Highdown Gardens to temporarily close as work begins on new era
Released: Monday, 11 November 2019
World-famous Highdown Gardens are about to enter a new exciting era which will preserve their beauty for years to come - but they have to be closed for improvement work soon.
In order to deliver on a £1million project to protect the fragile plant collection and enhance the visitor experience the Gardens will be closed from December 21 and will reopen in late summer next year.
In that time a range of work, funded by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will be undertaken including; building new greenhouses to help the propagation and preservation of extremely rare plants from around the world; build a brand new visitors’ centre, explore and digitise the archive of this fascinating landmark; create new accessible walkways and a sensory garden. In addition the public toilet block is to be upgraded and will close in February next year to re-open in the summer.
Photo: Artist's impression of what the new visitor centre might look like
Worthing Borough Council’s Highdown Gardens project manager Gary Prescod said:
"This is a really exciting time for Highdown Gardens. This project will help visitors experience these gardens in a new and exciting way, tell their wonderful story in a more compelling way and ensure the protection of the beautiful plants we have here.
"However to get there we do need to work on the gardens for example demolish the old bungalow and build a new visitors’ centre, construct new accessible walkways and develop new elements to the garden. We hope people will bear with us as we bring this dream into reality."
The HLF-funded dramatic transformation will preserve the vital work undertaken by Sir Frederick Stern and carried on for the last 50 years by owners Worthing Borough Council.
The 8.5 acre gardens, internationally important because they are home to hundreds of rare plants and trees uniquely grown on chalk soil, are visited by tens of thousands of people every year.
A plant heritage officer funded under the project is already at work cataloguing the hundreds of rare and exotic plants Sir Frederick bred and grew at Highdown including many from plant hunters he sponsored on trips around the world. Many of these have not been identified in recent times and could add to the Garden’s importance as a National Collection.
Several of the rare plant specimens have been selected as valuable additions to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex.
Although the gardens will effectively have to be treated as a building site until the summer they will be open on two special days when access will be available through the lower garden. The dates will be Sunday February 2, 2020 for a snowdrops tour and Thursday March 19, 2020 for a spring bulb day.
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