I can guarantee you that if you spent five minutes on Google searching your local area, the results would turn up an abundance of places you have never visited. I’m currently on a mission to show you all as much of this beautiful place I call home as I can and one of my favourite places to wander around, and one that I want to show you, is West Dean Gardens.
Nestled in the picturesque countryside of Chichester, West Dean Gardens is a true horticultural gem that captivates visitors with its stunning beauty and rich history. The gardens of West Dean are just a small part of the 6,350 acres that make up the West Dean Estate, a place that has an extraordinarily long and varied history, starting as a forest and hunting park in 1066 the land was owned by the Earls of Arundel and Dukes of Norfolk for almost 500 years.
The land has changed hands a few times since then, going to the Peachey family in 1738 with James Peachy, the 1st Lord Selsey, commissioning the rebuilding of the manor house by architect James Wyatt. Then in 1912 when Edward James was five, the Estate was passed in trust to him, with him coming into full possession of the estate at age 25. In 1964 the Edward James Foundation was established which to this day still teaches and supports craftspeople and artists.
But now it is enjoyed by the masses as a place to wander, a place to picnic and a place to attend the Chilli Festival, which last month celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The chilli festival is an event that fills the gardens with bands, entertainment, funfairs and food stalls. Unfortunately, I had to work on the weekend of the festival, but as soon as I clocked out, I popped down to enjoy some food and drinks at sundown—spicy chicken tagine with couscous and cider if you were wondering!
After listening to a local band, I took a stroll around the grounds with friends, nibbling on an array of brownies, to the 300ft Victorian pergola.
The pergola was designed by Harold Peto and has become a beacon for wedding photos and engagement shoots. And you only have to look at it to understand why!
West Dean Gardens boasts an impressive array of plant life, with over 100 acres of gardens and woodlands to explore. From meticulously manicured lawns to wildflower meadows, the diversity of flora is simply breathtaking—quite literally if you have hay fever. But fortunately, I do not! And so, continued on to take it all in.