore researched and achieved by our Highdown team who, like Stern planting exotics into chalk more than 100 years ago, overcame the challenges.

Other improvements were made to the gardens using the kind donation, including new signage and lighting. Water now flows to a bespoke Corten steel bowl with a water blade that houses the Himalayan crystal, as well as new sections of Horsham ripple stone and even a fossilised log.

Cllr Vicki Wells, Worthing's Cabinet Member for the Environment, said:

“First of all, I'd like to say a massive thank you to Highdown's donor for this incredibly generous contribution to our treasured gardens - the revitalising of this water feature wasn't possible without them.

“It's fantastic the team at Highdown have implemented a sustainable solution to the water feature and have kept the improvement works in line with the garden's rich history which is valued by so many. I would like to thank Highdown Craft Gardener Toby for his dedicated hard work over winter and his keen eye sourcing and arranging the ripple stones and chunks of Sussex Marble - they really enhances the water feature in all its original glory.”

The new water feature and various improvements to the rock garden and ponds are set to be officially opened next week.

See also: Highdown Gardens' website

Photo: The water feature and walkway down to the pond during the improvement works at Highdown Gardens

PR23-036 - The water feature and walkway down to the pond during the improvement works at Highdown Gardens

Photo: The new solar-powered pump and pagoda pictured during its construction

PR23-036 - The new solar-powered water pump at Highdown Gardens

Photo: The new pagoda at Highdown Gardens which is hosting the equipment to run the new solar-powered pump system

PR23-036 - The new shelter at Highdown Gardens which is hosting the equipment to run the solar-powered pump

Photo: Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George pictured with his daughter Megan beside Highdown's pond and cave in 1926 (credit: West Sussex Record Office)

PR23-036 - David Lloyd George & daughter Megan at Highdown's pond & cave in 1926 (Credit West Sussex Record Office)

Highdown Gardens logo 2021 (730px)

(PR23-036)

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Page last updated: 05 December 2023

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