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Art Over Water exhibition

Art Over Water Exhibition (25th June to 2nd July)

Art Over Water Exhibition

Dates: Tues 25th June to Tues 2nd July 2024
Opening Hours:
– Monday to Friday: 10am to 6pm
– Saturday: 10am to 5pm
– Sunday: 10am to 7pm

Free entry to Gardens and Exhibition
(Disabled access available)
Credit card payments accepted

Nestled exquisitely within the beautiful chalk gardens of highdown sits the newly refurbished exhibition centre which is now playing host to exciting art events.

The Art Over Water exhibition will feature the artist Linda Barton-Towers. Impressionistic in style her acrylic paintings are inspired by the sea and sail boats. Her palette is often bright and her canvases large. Her peaceful and calming serenity range is a popular series and her wooden interpretations are bold and striking.

Linda Barton-Towers
Web: Art Over Water website
lnstagram: @linda_barton_towers

Art Over Water exhibition - Linda Barton-Towers

 

Also featuring 3 contemporary mixed media guest artists:

Art Over Water exhibition - Kate Mercy GlassKate Mercy – Glass

Web: Kate Mercy website
Instagram: @katemercyglass
Facebook: @katemercyglass

 

Art Over Water exhibition - Sue Jones TextilesSue Jones – Textiles

Web: Sue Jones – on the Shoreham Art Gallery website
Instagram: @sueatlittlethatch
Facebook: Little Thatch by Sue Jones

 

Art Over Water exhibition - Steve Rickman MetalSteve Rickman – Metal

Instagram: @stephens.art21
Facebook: @stephens.art21

 

Art Over Water exhibition

Rainbow Shakespeare - The Winter's Tale (banner)

Rainbow Shakespeare – The Winter’s Tale (16th to 21st July 2024)

Rainbow Shakespeare at Worthing’s Magical Highdown Gardens

Rainbow Shakespeare Theatre logo (200px)The Winter’s Tale
Tuesday 16th to Sunday 21st July 2024
Directed by Nick Young (RSC & Connaught Theatre)

What could be more magical and essentially English, than watching an exciting, funny and understandable Shakespeare play in the open-air, whilst relaxing with a picnic and a drink.

Rainbow Shakespeare has been providing just that opportunity for the past twenty five years and have built themselves an enviable reputation with their ensemble company of lively professional actors who create the unique atmosphere that is Rainbow Shakespeare, sharing and drawing their audience into the enchantment of live theatre and the Bard at his best.

The Winter’s Tale

“Jealousy destroys, Love builds afresh”

The moving fairy-tale and pastoral comedy that is The Winter’s Tale: a good King becomes a jealous tyrant accusing his loving wife of being unfaithful with his best friend. In his madness he orders his baby daughter to be abandoned on a desert isle, believing the child is not his own. Time passes and she is reared by shepherds and shepherdesses, and she falls in love with the son of her father’s best friend. Finally, the healing power of true love and loyal servants bring about a family reunion, including a miracle and act of forgiveness for the King’s redemption. An unforgettable play with tears of sorrow that turn into tears of joy!

“Rainbow Shakespeare do a superb job of entertaining the audience!”
(The Argus, Brighton) ★★★★★

Times:

  • Evenings at 7:30pm (gates open at 6pm)
  • Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2pm (gates open at 12:30pm)

Tickets:

  • Tickets: from Worthing Theatres or at the gate
  • Adults £23 (£42 both shows)
  • Children £12 (£20 both shows)
  • Family of Four £60 (£110 both shows)

Tickets can be purchased in advance through Worthing Theatre’s box office on 01903 206 206 or via their website:

Book tickets for Rainbow Shakespeare’s – The Winter’s Tale

See also: Rainbow Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rainbow Shakespeare - The Winter's Tale (banner)

Useful information:

Important booking information:

  • Advance tickets through WTM are available to purchase up until 6pm the day before a performance.
  • At the weekend, performances for Saturday and Sunday come off sale at 6pm the preceding Friday evening.
  • On the day of a performance tickets may then be purchased (cash only) at the gate at Highdown Gardens from 90 minutes before each show (subject to availability).

Weather:

  • The company will perform in light to moderate rain but if the weather is severe then a performance may have to be cancelled.
  • For days when there is any doubt as to whether a performance will go ahead due to bad weather.
  • For the most up to date information customers are advised to check Rainbow Shakespeare’s Facebook page and/or Rainbow Shakespeare’s website.
  • Or at 6pm customers should ring this number: 07973 984175
  • If a performance is cancelled customers can either exchange tickets for another performance or get a refund.

Additional information:

  • Location: All performances are at Highdown Gardens, Worthing, BN12 6FB
    • Evening performances: Gates open at 6pm
    • Matinee performances: Gates open at 12:30pm
    • Highdown Gardens is located off the A259 headed East between East Preston and Goring roundabouts.
  • Seating: Please bring camping/garden chairs or rugs to sit on (If you want to be at the front) as there is no seating up at Highdown Gardens.
  • Access: Theatrical events at Highdown Gardens take place on the lower lawns and access is via the south gates located from the road below the hotel. Audience members will be required to use the top car park and make their way down the hill on the road to the entrance, a distance of about 200m. Members of the public with mobility issues can be dropped off by the entrance at the south gate before the car continues onto the car park. Please be advised anyone in a wheelchair will need to have an able-bodied carer with them.
Rainbow Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream (banner)

Rainbow Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (9th to 14th July 2024)

Rainbow Shakespeare at Worthing’s Magical Highdown Gardens

Rainbow Shakespeare Theatre logo (200px)A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Tuesday 9th to Sunday 14th July 2024
Directed by Nick Young (RSC & Connaught Theatre)

What could be more magical and essentially English, than watching an exciting, funny and understandable Shakespeare play in the open-air, whilst relaxing with a picnic and a drink.

Rainbow Shakespeare has been providing just that opportunity for the past twenty five years and have built themselves an enviable reputation with their ensemble company of lively professional actors who create the unique atmosphere that is Rainbow Shakespeare, sharing and drawing their audience into the enchantment of live theatre and the Bard at his best.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“A dream of a comedy, Shakespeare and Rainbow Shakespeare: no one does it better!”

“O mummy, did that man Shakespeare write anymore plays like this?”

6 year old to mother, as they were leaving Rainbow’s last production of The Dream.

Your first viewing or your thirty first, Shakespeare’s best comedy never fails to delight and intrigue, as, watching it, we continually discover new themes! The play draws audiences of all ages into its magic, fairies, lovers and buffoons. The Bard weaves a unique tapestry, where simple workmen attempt to create an epic drama to entertain the Duke and Court at their wedding celebrations, where young lovers attempt to elope through a Greek Forest, where the King and Queen of the Fairies are at daggers drawn, and the mischievous Puck creates bedlam and confuses everyone with his pranks. “Lord what Fools these Mortals Be!” For children, The Dream is an unforgettable introduction to Shakespeare and theatre, for others, it’s like meeting an old, loved friend!

“Rainbow Shakespeare do a superb job of entertaining the audience!”
(The Argus, Brighton) ★★★★★

Times:

  • Evenings at 7:30pm (gates open at 6pm)
  • Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2pm (gates open at 12:30pm)

Tickets:

  • Tickets: from Worthing Theatres or at the gate
  • Adults £23 (£42 both shows)
  • Children £12 (£20 both shows)
  • Family of Four £60 (£110 both shows)

Tickets can be purchased in advance through Worthing Theatre’s box office on 01903 206 206 or via their website:

Book tickets for Rainbow Shakespeare’s – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

See also: Rainbow Shakespeare – The Winter’s Tale

Rainbow Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream (banner)

Useful information:

Important booking information:

  • Advance tickets through WTM are available to purchase up until 6pm the day before a performance.
  • At the weekend, performances for Saturday and Sunday come off sale at 6pm the preceding Friday evening.
  • On the day of a performance tickets may then be purchased (cash only) at the gate at Highdown Gardens from 90 minutes before each show (subject to availability).

Weather:

  • The company will perform in light to moderate rain but if the weather is severe then a performance may have to be cancelled.
  • For days when there is any doubt as to whether a performance will go ahead due to bad weather.
  • For the most up to date information customers are advised to check Rainbow Shakespeare’s Facebook page and/or Rainbow Shakespeare’s website.
  • Or at 6pm customers should ring this number: 07973 984175
  • If a performance is cancelled customers can either exchange tickets for another performance or get a refund.

Additional information:

  • Location: All performances are at Highdown Gardens, Worthing, BN12 6FB
    • Evening performances: Gates open at 6pm
    • Matinee performances: Gates open at 12:30pm
    • Highdown Gardens is located off the A259 headed East between East Preston and Goring roundabouts.
  • Seating: Please bring camping/garden chairs or rugs to sit on (If you want to be at the front) as there is no seating up at Highdown Gardens.
  • Access: Theatrical events at Highdown Gardens take place on the lower lawns and access is via the south gates located from the road below the hotel. Audience members will be required to use the top car park and make their way down the hill on the road to the entrance, a distance of about 200m. Members of the public with mobility issues can be dropped off by the entrance at the south gate before the car continues onto the car park. Please be advised anyone in a wheelchair will need to have an able-bodied carer with them.

Highdown Gallery

Highdown Gallery: Exhibition, meeting & workshop space in the gardens

Imagine your work displayed in the heart of Highdown Gardens.

We are now offering the opportunity to showcase your work or host a meeting in our unique location nestled on the South Downs. Our visitor centre is getting a makeover to become a more versatile venue ready for hire from Spring 2024. It’s ideal for art or craft exhibitions and any accompanying workshops and talks.

Is this something that may interest you or your group? Please register your interest by completing the enquiry form below for a chance to secure one of our limited spaces.

Please note: this form does not constitute an agreement to stage your event/workshop, nor is it a contract.

Highdown Gallery: exhibition, meeting & workshop space – enquiry form

Location: the building is situated in the heart of Highdown Gardens, which is known for its unique and rare collection of beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs from all over the world.

Footfall: 80,000 visitors came to visit the gardens in the last 12 months.

Access: the gardens are open every day of the year and are free to visit. There is a free car park, disabled parking bays, an accessible path and lift to access the visitor centre.

Art & culture: workshops, classes, events are taking place throughout the year.

Marketing: your exhibition will be promoted on the Highdown website on the what’s on page, in our seasonal newsletter to 1,500 subscribers, on our Facebook page (4.8k followers) and our Instagram account (700+ followers).

Facilities:

  • Indoor floor surface 46m²
  • Wall surface 34m²
  • Terrace floor surface 36m²
  • There is a large bifold door which can be fully opened to access the terrace
  • We have 20 white plastic and 20 wooden slat chairs, four wooden slat tables and two large trestle white plastic tables
  • Access to Wi-Fi, a flat screen tv, toilets, water and refreshment facilities

Fees:

  • £300 per week (Tuesday to Tuesday)
  • £50 private view (two hours)
  • £60 poster design

Photos: Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre

Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre

Inside the visitor centre – with an exhibition on display

Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre - interior - with an exhibition on display

Exhibiton space – with an exhibition on display

Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre - interior display panels - with an exhibition on display

Bifold doors which can be fully opened to access the terrace (and seating set up for a meeting or talk)

Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre - seating outside

Meeting or creative space

Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre - interior creative space

Snowdrop scene at Highdown

Stern’s Snowdrops

Alex New, Plant Heritage Officer at Highdown GardensHi everyone, I’m Alex and I’m the Curator at Worthing’s treasured Highdown Gardens.

Over the decades that Sir Frederick Stern spent creating the garden here at Highdown, few plants captured his attention like snowdrops (Galanthus).

Such was his passion, he not only wrote a book about them and their close cousins the snowflakes (Leucojum), he was the first to describe more than one species and he even devised a method of identifying them that is still used today.

He built an admirable collection thanks to his many friends and contacts that either lived in or travelled to the parts of Eurasia where Galanthus are found in the wild. Back then, in the early to mid-20th century, wild plant collection was virtually unrestricted when compared with today.

Photo: Snowdrop scene at Highdown

Snowdrop scene at Highdown

Snowdrops grow wild across many parts of South, Central and Eastern Europe, across into the Caucasus and adjacent parts of the Middle East. There is a concentration of species around the Caucasus and the Balkans. The name Galanthus means milk flower and is a portmanteau derived from Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower).

Although there are a great many species to be found in the garden, three that I find especially interesting are Galanthus gracilis, G. ikariae and G. rizehensis.

Galanthus gracilis is arguably the species that is most associated with Highdown as there are such a large number of them here. They flower between January and the middle of February. The name gracilis means slender or light. This is reflected in the gently twisting narrow grey-green leaves. They are pretty and unassuming. Although, like almost all species, the flowers are quite variable, they almost always have an olive-green ovary (the part that you see above the white petals) and have two marks on the inner segment of the flower, one at the top and one at the bottom.

Photo: Galanthus gracilis

Snowdrops - Galanthus gracilis

Galanthus ikariae flower later than G. gracilis. They get their name from the Greek Island Ikaria, from which they are native. This island was named after Icarus, the boy from mythology who flew too close to the sun and paid the ultimate price. There’s no danger of these snowdrops getting dangerously close to the sun although they do enjoy a warm sheltered spot and dislike very cold winters. You can recognise them by their deep-green, glossy leaves and by the single mark on their inner segment that looks like a pair of natty green Bermuda shorts.

Photo: Galanthus ikariae

Snowdrops - Galanthus ikariae

While Galanthus rizehensis is not the most ornamental snowdrop, it does have a quiet, understated charm. What makes it interesting is that it is one of the snowdrops that Stern was the first to describe. He grew seeds that were sent to him by his friend E. A. Bowles from Rize in Turkey. He noticed that a couple of the plants that germinated from this batch were different to anything else that he had seen. He described the plant, pressed a sample and sent it to the British Museum Herbarium where it was declared a new species.

Photo: Galanthus rizehensis

Snowdrops - Galanthus rizehensis

Many of the species that Stern grew at Highdown are still here and doing brilliantly. To celebrate that, we are carrying on the tradition of recent years by holding a Snowdrop Festival in conjunction with the charitable organisation National Garden Scheme (NGS) on Thursday 15th February 2024. It’s still free to visit the garden when the festival is on, but visitors can donate to the NGS at the gate.

Click here to book a place on the snowdrop tours

Photo: The team preparing for the festival

Snowdrops - The team preparing for the festival

Robin 1 - Erithacus rubecula (copyright Tina Lighten-Duncan)

The birds of Highdown Gardens

The birds of Highdown Gardens: six brilliant birds (and other creatures) to spot at Highdown this winter

Highdown Gardens - ClaireHello my name’s Claire and I’m a Craft Gardener at Highdown Gardens.

Unsurprisingly, most people come to Highdown Gardens for the plants. Collected from all corners of the globe by Sir Frederick Stern over 58 years, these rare, chalk-tolerant specimens have been admired by Highdown’s many visitors since 1910. However, this unique chalk garden is also home to a wealth of other living treasures.

Since starting as a Craft Gardener at Highdown last year, I have been struck by the abundance and diversity of wildlife here. From sleepy slow worms sunbathing on the paths, to frenetic hummingbird hawk-moths zipping furiously through the Sensory Garden. Only last week we spotted a thirsty American mink skirting around the outside of the glasshouse in search of a drink, followed by a magnificent view of a sparrowhawk in the Lower Garden sitting calmly on the grass and glaring defiantly at us with his stunning yellow eyes.

A parched American mink visits Highdown’s glasshouse in search of a drink
Photo Alex New – copyright © 2023

American mink (copyright Alex New)

On reflection, it’s little wonder that Highdown provides such a haven for wildlife. Nestled in a former chalk quarry in the South Downs National Park, enclosed by mature trees and large shrubs, the garden provides shelter from the elements, as well as food, water, and nest sites.

This summer in particular seems to have been a bumper one for butterflies and stag beetles. We were awash with butterfly-bejewelled buddlejas.

In the Lower Garden I was treated to regular sightings of spectacularly armoured stag beetles; the UK’s largest land beetle. Apparently the males will often ‘duel’ to win over a female using their impressive antler-like jaws (mandibles), similar to male deer locking antlers, hence the name ‘stag’ beetle. Sadly, these fascinating creatures are now rare and in decline across much of Europe due to habitat loss, so we are very lucky to have such a good population.

Adult male stag beetles are between 35 to 75mm long and are a common sight at Highdown in the summer
Photo by David Maher – copyright © 2023

Adult male stag beetle (copyright David Maher)

Female stag beetles are smaller than their male counterparts, at about 30 to 50mm long
Photo by David Maher – copyright © 2023

Female stag beetle (copyright David Maher)

Six brilliant birds to spot at Highdown this winter

Of all Highdown’s Animalia my favourite has to be the birds. Pause quietly for just a moment and I guarantee one of our feathered residents will come to keep you company. At this time of year the most likely candidate will be a bold little robin intent on sharing your sandwich, but robins aren’t the only birds here at Highdown this Christmas.

A plucky robin on the lookout for a free lunch at Highdown
Photo by Tina Lighten-Duncan – copyright © 2022

Robin 1 - Erithacus rubecula (copyright Tina Lighten-Duncan)

Winter is actually a great time for birdwatching. For a start, the leafless trees mean they’re much easier to spot. Smaller birds will often team-up together in large groups of mixed-species, giving you two species (or 3, or 4, or 5, or 6) for the price of one!

The cold weather is tough on birds and resources are scarce, so you will likely see them frantically foraging to build up their fat stores and keep warm. This, in turn, can prompt some bolder behaviour, especially from cheeky robins who will happily take free handouts from visitors.

The UK also attracts many migrant birds who will overwinter here before leaving again in the spring.

So which birds might you see during your winter walk at Highdown? Here are my top six to watch out for:

6. Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

A winter migrant to the UK, this plump thrush has a grey head with chestnut wings and back. They are social birds and are usually seen in flocks, although you will probably hear them before you see them; their loud, chuckling ‘chaker, chack, chack’ call is unmistakable.

Whilst in the UK they mainly feed on fallen fruit and berries, particularly yew, hawthorn, rowan, juniper, elder and holly. I have seen them gathered on the trees outside the Visitor Centre early in the morning, presumably discussing where best to get breakfast!

A winter visitor to the garden, fieldfares fly all the way from Scandinavia to feast on berries and fallen fruit in the UK (photo: Pixabay)

Fieldfare (Pixabay - 6290303)

5. Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

The most dashing and well-dressed of the crow family, jays have pink plumage, a white rump, and a long black tail. Their heads have a small white crest, streaked and speckled with black which they raise in display or when excited. One of their most distinctive features is an electric blue flash of feathers adorning their black and white wings, but my absolute favourite attribute is their small, black moustache which – at the right angle – makes them look like a dapper, moustachioed, Victorian gentleman.

They are slightly smaller than a wood pigeon and are generally quite secretive woodland birds until autumn when they can be spotted ‘caching’ acorns in the ground ready to recover in winter when food becomes more scarce. Despite jay’s being highly-intelligent not all acorns are found again, meaning many are left to grow into oak trees – in fact, jay’s are often credited with the spread of oak trees following the last Ice Age.

We have a fantastic population of jay’s here at Highdown, particularly down in the Performance Area. At this time of year they can be spotted hopping around on the ground stashing and digging up acorns, hotly pursued by the grey squirrels. Listen out for their incredibly loud, harsh, screeching call eerily echoing through the trees.

A handsome Highdown jay surveys the area, planning where to stash his next acorn
Photo by Tina Lighten-Duncan – copyright © 2022

Jay - Garrulus glandarius 2 (copyright Tina Lighten-Duncan)

4. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

The UK’s smallest bird weighing-in at just 5g – the equivalent of a 20p piece! This tiny, round, bundle of cuteness is a dull green-grey with an off-white belly. Females have a yellow stripe on their heads – in males this stripe is orange – bordered with black. They have a very high-pitched ‘tsee’ call which will help you to locate them, and they can sometimes be heard singing in winter in a rolling tee-lee-de’, ‘tee-lee-de’.

Goldcrests are hyperactive little birds, flitting around quickly in trees and thick bushes catching insects and spiders. In winter, you will often see them among flocks of other small birds such as tits and warblers as they forage for food.

I’ve had some lovely views of goldcrests by the entrance to the Millennium Garden, and also down in the Chalk Pit amidst the mature trees and shrubs that adorn the cliff face.

With its splendid golden crown, the goldcrest is known as the ‘king of birds’ in European folklore. It also has the Latin name ‘Regulus regulus’ meaning ‘petty king’ or ‘prince’ (photo: Pixabay)

Goldcrest (Pixabay - 5944857)

3. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Giving the goldcrest a run for its money in the ‘teeny’ stakes, this little, brown bird is a tiny ball of pure energy. Wrens weigh about 10g – the same as a £1 coin – and although they aren’t Britain’s smallest bird they are the shortest, measuring between 6 to 20cm. Their petite stature may explain why they are so keen to snuggle-up together in winter, establishing communal roosts at night to reduce heat loss. Most roosts usually involve a handful of individuals, but there are records of up to 63 using a single nest box and almost 100 in an attic of a house!

The wren may be small, but its voice is mighty! Considering its diminutive size it has a staggeringly loud song – the loudest in proportion to its size of any British bird – comprising a series of high-pitched, cascading notes, mixed with little ‘trills’. It also has a very distinctive, rattling ‘tic-tic’ call. Its small tail is often stuck up vertically making it look almost round in shape as it relentlessly searches for insects and other invertebrates, usually low to the ground in bushes and vegetation.

Wrens are a common (albeit fleeting) sight in the Lower Garden, moving mouse-like through the undergrowth in search of their next meal.

The UK’s most common breeding bird, the tiny wren can be spotted whizzing around in the undergrowth in search of insects (photo: Pixabay)

Eurasian wren (Pixabay - 7984650)

2. Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

One of my all-time favourite birds, the tiny long-tailed tit is a real cutie with its attractive pinky blush and black and white striped head. Measuring 14cm long, a whopping 9cm of this is its distinctive long tail.

Long-tailed tits are highly sociable and are usually seen in small family groups of around 20 birds roving rapidly through the treetops and hedgerows. These little fluffy troops are particularly vocal, making a high-pitched ‘see, see, see’ contact call to one another, sometimes interspersed with a ‘thrup’ sound. Their noisy behaviour, characteristic tail, and bouncy, undulating flight make them easy to distinguish from other small birds.

Breeding in March and April, long-tailed tit nests are just as adorable as their occupants. Intricately built from moss, lichen, and cobwebs, these cosy domed structures are carefully lined with up to 1,500 feathers and gently expand as the young grow inside.

I have seen long-tailed tits in nearly every part of the garden, but since they favour woodland habitat your best bet is the entrance to the Beech Walk, or the Lower Garden and Performance Area. Here they are frequently seen in flocks moving restlessly through the trees, often joined by other small foraging birds performing treetop acrobatics.

Highdown’s long-tailed tits can often be spotted roaming in small flocks at the entrance to the Beech Walk or moving excitedly through the Lower Garden
Photo by Tina Lighten-Duncan – copyright © 2022

Long-tailed tit - Aegithalos caudatus (copyright Tina Lighten-Duncan)

1. Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Plucky and companionable, it’s little wonder this cheeky chap is the UK’s most beloved bird. The size of a sparrow, robins are easy to spot with their signature orangey-red breast and melodious song.

Robins sing throughout much of the year and their song takes two distinct forms; just after autumn it is melancholy and wistful, but from December onwards it becomes faster, more powerful and energetic. Robins also have an urgent ‘tic, tic’ and high-pitched ‘tsweee’ call which they use when alarmed or agitated. They are one of the first birds to join the dawn chorus in the morning and one of the last to stop singing in the evening, often continuing their sweet serenade long into the night if there are street lights nearby.

Despite their friendly nature they are actually fiercely territorial and quick to drive off intruders. In summer, males and females (who look identical) will hold territories together, but in winter this is done alone. The robin’s distinctive red breast and vigorous song are actually tools used to defend their patch, and you will often see them singing loudly from a conspicuous perch to this end.

Highdown is famed for its friendly little robins who are found in every corner of the garden. They can be seen merrily hopping around behind one of the gardeners in eager anticipation of a juicy earthworm, or cosying up to visitors on a bench – particularly if they’re eating lunch. If you’re lucky (and prepared to share your sandwich), then some of the braver robins may even perch on your hand. I am rarely without a robin for company in the Lower Garden and every encounter lifts my heart and brings me joy.

Highdown’s iconic robins are remarkably tame and beloved by all
Photo by Tina Lighten-Duncan – copyright © 2022

Robin 2 - Erithacus rubecula (copyright Tina Lighten-Duncan)

So what are you waiting for? Pull on your wellies, grab your binoculars and get down to Highdown for some wonderful winter bird watching … oh, and the plants are pretty good too.


Photos by Tina Lighten-Duncan – copyright © 2022
Instagram.com – tina_lighten
Facebook.com – Lighten Photography UK

Solanum Laciniatum - Kangaroo Apple

Pergola pruning time

Highdown Gardens - LisaHello my name’s Lisa and I’m a Craft Gardener at Highdown Gardens.

Autumn is here and I’m aware the climbing roses along the Pergola, at the very bottom of Highdown Gardens, will soon need to be pruned and tied back. This task is done between late autumn up until the end of winter, when the roses have finished their show of flowers and rose hips.

At the moment the climbing roses’ new growth is long, hanging loose and dangling along the Pergola. Every winter, I have the long but enjoyable job of saving the climbing roses’ fresh new growth and tying it onto the wires along the Pergola, in my preferred circular, wavy style. However, old growth is saved and tied in if new growth is limited, to ensure the climbing roses look balanced and evenly spaced when tied up along the wires. If there’s plenty of new growth it’s a case of selecting the best and strongest stems and sacrificing the others, so the rose is not too crowded and there is space between the stems when tied up onto the Pergola.

Roses on the pergola at Highdown Gardens (looking west)

We have one rambling rose on the Pergola, Rambling Rector, which is treated differently to the climbing roses. It is pruned immediately after flowering, this is because rambling roses will not repeat flower and have finished what they were going to do that year, and will flower again next summer on the previous year’s wood. Unlike climbing roses which will flower repeatedly and flower next summer on the current year’s growth.

Originally during Sir Frederick Stern’s time there used to be two long Pergolas at the bottom of the garden covered with climbing roses, providing a magnificent tunnel of roses to walk through. However, over time trees had grown up and around the Pergolas, shading out the roses, and the two Pergolas eventually rotted away. Only one of the Pergolas was remade and put back, you still see a small section of the old wooden structure of the other Pergola.

While this area of Highdown Gardens is still a bit of a jungle, there are some beautiful shrubs growing here, like Solanum Laciniatum or Kangaroo Apple with its beautiful purple flowers which flower for a long period throughout spring and summer. This shrub attracts a lot of attention from visitors.

Solanum Laciniatum - Kangaroo Apple

Also the Schisandra Grandiflora Rubriflora or Chinese Magnolia Vine with deep red flowers flowering in spring and summer is stunning.

Schisandra Grandiflora Rubriflora - Chinese Magnolia Vine

Close to the Schisandra is the Clematis Armandii which is covered in cream-white flowers in spring, stopping visitors in their tracks.

Over the two years I’ve been here, I’ve found a few hidden shrubs growing in this area. Abelia Chinensis or Chinese Abelia with it white beautiful scented flowers, has only just stopped flowering now. It flowers mid to late summer but as the weather has been mild it was flowering until just recently.

In late spring I stumbled upon a group of beautiful Allium Siculum or Sicilian Honey Garlic emerging from a mass of Periwinkle undergrowth.

Allium Siculum - Sicilian Honey Garlic

Behind the Pergola and the roses, close to the Abelia Chinensis there is an elegant and unusual Buddleia growing. These discoveries give a hint of what this part of the garden must have looked like during Stern’s time. l look forward to the enjoyable task of identifying and pruning the shrubs in this area and controlling the Periwinkle, weeds and tree saplings growing here.

The pergola at Highdown Gardens (looking east)

Anita - one of our Highdown volunteers

What’s it like volunteering at Highdown?

Hi everyone, I’m Anita Cannon, and this week I’m hopping on the Highdown blog to tell you all about my experience volunteering at Worthing’s beloved chalk garden.

Anita - one of our Highdown volunteers

My volunteering role at Highdown Gardens started with a post social media advertising for Tour Guide Volunteers. I’ve always been good at talking to people and sharing my knowledge, my only issue was remembering facts!

That said, I decided to apply and soon after a very comprehensive training programme started. I learnt a lot from the garden’s knowledgeable staff, but it did take a while for me to feel confident about leading a tour. Support was offered and I never felt pressured to take one until I was ready.

My first tour was a bit nerve racking but it went really well. I have also found that as time has passed, I’m still learning and as I find out more, I can add new details to my future talks. I really want visitors to get their money’s worth and understand the garden’s incredible story!

My volunteer role has grown as I also became a Visitor Assistant helping at special events, such as the Snowdrop and Peony days and children’s Discover Days, which take place during the school holidays.

Lastly, I also trained to work in the garden’s pop-up shop, which features a range of plants for sale which can be found around our historic garden. You don’t need to have expert knowledge on the plants being sold, but you do happen to learn little gems of information as you go along.

Photo: Jane (left) with Anita (right) in the Highdown greenhouse volunteering in the pop up shop

Jane (left) with Anita (right) in the Highdown greenhouse volunteering in the pop up shop

I’ve recently volunteered for a Highdown Gardens history role, but this hasn’t started yet. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about these historic gardens.

There are also opportunities to join the team and volunteer as a gardener, either in the gardens or in the new glasshouse.

Volunteering at Highdown Gardens is such a rewarding role, as everyone is so friendly and welcoming. The staff really appreciate the work of their volunteers and I feel supported at all times. I can do as much (or as little) as I want, and there is never pressure to attend anything if I’m not feeling up to it.

Photo: Anita (left) with Rebecca (right) in the Highdown Visitor Centre volunteering at a Highdown Discover Day

Anita (left) with Rebecca (right) in the Highdown Visitor Centre volunteering at a Highdown Discover Day

If you feel you can give some time to the gardens please see:

It’s such a unique place and offers so much to the thousands of visitors who enter for free each year.

Thanks for reading, Anita.

Spindle Tree - Euonymus grandiflorus

Tree Tour of Highdown Gardens

Tree ID Tour of Highdown Gardens

Dates:

  • 2023’s event has now happened – thank you to all that came along
  • We’ll be back again with other dates

See also:

Photo: Harlequin glorybower – Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii

Harlequin glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii

Photo: Paperbark Maple Tree – Acer griseum

Paperbark Maple Tree - Acer griseum

Photo: Spindle Tree – Euonymus grandiflorus

Spindle Tree - Euonymus grandiflorus

Fringe Tree - Chionanthus retusus - flowers close up (photo - Anita Cannon)

Plant focus: Fringe Tree – Chionanthus retusus

Common names: Fringe tree or Chinese Fringe tree
Latin name: Chionanthus retusus
Found in eastern Asia: eastern and central China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan

The Chinese Fringe tree was first introduced to the UK in 1845 by Robert Fortune. Sir Frederick Stern bought the Highdown Gardens tree from Hillier Nurseries in 1934. It can be found in the middle garden and is one of my favourite trees. From a distance it is easy to see why it is called a fringe tree.

Photo: Fringe Tree – Chionanthus retusus

Fringe Tree - Chionanthus retusus (photo - Anita Cannon)

It is notable for its feathery white flowers and the name translates as snow flowers. It is not until you look closely that you are able to see the delicate flowers. When it loses its petals, it looks a bit like falling snow. It is a deciduous tree so in autumn its leaves turn yellow and shed.

Fringe Tree – Chionanthus retusus – flowers close up

Fringe Tree - Chionanthus retusus - flowers close up (photo - Anita Cannon)

In ‘A Chalk Garden’ by Stern the tree was featured in the July section and he stated: “Some of the finest of the flowering shrubs and trees bloom during this month”. Interesting to note that it now flowers a whole month earlier and can be seen in its full glory in June.

The Highdown Gardens Chinese Fringe tree has been awarded Champion tree status nationally for its height. It is related to Chionanthus virginicus which originates in America. The virginicus does not cope well with chalk but luckily for us the retusus does very well in the alkaline soil found at Highdown.

Historically the root was used as an antipyretic (reduces high temperature) and later for treating jaundice. I feel that sometimes we do not look at the whole tree especially when it is so beautiful in flower, but this tree also has another interesting feature; its bark. It is ridged and furrowed which gives it some winter interest and possibly hides invertebrates!

Photo: Fringe Tree – Chionanthus retusus – trunk and bark

Fringe Tree - Chionanthus retusus - trunk and bark (photo - Anita Cannon)

One final fascinating fact; trees are either male or female. The male has slightly longer and showier petals, while the female bears dark blue fruit in the autumn. The Fringe tree at Highdown is male with the more showy flowers so no fruit!

Many thanks to Highdown’s Tour Guide Volunteer Anita Cannon, for writing this blog and taking the photos.

Softwood cuttings workshop (730px)

Know & Grow: Semi-ripe Cuttings Workshop

Know & Grow: Semi-ripe Cuttings Workshop

2023’s event has now happened – thank you to all that came along

To enquire about future Softwood Cuttings Workshops, please email:

See also:

 

Photo: Know & Grow Cuttings Workshop

Know & Grow - Cuttings Workshop

Softwood cuttings workshop (730px)