Press Release: West Dean Gardens open creatively-made garden dens in time for half term

To coincide with the half term at the end of May, West Dean Gardens, near Chichester in West Sussex have opened a wild Den area in their award-winning gardens.

As Tom Brown, Head Gardener at West Dean Gardens, explained: “Engaging and inspiring our next generation of gardeners and artists is very important and we are keen to give our younger visitors somewhere to let their imagination run free. The Garden Dens have been created by weaving willow stems from our Gardens to make tunnels and shelters for gardeners and artists, young and old to enjoy. We anticipate that the willow will take root and grow, meaning that we will weave in the stems over the years to strengthen and reinforce these structures. A ‘dead hedge’ made of willow surrounds the space to separate the rest of the border from the play space, which in time will provide a habitat for wildlife that is of great benefit to the Gardens in terms of pollination and pest control.”

The Gardens are open between 10.30am to 5pm each day. Entry costs £11 (Pre-booking is essential), children under 16 are free and last entry is 30 minutes before closing time. For those wanting a more relaxing visit, the restaurant is open to ticket holders and is operating a full table service – both inside and out.

Tom Brown continues: “In terms of May highlights, we now have a number of glasshouses open with social distancing and hand sanitising measures in place. Inside the glasshouses, there is lots of inspiration to grown your own, such as grapevines, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, tomatoes as well as houseplants and ferns. In addition there’s a focus on herbs such as a trial of basil plants and a selection of mint. Within the walled gardens, you can see wonderfully-coloured tulips; blossom on the fruit trees and our magnificent rhubarb plants. Take advantage of the stunning parkland for an invigorating walk – you may spot lambs and ducklings!”

For those inspired by the views, textures and colours to be found in the Gardens at this time of year, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has just launched a wide range of more than 354 short courses online ( – many of which encourage you to embrace the natural world and Garden surroundings.

Garden & Landscape-inspired short courses at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

June 24-27- Painting leaves, mixing greens with Sandrine Maugy (Suitable for all / £381)

June 25-28 & August 30-September 2 - Pebble mosaics - a creative garden feature with Sue Rew (Suitable for all / £472)

June 28- July 1 - Hand embroidery – gardens and nature in stumpwork with Fleur Oakes (Suitable for all / £381)

June 28- July 1 - Stitchbooks inspired by a walk in the park with Anne Kelly (Suitable for all / £384)

July 1 - Sensory landscape drawing with Caroline Wendling (Suitable for all / £131)

July 4 - Abstract landscape painting - watercolour and egg tempera with Melanie Rose (Intermediate / Advanced / £145)

25-29 July - Botanical painting - sensational summer colours with Mariella Baldwin (Suitable for all /  £493)

August 26-29 - Painting trees and woodland in oils with Tom Benjamin (Suitable for all / £381)

August 28 - Summer propagation - plants for free with Sally Gregson (Beginners / Intermediate / £148)

August 29 - Designing a shade border with Sally Gregson (Suitable for all / £128)

August 30 – September 1 - Botanical painting - sunflowers with Mariella Baldwin (Suitable for all / £260)

September 3-5 - Willow plant supports and obelisks with Dominic Parrette ( Beginners / Intermediate / £321)

September 3-6 - Drawing in the gardens - pattern and place with Rosie Maccurach (Intermediate / £381)

September 16-19 - Digital photography - capturing colour in the garden with Jacqui Hurst (Beginners / Intermediate / £397)

September 20-23 - Botanical drawing - feathers, bark and seed pods with Ann Swan (Intermediate / £381)

Running until October 2021, the courses include painting and drawing; gardening; metalsmithing; pottery & ceramics; creative writing; textiles; sculpture; jewellery; woodworking and basketry. They span from one to five days, are for all abilities and range in price from £128 upwards.

GARDEN FAQs: Toilet facilities will be available and a stringent cleaning regime is in place. More details and guidelines for on ensuring a safe visit can be found on

SHORT COURSE FAQS: To ensure a safe and welcoming campus, the College has put in place measures operating on a principle of the same as, or better than, national guidelines. This includes social distancing, self-opening doors, less students in workshops, and extensive cleaning and sanitising protocols to protect students and staff. For more details on Social Distancing and COVID-19 measures, please visit

Notes to Editors:

  • West Dean Gardens is part of the Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, also comprising West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.

More information is available on or through social media


For all media enquiries please contact:
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 01243 818300

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QZ