BIGNOR Park is getting set for a busy summer.
This year has seen exciting developments at the Pulborough property, which has more on offer for visitors than ever before.
In April, in aid of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), more than 250 people made their way along to the park, and now it is looking forward to welcoming guests for the start of the wedding season.
Ned is also opening up the grounds for the benefit of students.
Most recently, Bignor Park joined forces with students from the University of Chichester to put on a spectacular outdoor theatre performance.
The production, Year Walk, was held in the grounds of the park, making use of the beautiful space, including the stables and the Zen pond.
Year Walk is based on a video game inspired by a centuries-old ritual, practised in Sweden until the 1920s and the performance was set in rural Sweden, in 1899.
Paul Ackerley is a visiting composer and producer at the university. He said: “Five years ago, we started a musical theatre course.
“Musical theatre is very big in this country at the moment, so Chichester needed to differentiate itself.
“We gave undergraduates the opportunity to write something completely new, and present it in a new way off the stage.
“For Year Walk, we wanted a location that looked like a village, with woodland.
“Bignor Park was perfect.
“The beautiful thing about the park and Ned, a composer himself, is they have a long association with the arts – it really was a marriage made in heaven.
“It was important we worked with a party who would be proud of the work produced on their site.
“There was certainly a mutual respect and collaboration.”
The estate also works with younger pupils across the district.
As part of the Natural England Environmental Stewardship Educational Access programme, the park is now offering schools free educational visits to its farmland and woods.
The estate has a rich diversity of habitat types and Viscount Mersey, with the help of Natural England, has been working towards the restoration of valuable heathland to enable conservation of wildlife species such as the field cricket (a national scarce species) and wet grassland restoration for breeding and wintering of lapwing and snipe.
A trail for habitat comparison has been put together, which takes students through parkland, woodland, lake, heathland and wetland to enable comparison and investigations at each habitat.
There are also possibilities to use the facilities at the beautiful estate for art classes and historical and geographical visits.
The aim of the estate is to farm in a profitable, sustainable way while ensuring suitable habitats are provided to support British wildlife.
Bignor Park also hosts wedding ceremonies and receptions.
The sweeping landscapes offer guests a tranquil setting, while the grounds can be adapted and decorated at the behest of the bride.
Several weddings have already been booked at the venue this year, including a Hindu ceremony. The park also has a licence to hold civil ceremonies.
Bignor Park will open to the public again for NGS charities on Sunday, June 8 and Sunday, September 21 from 2pm-5pm. The NGS scheme raises money for nursing and caring charities.
For details about Bignor Park, including its history and details of weddings, garden openings and education visits, see www.bignorpark.co.uk