Rhododendron's are a famous feature of Leonardslee thanks to the Loder family connection.

Rhododendron's are a famous feature of Leonardslee thanks to the Loder family connection.

The famous grade 1 listed Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, located at Lower Beeding near Horsham in Sussex, are to re-open to the public after 8 years on July 16th 2018. Often called the "finest woodland gardens" in England, these were a very popular local attraction in the south-east until they closed in 2010 and there is a lot of excitement at their imminent re-opening.

New owner, Penny Streeter OBE, stepped in and bought the estate in 2017 and has had a 20-strong team of gardeners headed up by Lee Meredith working on them since last year. They have been battling 7 years of neglect which had seen the 10 miles of pathways become overgrown and a large amount of restoration needed therefore, including re-cataloguing the entire collection of around 10,000 trees and shrubs. This has thrown up some fascinating discoveries including the recording of 95 champion trees (the largest trees of their species growing in Britain) which includes a very rare specimen of the Sicilian Fir (Abies nebrodensis) of which there are only 30 left growing in the wild. Kew Gardens will be collecting seedlings in partnership with Leonardslee to help preserve the species.

The gardens are justly famed in particular for their spring displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias, not to mention the bluebells throughout the woodlands. I was lucky enough to be invited to a press preview to view the gardens and they are looking magnificent once again as I hope the photos below will show (despite the rainy day!)

The house itself has also received a makeover and will soon be opening a new gourmet restaurant as well as serving afternoon tea and has several function rooms as well as acting as a wedding venue with perhaps one of the best views in Sussex.

You can check out all the details on their website at https://www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk