An afternoon at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens

Remember I recently wrote about a morning at Borde Hill Garden?  Well this is the afternoon of that day visit arranged by the Garden Media Guild (have I mentioned that I am a proud member of the Garden Media Guild....?)  The afternoon was spent at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens.
Oh what an afternoon.  Leonardslee House Lakes and Gardens are Grade 1 listed and were first started being planted in 1801.  From the moment you arrive you realise you are in for something special.
The gardens have a long history and have changed hands a few times which means it has developed incrementally over the years.  The site was woodland for most of its early period and it was in the 19th century that ornamental plantings and development began to happen in earnest.  It was 1876 with Edward Loder bought the house and land and began the main developments we can still see today.  It was Edward that introduced wallabies, kangaroos and beavers to the grounds and whilst I sadly did not get chance to see them, there are still wallabies and deer on site today.
The gardens have been closed for nine years and were acquired in 2017 by Penny Streeter who has enabled the gardens to commence restoration and to be opened again.  The restoration process is still taking place, with about one third of the 240 acres currently restored.  Just think about the scale of that, 240 acres, that is no small task.  We were told that it is one of the largest garden restoration project in this country for thirty years.  Think also about what your garden looks like if you ignore it for two weeks, maybe one month - then extrapolate that to nine years, it is a massive undertaking.  Over 10,000 trees have had to be individually checked and worked upon where needed.  The gardens reopened to the public this year in April. 
You enter the gardens through this large glasshouse which includes plant sales and a gift shop.  I noticed the small crop of echiums growing by the side of the water feature, a plant I  love and aspire to grow well.  Here in the mild south of the country there they were, mocking me.
You start your journey into the gardens and the colour shouts back at you.  You suspect these gardens might be quite good, and then....
and then, oh my giddy aunt, you are surrounded and overwhelmed by the scent and colour all around you.  When you have recovered enough to slightly get your senses back you notice the rock.
Yes I am serious, you notice the rock.  Not just any rock.  This part of the garden is constructed of Pulhamite rocks, artificial rocks created in the nineteenth century by James Pulham and Son.  This anthropic rock (isn't anthropic a great word?) is a blend of sand and concrete and clinker but the actual recipe for it died with its creator.  No one has ever successfully recreated it since which adds a touch of romance to its story. 
The beauty of this rock is not just that it looks good, it looks natural as well.  Mosses and lichens and plants grow on/in it happily.
It is used here at Leonardslee to create this magnificent rock garden.  Apparently it is also used for the caves where the wallabies live.
There is a lot more than the rock garden to experience.  We were taken on a wander along one of the woodland walks.
We admired the trees and colour that surrounded us.  There are many rare and beautiful trees to see.  It is one of those places I want to return to at different times in the year to see it change with the seasons.
I think the gardens need at least a whole day to visit properly.  We saw so much and yet did not have time to do it all.
Though we did pop in to see the Dolls House display.
This is a darkened room full of dioramas covering different aspects of life.  So here I have shown the garden related ones, but there are people at work and even a church with a graveyard. 

We were then treated to a lovely afternoon tea in the Grade II mansion house before wending our way homewards; tired by happy from such a great day.

I have to thank Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens for looking after us so well and also Constance Craig Smith and the Garden Media Guild for organising the visit.  I really do have to make sure I return as I feel I have so much more to see.


The morning visit at Borde Hill is written about here.