Video: Countdown begins to official opening for famous Sussex gardens
A new restaurant, '˜farm shop', delicatessen, special afternoon teas and more of a year-round garden experience - these are some of the plans as Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens near Horsham looks ahead to its 2019 opening.
The gardens made history on Thursday (June 21) with the planting of the first commercial Pinotage vineyard in the UK.
The aim to open the gardens to the public this year had to be put on the back burner due to the discovery of a great crested newt in one of the greenhouses, plus awaiting the green light on a vital planning application for a new car park.
The latter is particularly important as the aim is to keep the gardens open for much of the year.
The estate will now open in January, with a big celebration as Leonardslee is a headline sponsor for the Horsham district Year of Culture 2019.
Leonardslee was always famous for its springtime rhododendrons but new owner Penny Streeter and her son Adam, who is general manager, are working with the gardening team to create a year-round experience.
Many visitors from around the county and beyond to Leonardslee, before it shut in 2010, enjoyed the hot and cold food on offer and the idea is to take that to another level.
A new restaurant, called Interlude, is set to open in August, with South African chef Jean Delport in charge.
And Jean is aiming high, with eyes set on a Michelin star.
The idea is to grow a lot of the ingredients on site, along with keeping chickens, pigs and bee colonies, plus sourcing other items locally.
A new ‘farm shop’ and delicatessen are on the agenda and, of course there will be plenty of The South African Benguela Collection of wines that the vineyards at Mannings Heath and Leonardslee will eventually contribute to.
Old favourites remain
Former regular visitors to Leonardslee will be glad to hear that the wallabies are still at the gardens, as are the deer.
And the magnificent Doll’s House Collection is also intact.
While the lakes and gardens might not be currently open to the public, bookings are being taken for weddings, conferences and other events as the main house in the grounds has been renovated.
You can become member of Leonardslee - go to https://www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk/ for details.