Walking

Sheffield Park and Garden, Sussex

On the edge of the High Weald AONB in East Sussex, the National Trust-run Sheffield Park and Garden is a picture of tranquillity. Set within a thousand-year-old estate, it features 18th Century landscape gardens originally designed by Capability Brown and huge tracts of historic parkland punctuated with woodland and lakes. From the activity of spring to the frost-tinged depths of winter, it provides a rejuvenating setting in which to enjoy its winding pathways and family-friendly activities.

 

History

Sheffield Park and Garden has veteran status in East Sussex, nestled within an estate first cited in the Domesday Book of 1086. Used as a venue to entertain royalty including King Henry VIII, hunt deer, play cricket (on 12th May 1884 Lord Sheffield's XI played Australia here), house soldiers and soak up the restorative goodness of Mother Nature, its chapters have been both plentiful and influential – shaping both the physical landscape and feel of the house, garden and parkland. 

Shaped by successive owners throughout the centuries, the estate’s house was redesigned in the Gothic style in the 18th Century. During this time, the gardens were also remodelled by the famous gardener and landscape architect Capability Brown, before being further developed by Humphry Repton – the last of England’s ‘great landscape designers’. Within the century, four lakes, gardens and tree-lined avenues were all created, followed by an arboretum in the 19th Century.

Gardens 

A network of paths allows you to leisurely drift through the estate’s 120-acre landscape garden. A horticultural masterpiece slowly shaped over the centuries, its striking features have been heavily influenced by the green thumbs of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton – two of the 18th Century’s greatest landscape designers. Today, it is a haven for visitors of all generations looking to savour moments of tranquillity and exploration within its verdant swathes.

At the centre of the park, five lakes sit pretty surrounded by open glades and thick areas of woodland filled with both native and exotic trees. Pick up the Big Tree Wood trail to take in some of the biggest of the Grade I-listed garden’s 14,500-strong collection of trees (including a Giant Redwood), or follow the picturesque Church Walk and Queen’s Walk for beautiful views over the lakes. Constantly evolving with the seasons, you can trace and re-trace your favourite paths time and time again whilst still being treated to something new to see. 

Parkland 

Wanderer, photographer, naturalist or explorer – everyone will find something to capture their attention in the estate’s dog-friendly parkland. Emerging from the landscaped gardens and woodland, the estate’s open parkland spreads out across large grassy plains and wildflower meadows – all traced by the silky body of the River Ouse that flows at the bottom of the park. Open from dawn to dusk and free to explore, it’s naturally a year-round attraction. 

Collect a map from the onsite reception and set off to explore the various parkland paths, ranging from half an hour to an hour and a half or so. Down by the river, kingfishers and dragonflies flit over the water, while across the parkland itself livestock contentedly graze their way from corner to corner. Spend time following your favourite trails, remembering to don your wellies if you’re visiting in the winter months. While the parkland is dog-friendly, it’s also requested that they stay on lead due to the presence of livestock and the abundance of wildlife.  

Things to Do

Simply discovering Sheffield Park and Garden’s 250 acres of parkland on foot is a lovely thing to do, be it for a morning, afternoon or a whole day. That said, there are also many different activities and attractions hidden around the site, from the 18th Century river lock to great family-friendly activities. If you have youngsters in your party, head over to reception and ask for a piece of paper before you set off on your adventures – the Birch Grove is great for bark rubbing with all kinds of secret patterns being revealed on paper. 

In the parkland opposite the gardens, the Ringwood Toll Play Area for children awaits with a natural play area, including trails, tree stump jumps and a giant xylophone. Just a short stroll from here is also the Skyglade, a peaceful viewing circle bordered by eight 12ft panels – perfect for propping you up during a spot of cloud gazing. Down by the river, a wealth of wildlife reveals itself to the patient, while a rope bridge carries the intrepid out across the historic lock and onto an island in the River Ouse. For additional exploration, an additional wooden bridge takes you across the river to join up with the Ouse Valley Way path beyond the Park. 

Food and Drink

Walking around the park is hungry work, even for the most energetic. Fortunately, there is a great café open every day on site from 10am to 5pm: the Coach House Café. Serving a selection of light lunches, cakes and bakes and equipped with a dog-friendly Garden Room, it offers a warm place in which to pull up a pew and refuel. That said, if you’re after something on the go, you can also visit The Shant in the garden for drinks and snacks to take away.

Shopping 

For a little something to take home with you, you can pop into Sheffield Park and Garden’s onsite shops. Situated next to the reception, there is a shop selling a range of homeware pieces, gifts and plants. Meanwhile, there is also a second-hand bookshop next to the Coach House Café, which provides bookworms of all ages with the chance to journey into worlds near and far – from cookbooks to children’s classics. 

Sheffield Park, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 3QX | 01825 790 231 | www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffield-park-and-garden

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