The remarkable discovery of the lost gardens of Bramber happened in 1997 when Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton, of St Mary’s House in Bramber, were able to rescue them back after fifty years of neglect.
At that time the gardens were a picture of dereliction, overgrown with an impenetrable jungle of brambles, nettles and saplings.
Visitors to St Mary’s will be able to view, on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July in support of the National Gardens Scheme, the beautiful and amazing transformation which has taken place over the last eighteen years, thanks to curator Roger Linton’s ingenious designs and the hard work of his enthusiastic team of volunteer gardeners.
Today visitors feel as though they have entered another world – not a jungle after all, but a riot of colour in the magnificent Rose Garden, planted for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee; a colourful ‘terracotta’ garden; the rare pineapple pits with the restored stove-house; and the magnificent 140 foot (43m) Victorian brick fruit wall. The Victorian potting shed now houses a Rural Museum of horticultural implements. The last remaining glasshouse has been wonderfully restored. The former circular orchard has been transformed into a tranquil Poetry Garden, with a bust of Byron as its central focus. A recent development is the King’s Garden, centred around a descendant of the original Boscopel oak, in celebration of King Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester. New for this year is the Landscape Waterfall Garden complete with an island and waterfall, which you encounter at the end of the woodland walk.
The universal excitement at the discovery of these ‘lost gardens’ can hardly be imagined. Originally laid out in the 1890s as three and a half acres of kitchen and pleasure gardens, the exciting programme of restoration has brought the Lost Gardens of Bramber back to life.
Visitors can also enjoy the great charm of the formal gardens surrounding the fine medieval timber-framed house. There are a number of amusing topiary subjects: a large topiary snail reminds drivers to take care as they enter the car-park. Beyond the parterres, visitors are surprised and possibly challenged by a spirited topiary bull with flying tail, a bob-tailed hare in box and a bulbous-eyed frog (or hippopotamus!) on a lily-pad. There is also a magnificent example of the prehistoric ‘living fossil tree’, ginkgo biloba, and colourful herbaceous borders.
Visitors can enjoy tea and cake in the charming cottage-style tea room.
The gardens will be open on Friday 10th July and Saturday 11th July for the National Gardens Scheme, 2pm – 5.30pm. Entrance £4 (children free).
The house and gardens are also open to end of September on Sundays, Thursdays and Bank Holiday Mondays 2pm to 6 pm (last entry 5pm). A full programme of concerts and events is available; for more information, telephone 01903 816205, or see the website www.stmarysbramber.co.uk.
Report and pictures contributed by St Mary’s House, Bramber.