by Janis on 9th June 2023 / 0 comments

An enchanting haven in West Sussex

Once again, we’re out and about exploring the National Trust sites in the southeast of the UK, and we’ve now arrived at Nymans in West Sussex.

Previously during Spring, we visited Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Scotney Castle in Kent; both were stunning. The National Trust team keeps their gardens looking immaculate all year-round; however, I do enjoy visiting them in springtime.

Sometimes I wish I had a regiment of gardeners to control our borders and weeds; the National Trust team at Nymans are so meticulous, it’s incredible.


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A little background on Nymans

From Regency to aristocracy

Nymans house was originally built as a Regency-style manor house around the late 1830s, and it was in 1890 that it was purchased by the Messel family. Ludwig Messel was of German Jewish descent and, once settled in England, bought the delightful 600-acre Nymans estate.

Nymans is located in West Sussex, and from within its sloping gardens, you have picturesque views across the High Weald and beyond.

The croquet lawn at nymans in west sussex, framed with the purple flowering wisteria to the left, and the ruins of the house in the background
Croquet lawn and wisteria pergola

It wasn’t long before the Messel family began transforming the old Regency house into a German-style family home. This was then shortly followed by the rejuvenation of the Nymans’ gardens with their head gardener James Comber. No expense was spared by Ludwig in creating his perfect garden.

In 1915 when Ludwig’s son Leonard inherited Nymans, the house was once again redeveloped, and the German-style wood-beamed home was remodelled into an attractive mock-medieval stone manor house.

The beautiful gardens continued to blossom and were nurtured and extended further; in the 1930s, the gates of Nymans were thrown open to the public.
The remains of an elegant country house within the numans estate now managed by the national trust
The ruins within Nymans

Unfortunately, in 1947 a disastrous fire destroyed a large part of the Nymans’ house. It was partially rebuilt, leaving a large section of the house as ruins. Today this has become a magnificent backdrop to Nymans gardens.

Leonard and his wife Maud had three children, and their daughter Anne married into the aristocracy to the Earl of Rosse. Anne’s eldest son was the Earl of Snowdon and went on to marry Princess Margaret.

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Exploring Nymans Pinetum

And the calming wildflower meadow
Nymans is a popular National Trust garden, and once we started exploring the estate, I could see why, Nymans is gorgeous. As with all National Trust sites, you’re greeted with an enthusiastic smile and offered guidance on where to begin your venture.
A sweeping mown path next to a wildflower meadow at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Wildlife meadow at Nymans

We head off toward the wildlife meadow and the charming temple dedicated to Ludwig’s brother Alfred Messel, a renowned architect.

What I love about National Trust gardens is that they helpfully label most of their plants; this makes it a lot easier for me if I see a plant that I love. Although I have now started using the ‘PlantNet’ app to identify plants, you must download it if you haven’t already. It is so helpful.

A path between the trees of nyman's pinetum in the west sussex countryside
Meandering path in Nymans Pinetum
As we meander along the dappled pathway, we effortlessly arrive at Nymans Pinetum, which is stunning. The Pinetum is full of beautiful structural trees in all shades of green, and russet reds. Luckily for us, we can still appreciate the resplendent blooms on Nymans’ rhododendrons.

The Lime Walk

Views of the Wealden countryside
We wend our way around the perimeter of Nymans estate, enjoying the scenic views across the Wealden countryside and welcoming the dappled shade as we stroll. The gardens at Nymans are Grade II* listed.
A view of the west sussex countryside from a pathway in the national trusts nymans house and gardens
Views of the Wealden countryside

We amble along Lime Avenue and head towards the rear of Nymans house to admire the ruins and appreciate how they have now become an integral part of the garden.

I think we may have to revisit later in the year to see the transition from one season to the next.

A silver haired lady take a moment on a bench in front of a ornaments lookout point at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Taking a rest in the sunshine
This is a wonderful part of West Sussex; you can see why the Messel family fell in love with the location. To assist you in exploring the estate fully, National Trust run daily ‘Garden Buggy Tours’ from May.

National Trust further reading

If, like us, you enjoy visiting the National Trust gardens around the United Kingdom, then grab yourself a copy of the latest ‘Gardens of the National Trust’.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, and it won’t be long before you’re planning your next trip.

Nymans Loggia and sunken garden

A little nod to South Africa
Nearby the ruins of Nymans house is the beautiful sunken garden with an eye-catching loggia as a striking backdrop. This a glorious area within Nymans and so meticulously maintained by the National Trust gardeners.
A circular sunken garden in front of a stone loggia at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Nymans sunken garden and loggia
I loved the stunning display of alliums within the sunken garden; I’ve recently fallen in love with alliums. I planted a few allium bulbs last autumn; come springtime, they were in full majestic bloom. The ornamental globes stand so proud within our cottage garden beds, and now admiring the display at Nymans, I think I will be planting more this autumn.
A smattering of purple alliums withing the circular sunken garden in front of a stone loggia at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Alliums within the sunken garden
A short hop from here is the South Africa inspired garden and meadow, which I imagine could be a challenge to maintain over the English winter months. However, with the May sunshine streaming through now, the South African bed was beginning to show its full glory.
A curved bed packed with exotic plants at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
South Africa bed
The South African bed has been thoughtfully planted out with delicate grasses, bold perennials and exotic hardy plants giving strong texture and structure to the charming garden.

Exploring the charming rock gardens

A parasol of wisteria
One of the areas I particularly loved at Nymans was the rock gardens; these gardens were enchanting, and I could have spent hours admiring them.
Another view from the rockery of the ruined national trust nymans house on a bright day under a blue sky
Nymans rock gardens
What I especially liked about the rock gardens was the nature of the planting. Amongst the boulders and interspersed within the golden pebbles were delicate plants which gave a captivating Mediterranean feel; in fact, the majority of the planting you would find in a British garden.
Looking down on the rock garden at nymans gardens in west sussex
View above the rock gardens

Seeing these rock gardens at Nymans has given us inspiration for our own garden.

We have a section with four raised beds within them, they are now past their best, and we were deciding how to proceed with the area; now I think we may have gotten the answer.

The purple flowering wisteria hanging from a pergola next to the croquet lawn at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Wisteria in bloom at Nymans

We visited Nymans in May, so we were lucky enough to catch the delightful lilac pastel flowers from the trailing wisteria.

On the edge of the manicured croquet lawn was a long pergola. Along the entire length of the structure, a stunning wisteria was elegantly draped in magnificent purple blooms. It was so striking and created a parasol of dappled shade.

Captivating walled garden

To the fragrant rose garden
We continue exploring the glorious gardens at Nymans and visit inside the historic Nymans house. It’s from here that we head to the charming walled garden.
The semi-derelict house at the centre of nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Nymans house
Sections of the walled garden were being planted during our visit; however, there were still plenty of plants to see as you veer off the main avenue. Beautiful ‘Kent Pride’ iris were in bloom along with camassias, aquilegia and forget-me-nots.
One of the entrance arches to the walled garden at nymans house and gardens in west sussex
Nymans walled garden
Dotted all around Nymans’s gardens are grand statues, tumbling water features and plenty of seating to rest your weary feet.
An ornate bronze water fountain takes centre stage in the rose garden at nymans in west sussex
Nymans rose garden
Our next stop was to the rose garden. We were a little bit early in the season to enjoy the full extent of Nymans’ exquisite rose garden. Nevertheless, it was a calming a relaxing area for Nymans to sit peacefully and listen to the tweeting birds around us.

Second-hand bookshop

Pick up a plant or two

It wouldn’t be the same if a National Trust site didn’t have a second-hand bookshop, and the one at Nymans is a vision of beauty with its cascading lilac wisteria clambering over the former potting shed.

Pop inside and grab yourself a bargain.

Purple flowering wisteria covering the sage coloured wooden hut that house the second-hand book store at nymans in west sussex
Nymans second-hand book shop
Our final stop in Nymans was to the garden shop and the plant centre. Prior to visiting a National Trust plant centre, I imagined their plants to be expensive. Actually, they are pretty reasonably priced and all very healthy.
The well-stocked courtyard and garden shop at nymans in west sussex
Nymans garden shop

So, as we are currently in the process of creating our ‘woodland shady’ section of our garden, we purchased a couple of hostas. The first was a Hosta Blue Mouse Ears which only grows to 6 inches tall, and a Hosta Halcyon, which produces blue leaves.

Go on, grab your National Trust membership card and visit Nymans in West Sussex.

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