Beautiful Blooms At Birchanger Gardens
by Hanna Lindon
Balcombe’s stunning Birchanger gardens will open for charity this May, where you can wander through this unique, interesting and magnificent seven acres. Hanna Lindon enjoys an early preview.
The year is still young, but Birchanger’s rambling gardens are already bursting with colour. Camelias put forth delicate pink and white buds, fruit trees hang with blossom and clouds of frogspawn fill the ornamental lake. On the day of my visit, the woodland walks were scattered with snowdrops and crocus.
“It’s great being out in the garden at this time of year,” says Birchanger’s châtelain Julie Worrall, as we stroll through the arboretum. “I enjoy the bird song, and looking at the frogs in the lake.”
Julie and her family are preparing to open Birchanger to the public for the 40th year in a row. Over the past few weeks, she’s spent at least two hours every morning working in the garden with her husband Roger. Keeping on top of the leaf raking, pruning and general maintenance is almost a full time job – but one that Julie is happy to shoulder.
“I said at the beginning of the year that I didn’t want to spend all day in the garden, but I had to admit yesterday that I quite enjoy gardening really,” she jokes. “I love being out on my own in the garden. And I like uncovering things – like a hidden path at the bottom of the lawn that I rediscovered two years ago.”
The early 20th-century house and gardens at Birchanger were bought by Roger’s parents in 1960. Roger’s father, Derek, originally intended to sell it on, but he was so enchanted by the garden’s potential that he decided to move his family in. The rest of his life was spent establishing and grooming the seven glorious landscaped acres. Derek even wrote a book about his experience, From Farm Labourer to Gardener, which is available in return for a charitable donation at Birchanger’s open days.
“He used to do a special feature every year for quite a few years,” says Julie. “One of his projects, for example, was clearing some trees to open up the view from the house. Then he created the lake, the pergola, the lily pond and the temple.”
Since Derek’s death, the rest of the family have mainly restricted themselves to repair and maintenance. From an outsider’s perspective, though, it’s hard to see anything that needs improving. You could while away hours strolling through the woodland gardens, admiring the huge banks of pink rhododendrons, or exploring the arboretum around the Etrsucan temple. The lake with its thriving frog population and rustic bridges is another highlight, as is the Italian garden with its abundance of creepers and the rose-covered pergola.
Birchanger will be open to the public on weekend dates throughout May, giving visitors plenty of chance to explore this floral wonderland.
- Birchanger will open 2pm to 5.30pm on 6th May for Macmillan Cancer Research, 7th May for Balcombe WI, 13th May for the NSPCC, 14th May for St Catherine’s Hospice, 20th May for Tigger’s preschool in Balcombe and 21st May for Balcombe’s St Mary’s Church.
- Entry costs £5, and tea and cakes are available.