Worthing’s world-famous Highdown Gardens to close for work on £1million project

A £1million project to protect the fragile plant collection at Worthing’s world-famous Highdown Gardens is about to begin.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 5:12 pm

The gardens will be closed to visitors from December 21 until late summer next year, as the historic site heads a new era.

As well as preserving the beauty for years to come, the project will include the building of a new visitor centre.

Gary Prescod, project manager, said: “This is a really exciting time for Highdown Gardens. This project will help visitors experience these gardens in a new and exciting way, tell their wonderful story in a more compelling way and ensure the protection of the beautiful plants we have here.

Artist’s impression of what the new visitor centre might look like
Artist’s impression of what the new visitor centre might look like

“However, to get there, we do need to work on the gardens, for example demolish the old bungalow and build a new visitors’ centre, construct new accessible walkways and develop new elements to the garden.

“We hope people will bear with us as we bring this dream into reality.”

There are only two special days when the gardens will be open to visitors, on Sunday, February 2, 2020, for a snowdrops tour and Thursday, March 19, 2020, for a spring bulb day.

The work, funded by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund, will include building new greenhouses to help the propagation and preservation of extremely rare plants from around the world, building a new visitors’ centre, exploring and digitise the archives, creating new accessible walkways and developing a sensory garden.

In addition, the public toilet block will be upgraded. It will be closed in February for work to take place.

Worthing Borough Council, which owns the gardens, said the dramatic transformation will preserve the vital work undertaken by Sir Frederick Stern, work it had continued over the past 50 years.

The gardens are internationally important as they are home to hundreds of rare plants and trees, visited by tens of thousands of people every year.

Part of the funding has enabled a plant heritage officer to start work on cataloguing the hundreds of rare and exotic plants Sir Frederick bred and grew, including many from plant hunters he sponsored on trips around the world.

Several of the rare plant specimens have been selected as valuable additions to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place.