The Manor of Dean Garden, Tillington, West Sussex

After a short detour trying to find Dean Lane, which turned out to be an unnamed, very narrow country lane, our monthly U3A Garden Group meeting was to The Manor of Dean, Tillington, near Petworth, West Sussex. We had coffee and homemade cakes outside in glorious sunshine, and couldn’t have wished for better weather to visit a garden.

The original house built in the C15 has been in the Mitford family for 300 years. James Mitford inherited The Manor of Dean from his aunt, Sophie Mitford who was a distant cousin of the Mitford Girls. James and his wife, Emma, have lived here with their family since 2006 and are working on a long-term renovation program of the house and the garden.

I think we would all agree that visiting gardens is a way of peeking over the garden fence to make notes of plants and planting ideas. We were impressed with the splendid Gaura in a large galvanised container. As Gaura tends to look untidy towards the end of the summer perhaps planting it in a container is a sensible idea to keep it in check. In the spring the pot is full of white tulips, and the Gaura is a summer replacement.

After our coffee break, we left that part of the garden with its beautiful views across the Sussex countryside (sorry I don’t know what happened to the photo!) to make our way to the circular walk.

We went through the woodland walk and the hazelnut grove. Here we found lots of autumn crocus scattered through the grove. There were no hazelnuts; apparently, the squirrels stripped the trees bare.

There are almost 3 acres of garden with herbaceous borders, a large variety of early flowering bulbs, snowdrops, spring bulbs, woodland walks, grass steps and a rather splendid set of stone steps covered with Erigeron.

The walled kitchen garden is roughly an acre in size and has a magnificent asparagus bed as well as an impressive dahlia bed with a thick carpet of straw. The tubers are left in situ and mulched with the straw through the winter.

This south-facing wall has an excellent display of Michaelmas Daisies – or should I call them Asters or Symphyotrichum? I wish they wouldn’t change plant names, and they’ll always be Michaelmas Daisies to me, it’s very confusing.

The Manor of Dean is open to the public through The National Garden Scheme (NGS) for four Sunday afternoons during the year, one in February, one in March and April and another in August. It is also open by private arrangement to groups in September.

The U3A

In case you wonder what the U3A is, it is The University of the Third Age. There are branches countrywide and there is bound to be one near you. The U3A aims to encourage groups of people in their third age to come together and enjoy learning subjects covering a wide range of topics and activities, from archaeology to wine tasting. There is no minimum age, but the focus is on people who are no longer in full-time employment or raising a family. I have found it a great way to meet likeminded people following my retirement and subsequent move to Hampshire.


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