West Dean Gardens, nr Chichester
Muddy says: This arts and crafts-focused college has plenty of short courses plus award-winning gardens to explore. There’s also a popular annual Chilli Fiesta.
Explore Victorian glasshouses, a 300 foot Edwardian Pergola, sunken garden, walled kitchen garden and arboretum in the award-winning West Dean Gardens, open to the public from February to December. The garden’s restaurant and shop (accessible without garden entry) has a terrace and overlooks the Lavant Valley and West Dean Park.
Set within the gardens is West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and you don’t need to be undertaking a degree to benefit from study here. There are 800 short courses in arts and craft, conservation and cultural subjects, from one day to a few weeks. These include jewellery making, creative writing, waiting, sculpture and textiles and woodworking – including furniture and even musical instrument making. It could help you create presents around Christmas, kickstart start a new hobby, or even a new career!
Feast on fiery fare at the popular annual family-friendly Chilli Fiesta in the gardens (Fri 9 – Sun 11 Aug in 2019). Besides plenty of opportunities to eat and shop for the hot stuff there’s Latin music and dance and cookery demonstrations, circus workshops and a vintage funfair. You can even camp in the grounds.
Weddings and event hire
With a 19th century flint mansion, besides the wonderful gardens, West Dean is perfect for event hire for weddings and other special occasions, indoors or in a marquee or tipis.
You can also stay over (adults only) at West Dean House or Old Vicarage, when you take a short course, or just fancy a weekend break, exploring the award-winning gardens at your leisure, swimming in the outdoor heated pool (May to Sept). It’s close to Chichester and the horse and motor racing at Goodwood.