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Follow the sculpture trail at Borde Hill

Love art but don’t fancy being stuck inside a gallery on a sunny day? Well when the weather picks up again (surely it will pick up…) get yourself over to Borde Hill Gardens.

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I’d heard about the annual sculpture trail there but I had no idea of the scale of it until I visited recently. There are actually 70 pieces of art dotted all around, waiting to be discovered, on lawns, in shady nooks, in fountains, on walls…  traditional and modern, stark and quirky.

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I was impressed with the time and heavy lifting it must have taken to get everything in place for the season. Apparently a team decides the best spot for each.

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The artists are chosen from nationwide and are rotated each year. Some have a long time association with Borde Hill and produce pieces with the trail specially in mind.

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Got a spare few grand? This charming chap’s for sale

You can actually buy all the works of art and they start at £150 – pretty justifiable for a lasting feature for your garden or a present for a special birthday or anniversary and much more unique than something from a garden centre. They go up to a more eye-watering £20,300. The prices are on the trail map and you can see from the colour coded stickers on the labels in front of each piece which has been sold – or sold but more copies are available.

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Eleni Stephenson Clarke showed me around, dead-heading plants as we went. She has a degree in geology but when she married and came to live at Borde Hill she ended up retraining in horticulture so she could work with things a little more above the ground.

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She told me many of the trees and shrubs are ‘champion species’ meaning they’re particularly fine examples – like one of the best Chinese Tulip Trees in the country. Others are rare in the UK.

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The garden was begun in 1892 by an ancestor of her husband who sponsored expeditions to places like the Himalayas and added the exotic species early plant hunters brought back.

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It’s also the 20th anniversary of Borde Hill’s rose garden – or rather the reinstatement of it, following an early design that was captured in a 1902 issue of County Life. It’s full of  lovely blousy David Austin Old English Roses surrounded by box and yew hedging.

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The entire garden (17 formal acres within 200 of parkland and woodland) has a really attractive layout with so many different pockets with enticing names like Long Dell, Round Dell and Grassy Knoll you can always find a quiet spot. There’s even a garden in the ruins of an old potting shed, and the views from some points are spectacular.

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It makes for great kids’ exploring too and they’ll love hunting down the various sculptures. (Don’t miss the kinetic sculpture in the Italian sunken garden that fills with water then tips it into the pond). There’s also a children’s adventure playground with a zip wire.

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Anyone else thinking Blue Peter garden?

There are plenty more reasons to visit Borde Hill during the summer months with outdoor theatre (Tea with Oscar Wilde is on on 14 July) and children’s activities like clowns, storytellers and outdoor games and craft throughout August, plus music every August Sunday.

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There’s a charming vintage style alfresco tea room for a pit stop part way, as well as a cafe at the enterance, or, if you’re after something more special, treat yourself at fine dining Jeremy’s Restaurant which has a terrace overlooking a Victorian walled garden. There’s a monthly tasting menu and special BBQ events.

The sculpture trail runs until 30 Sept. The garden then closes for the season but reopens 22-30 October with kids’ activities for Halloween. Entrance is £8.20 adults, £5.50 children, £23 for a family ticket.

Borde Hill Garden, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, RH16 1XP, 01444 450326  bordehill.co.uk

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Sussex