The Cowdray Estate in West Sussex sits amidst the South Downs National Park and very close to the pretty town of Midhurst. The ruins of Cowdray House are a prominent feature in the area and although the ruins are currently closed to the public, the adjacent walled garden is a delightful find and better still, entrance is free and visitors can enjoy refreshments in the tea room or outside beneath the expansive walnut tree or one of the attractive pergolas.
The planting in the walled garden is the work of Jan Howard, who discovered the garden in 2001 when it was in a very neglected state. Formerly a Tudor pleasure garden to the main house, the area took 3 years to clear and plan, before finally opening to the public in 2005.
In keeping with its Tudor origins, Jan has carefully planted the space to reflect features found in gardens of the period. Symmetrical beds are abundantly filled with scented roses and clematis either side of a central lawn whilst at each end, further beds spill with lavender. A herb garden, soft fruit and apple trees provide edibles whilst in another corner, a beautiful Alitex glasshouse is almost hidden behind a screen of frothy planting.
In one wall, a heavy wooden door leads out into the wider estate and in another area, a wooden pergola provides sheltered seating whilst nearby, two wooden ‘thrones’ invite you to sit down and enjoy the surroundings.
The garden is not just for the occasional visit. You can also get married, have your wedding reception, christening and anniversary/birthday parties in the beautiful surroundings or in one of two adjacent event rooms.
Whilst we were visiting, a polo game was taking place on the nearby polo field so we wandered out to watch the last chukka. Cowdray Estate also has a fabulous farm shop selling attractively displayed local produce, meat and bread in addition to a great selection of wines. There’s a gift shop too with so many beautiful things I actually wanted to buy everything in the shop!