A sunny start to the day for our drive down to the Chichester area and arrived for an early coffee. The West Dean Gardens were established almost 400 years ago, and comprise a huge area with a variety of different horticultural attractions. Members explored the 2½ acre Walled Kitchen Garden (neat rows of vegetables, intricate vines and colourful borders), and were impressed by the 300 ft long Edwardian Pergola (covered in climbing roses, Clematis and Honeysuckle and one of the longest in the country). The most popular areas were the Victorian Glasshouses (one of the few still in use, was built between 1891 and 100, brimming with flowers, fruits, vegs, grapes and exotic plants) and the exquisite Sunken Garden (winner of the Sussex Heritages Trusts Garden and Landscape award 2014). The walkers in the party reached the Spring Gardens (passing the flintwork bridge, and the almost-empty River Levant). Those who could wait, lunched in the award-winning restaurant with excellent food
After lunch, we drove the very short distance to Goodwood House. Our group were greeted at the door, and split for 3 guided tours of the seat of the Dukes of Richmond’s property. Built circa 1600, it was acquired by Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond in 1697 by which time, there was a main entrance block and two wings, placed back at an angle from the main block: we were informed these were just the first three sides of what was planned as an octagon of eight blocks for an immense building (but lacked the funds). The Regency State Appartments house some astonishing portraits of Kings and Queens, Dukes and courtiers of England, resulting from the origins of the family as descendants of King Charles II, together with treasures including celebrated paintings by the horse artist George Stubbs and Canaletto’s stunning views of the city of London, an extensive Svres porcelain service and French tapestries. All housed in tastefully decorated rooms – Dining, Drawing, Yellow, Egyptian and others. After the tour, we relished a cream tea served in the magnificent Ballroom. Overall, a very impressive House and contents. Opportunities to visit the House are limited because it is used extensively for corporate hospitality for numerous horse racing, motor racing, golf and other events (but since these partially fund the restoration and upkeep and the 650 permanent staff associated with these), we were pleased to participate in any viewing.
West Dean Gardens