Exploring the captivating gardens and historic ruins
Our next National Trust adventure takes us into the delightful county of Sussex, well, West Sussex, to be precise and, we’re visiting the enchanting house and gardens of Nymans.
Nymans is nestled between the lush Surrey Hills and the verdant High Weald, which are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). As soon as you arrive at Nymans, you feel that you have escaped the hustle and bustle of daily life and ambled into a serene oasis.
When you visit Nymans, you will not only enjoy the rich history of the Messel family home, but you’ll also be able to wend your way around the exquisite, captivating gardens.
Once again, the National Trust team have surpassed themselves. The green-fingered team of horticulturists lovingly manages the gardens, and the enthusiastic volunteers within the house are on hand to answer all your questions.
Where is Nymans
How to get to Nymans
- By Train
The nearest stations to Nymans are Crawley, 5 miles; Haywards Heath, 9 miles and Balcombe, 5 miles. Public transport is available from Crawley and Haywards Heath.
- By Car
Nymans in West Sussex is off the London to Brighton road M23/A23. Head towards Handcross and follow the brown National Trust signs for a couple of miles.
There’s a free car park for National Trust members; parking charges may apply to non-members.
Nymans postcode is RH17 6EB or you can find it by using What3Words ///digital.disgraced.earl
A little bit of history on NymansCreating Messel’s dream
The refashioning of Nymans was then swiftly followed by the rejuvenation of Nymans’ gardens. Ludwig, along with his head gardener James Comber, began to indulge in their passion for gardening, landscaping and horticulture and no expense was spared by Ludwig Messel in creating his perfect tranquil environment.
Amongst Ludwig’s fervent plans included an arboretum, some of the trees that can still be seen today and the magnificent wisteria which envelopes the pergola by the croquet lawn and is inglorious bloom during May.
In 1915 Ludwig’s son Leonard inherited the Nymans estate, and the house was once again remodelled; the German-style wood-beamed home was transformed into an attractive mock-medieval stone manor house.
Nymans’ beautiful gardens continued to flourish and were nurtured and extended further. Leonard also had a passion for horticulture and, along with Comber, created a unique plant collection. In the 1930s, the garden gates of Nymans were thrown open to the public.
In 1947 a disastrous fire destroyed a vast part of the Nymans’ house. Due to the tragedy happening so close to the end of WWII, it was only partially rebuilt, leaving a large section of the house as ruins. Today the ruins at Nymans have become an integral part of the garden and create an emotive backdrop.
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.
A little help from a Nymans friendA font of information
Where to stay near Nymans
Off to the Pinetum, we goThe wildlife meadow awaits
We heeded the advice of the National Trust guide and headed off towards the majestic pinetum and arboretum.
However, there were some beautiful sights to see before arriving at the pinetum. A swathe of colourful planting appeared before us, full of vibrant spring tones. Recently I’ve begun to adore alliums in all shapes and sizes, and Nymans had a fine collection. I think I’ll be investing in more allium bulbs this autumn to extend our collection further.
We continue along and amble beside Nymans huge wildflower meadow. I think in my garden, this would look like I can’t be bothered to mow the lawn rather than an intentional retreat for the local wildlife. The wildlife meadow includes over 50 species of wildflowers and looks wonderful.
Nearby is the charming temple dedicated to Ludwig’s brother Alfred Messel, a renowned architect.
As we meander along the dappled pathway, we effortlessly arrive at Nymans Pinetum, which is delightful. The Pinetum is full of beautiful structural trees in all shades of green and russet reds.
Luckily for us, we can still appreciate some of the impressive blooms on Nymans’ rhododendrons in late May.
Strolling Lime AvenueAdmiring the scenery beyond
It is so peaceful all along Lime Avenue and a wonderful place to sit and soak up the Wealden landscape. This is a stunning part of West Sussex; you can easily understand why the Messel family fell in love with the location.
To discover Nymans estate in a little more depth, National Trust run daily ‘Garden Buggy Tours’ from May, so hop aboard and find out more.
Hiking the West Sussex Countryside
Nymans is located in the lush county of West Sussex. This region of England, along with the South Downs and the Wealden countryside, is perfect for hikes. To explore the delightful circular walks in this region, you’ll want the Ordnance Survey Pathfinder guidebook no. 66.
Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.
Nymans sunken garden and loggiaA little flourish of South Africa
We weave our way around to the front of Nymans house to explore the beautiful sunken garden with a stunning loggia as a striking backdrop. Surrounding the sunken garden are pillar-shaped yew trees meticulously shaped and pruned by the National Trust gardeners.
I loved the stunning display of alliums within the sunken garden; they strike such an elegant pose.
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.
Exploring the delightful rock gardensA cherished wisteria
Just down from the rock garden is Nymans’ croquet lawn. Our visit to Nymans was in May, so we were lucky enough to catch the ancient wisteria in bloom.
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 lilac pastel blooms. It was so striking and created a parasol of dappled shade.
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Visiting Nymans’ houseA charming home amongst the ruins
Our next location to explore was Nymans house, which, as mentioned above, was ravaged by fire in 1947. Nymans was only partially refitted into a medieval-style home, and the remainder of the grand manor was left in ruins.
The ruins of the house were secured, and what was once a Great Hall is now an enchanting decorative garden.
The beautifully laid out walled forecourt garden with its attractive stone tower and dovecote is a joy to stroll around; you pick up so many ideas from their incredible mix of planting.
As you step into the main house, not only are you greeted with a beaming smile from the National Trust volunteers, but also, you’ll hear the delicate tones of the Broadwood piano being played by one of the volunteers.
One of the few surviving rooms in Nymans is the Garden Hall; it feels very intimate and full of personal items from the Messel family and many cherished family photographs.
Antique furniture lies throughout the room, and works of art and tapestries line the walls, which were once owned by Leonard and Maud Messel.
Discovering more National Trust gardens
Exploring Nymans walled gardenAnd off to the rose garden
We’re now venturing off to explore Nymans’ enchanting walled garden and their fragrant rose garden.
A few of the summer borders were being planted out by the National Trust gardeners during our visit to Nymans, so we didn’t quite see them in full bloom. However, there were still plenty of other sections of the walled garden to explore off the main avenue.
Recently we’ve acquired a bit of a soft spot for irises, so it was a delight to see the bearded iris ‘Kent Pride’ on display, which is one of the varieties we have in our garden.
Amongst the other blooms on show were aquilegia, camassias, bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots, to name a few.
Dotted all around Nymans’s gardens are grand statues, manicured topiary, tumbling water features and plenty of seating to rest your weary feet.
Potting shed or bookshop?Nymans’ plant centre
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.
Have a rummage around inside and grab yourself a literary bargain.
Nymans garden shop
We couldn’t resist picking up a couple of hostas for one of the shady sections of our garden, and they are both thriving well.
Go on, grab your National Trust membership card, and visit Nymans in West Sussex.
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