Long walks through colourful autumn scenery is one of my favourite ways to spend a few hours at this time of year. Even better if it’s followed by a Sunday roast in front of a roaring fire at a country pub. For me it makes the approach of winter just a little easier to bear. If you’re looking for some stunning autumn colour in Sussex I know the perfect place. Sheffield Park Gardens in East Sussex.
Sheffield Park and Gardens near Uckfield in East Sussex, is the place to head to over the next few weeks to take in some gorgeous autumn colour. It’s one of the best Sussex Gardens and one of the best UK gardens for autumn foliage. The National Trust gardens were specifically planted for autumn, or fall if you’re from across the pond, and the autumn display of rich colour is a show stopper.
Kick your way through a blanket of fallen foliage on a crisp, sunny day and you’ll get double the delight as the rich russets, ruby reds and golden hues of the landscape are reflected in the park lakes. Our first visit to Sheffield Park Gardens fell on a sunny autumn day – perfect for enjoying the blaze of autumn foliage against a crisp blue sky.
Sheffield Park House
Sheffield Park house is private but the gardens, parkland and woodland surrounding it offer some beautiful walks through a colourful and beautifully planted landscape. Call it a horticultural work of art.
The garden has evolved over centuries with influences from Capability Brown and Humphry Repton but Arthur Soames’ legacy gives us the stunning autumn foliage we see today. Arthur Soames owned Sheffield Park at the beginning of the twentieth century and was responsible for introducing many of the species to the landscape including the colourful Acer, Taxodiums and Nyssa.
Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo)
Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo)
Sheffield Park is famous for its Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo) and has the largest collection on any one site. Four hundred were raised from seed by Arthur Soames in the early 1920s and there’s even a tree that’s been cultivated at the park called Nyssa Sylvatica ‘Sheffield Park’. You can buy one for your own garden in the plant sales area.
The reason for planting so many Nyssa was to recreate the spectacular autumn colours of the fall. Soames definitely succeeded and the gardens have received Grade I status to recognise their international importance for autumn colour.
On arrival we took a photo on my phone of a map showing where to find the best examples of autumn colour. You’ll find it outside visitor reception. We’ve started taking photos now to save wasting paper. The map was really handy because we only had a couple of hours to explore so found the highlights quickly. Next time we’ll spend a lot more time there.
Five lakes are at the heart of the garden with a series of paths leading around them and through the woodland glades and magnificent trees that edge the lakes. As we were short on time we stuck to the areas around the lakes but there are acres of parkland with numerous walking trails to explore.
Making friends with the locals
It’s not all about the foliage. Some plants produce colourful seeds. I like the delicate baby pink of the Euonymus (Spindle Tree) against the clear blue sky.
Euonymus (Spindle Tree) at Sheffield Park
Acers are known for their vibrant colours ranging from lime greens and citrus yellows to deep crimson. There are 25 species of Acer at Sheffield Park and 240 specimens in total. I love the delicate feathery appearance of the leaves.
If you want to make your day really special you could arrive by steam train on the Bluebell Railway. The gardens are just a fifteen minute walk through the fields from the station.
Facilities at Sheffield Park Gardens
Sheffield Park is a National Trust property so you’ll find all the usual facilities to enhance your visit. The Coach House tea rooms are located at the entrance side of the car park. It serves a full menu of hot and cold lunches, snacks, cakes and drinks. You can leave the garden to use the tea room and re-enter as often as your like throughout your visit. Dogs are welcome in the garden room of the Coach House tea room.
If you’re in the garden itself and fancy light refreshments the Shant serves hot and cold drinks and snacks. There’s also a gift shop, second-hand bookshop and plant sales area.
Sheffield Park in autumn gets especially busy so it’s worth planning your visit. Sunny weekends are going to be crowded so check Sheffield Park’s ‘plan your day’ page for details on opening times, parking, facilities and dog access.
Where are your favourite Sussex spots for spectacular autumn colour and fall foliage? Please share so that we can all visit too.
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