One of the finest gardens in Britain - Leonardslee at Lower Beeding - is soon to be reopened to the public after being bought by a South African-based entrepreneur.
The landscaped woodland gardens attracted around 50,000 visitors a year before they were closed to the public in 2010.
The gardens were first planted in 1801 and are noted for the outstanding spring displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias and bluebells.
Visitors were also attracted by a unique doll’s house exhibition, depicting the Edwardian estate and neighbouring villages, along with a rare colony of wallabies that have grazed in the gardens for over a century.
New owner of Leonardslee is businesswoman Penny Streeter who also owns the Benguela Collection vineyard and hospitality group which includes the 400 acre Mannings Heath Golf Course and Wine Estate.
The group also includes Benguela Cove vineyard in South Africa, as well as four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route.
Said Penny: “We will restore the gardens to their former glory and create new facilities on site, including tea rooms and dining facilities, as a major local attraction for families, wedding groups and others.
“It complements our golf and entertainment facilities at Mannings Heath, where we are developing a wine destination, bringing in our wines from South Africa and cultivating on site a new 35 acre vineyard for English sparkling wine.”
Leonardslee also features a Grade II listed 19th-century Italianate style house and the historic park and gardens cover 200 acres of a steep sandstone valley, in which there is a series of seven man-made ponds.
The site includes two alpine glasshouses, in need of refurbishment. A rock garden near the house was built in 1890 by the Victorian landscaping company James Pulham and Son.
An opening date is yet to be announced.