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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Borde Hill Garden. Ancient High-Weald woodland and introduced trees and shrubs. 20.04.22

I reached Borde Hill Garden by walking from Hayward Heath Station. Trains to Haywards Heath station from Brighton run around 15 minutes and the journey time is 14-25 minutes (depending on train). The walk from Haywards Heath to Borde Hill is about 30 minutes.


I am only an amateur naturalist; thus all identifications in this post are provisional; if you note a mistake in identification please feel free to tell me. If you want to contact me about any aspect of this blog, email me at simeon[underscore]elliott[at]gmail[dot]com.


Please note this post is not a systematic survey of the this location (I do not have the level of knowledge, nor did I have sufficient time, to do that); this post discusses just the things I happened to notice.


All sections of text in italics are quotations, sources are given at end of quotations.


I am not that interested in formal gardens full of introduced exotic species; but the woodland part of Borde Hill has maintained much of its High Weald ancient wood ambiance, with sensitive planting of exotics that don't overwhelm the natural habitat


Beyond the Garden lies 383 acres of Parkland and Woodland set within the beauty of the High Weald.


To the North-West of the Garden is Warren Wood, which was created in 1905 when Col. Stephenson Robert Clarke planted a collection of Picea (spruces) and Pinus (pines) from China and Japan. Warren Wood is home to the rare and elegant Himalayan Juniper (Juniperus rigida).


Other conifers include Cupressus sempervirens, the Italian cypress and Pinus attenuata from South Oregon and California. The wood also houses some extremely rare broadleafs including Malus, Prunus and Photinia.


During spring, tree-sized rhododendrons come into full bloom and their white, pink and red flowers overhang the woodland carpet of bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic.

Further to the West is Stephanie’s Glade which has many rare species of broadleafs (Robina, Ulmus, Juglans, Carya, Fraxinus, Tilia and Quercus) and is one of the most interesting walks at Borde Hill. Woodland - Borde Hill


Introduced Matteuccia struthiopteris Ostrich Fern



Introduced Araucaria araucana. Money Puzzle Tree


A visitor has added a bird skull as a piece pop-up art! As I was photographing this a Raven started cronking above me. Maybe it was paid by Borde Hill to do this, to create a multisensory Edgar Allan Poe immersive experience



The woodland - Oak, Birch, Ash - and Wood Sedge - as it would have been before the intoductions



Rumex crispus Curled Dock, in front of an introduced pine



Bluebells, yacinthoides non-scripta; ancient woodland indicator species



Bluebells with introduced Rhododendron catawbiense Catawba Rhododendron



Rhododendron ponticum , with native and very common Pseudisothecium myosuroides Mouse-tail Moss



Rhododendron ponticum was first brought to Britain, probably from Spain or Portugal, around 1763 for botanical gardens and used on big estates as cover for game birds. But the shrub has spread out of control with huge damage to many native woodlands, and heaths .... The plant now covers 98,700 hectares, roughly 3.3 per cent of Britain’s total woodland, a report by the Forestry Commission found, and Scotland has been hit particularly hard, where it covers 53,000 hectares .(The Guardian)


A beautiful scene? The introduced Rhododendron cinnabarinum (native to eastern Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, southeastern Tibet, and southwest China), in Borde Hill Garden (Warren Wood), High Weald,in a sea of British woodland plants: Athyrium filix-femina, Lady Fern; Carex sylvatica, Wood Sedge; Primula vulgaris, Primrose; Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Bluebell; Cardamine pratensis Cuckooflower (Wood Sedge, Primrose, and Bluebells are ancient woodland indicator species.)


This is quite beautiful; but when introduced Rhododendrons become invasive, they are a significant problem. R. ponticum (see last photo) has destroyed a lot of ancient woodland in the High Weald and in Lowland Heaths in Sussex!






Carex sylvatica, Wood Sedge










Athyrium filix-femina, Lady Fern











Primula vulgaris, Primrose









Rhododendron periclymenoides, Pinxter Flower; introduced from the Eastern seaboard of the USA. Here the epithetic species of the High Weald are taking it over. Hypnum cupressiforme, Cyprus leaved plait moss, and Parmotrema perlatum, Black Stone Flower lichen






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