Sunday, August 15, 2010



Home of the Messel family since 1890, Nymans is now one of the vast accumulation of holdings owned by the National Trust.

As we saunter along the ‘Lime Walk’ on a spring day, it seems as if Nymans is sleeping. Lowering clouds give the garden and the burnt-out shell of the manor house a haunted appearance. On a lawn, smooth as a bowling green, the spiky silhouette of a solitary Monkey Puzzle tree seems to pierce the clouds.

Along a winding path, flowering camellias in dense clumps grow beside a cherry tree heavy with blossom. Snowy white doves flutter overhead and alight on a dovecot to preen and twitter. Around us the grass is awash with daffodils and narcissi.

In the 'Wall Garden' liquid wisps trickle from the grotesque carved faces adorning the overflowing Verona marble fountain. With pouting lips and bulbous eyes, the faces have a strange but fascinating attraction.

In June the ‘Rose Garden’ will be transformed into a perfumed haven of old-fashioned roses collected over centuries from English, French and Italian gardens. At their peak their lush blossoms tumble from pillars, pergolas and arbors.

As the seasons change in the ‘Wall Garden’, the ‘Summer Border’ steals the show. Jewel-coloured dahlias, goldenrod, black-eyed Susan and globe flowers line the paths that lead up to the fountain and topiary sculptures.

For those who prefer a more natural garden there is 'The Rough'. This area as well as others was seriously damaged during the Great Storm of 1987. Four hundred and eighty six trees fell to the storm in the path of hurricane force winds that rampaged through Nymans and other English gardens. For decades these sheltered wild places had known only gentle rains and the occasional brisk wind.

But to every cloud there is a silver lining. For 200 years the woodland at Nymans had grown unchecked. The devastation of the storm allowed light and sun to penetrate those dark and shaded places beneath overgrown trees, and the forest soaked it in and flourished.

There is much to see in Nymans garden. ‘The Pinetum’, almost completely destroyed in the Great Storm but since replanted with maples, conifers and birch, lives again. The 'Heather Garden', designed and planted in the early 1900s by Ludwig Messel was one of the first of its kind in England. And the 'Knot Garden', in the style of the Tudors, is a planting of tall stately lupines and delphiniums with roses edged with box.

NYMANS GARDEN, Handcross, nr. Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH17 6EB. Telephone: 011 44 444 405250. Owned by the National Trust this garden is open weekdays, March - October from 11 am – 6 pm, weekends in January and February, 11 am - 4 pm.


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