Our first visit of the 2015 season was to Firle Place and Sheffield Park Gardens in Sussex on Thursday 21 May.

Firle Place, near Lewes, has been owned by the Gage family since the 15th century. The present house dates from the Tudor period, having been much altered in the 18th century to achieve its current appearance. Inside is an extensive collection of art, ceramics, furniture etc. The house was opened specially for us and two very knowledgeable guides showed us around. A delicious lunch followed.

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Lunch was followed by a guided tour of Sheffield Park Gardens, a National Trust property. The history of the estate can be traced back to the Saxon nobleman Godwin, whose son Harold Godwinson lost the estate to the Normans following his defeat at Hastings. A house, dating from Tudor times, was subsequently remodelled in the Gothic style and is now privately owned. The National Trust took over the gardens during the 1950s. The garden design dates originally from the 18th century, with a group of four lakes, connected by waterfalls. There was extensive planting of trees and shrubs during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Glorious weather meant that the gardens were displayed at their seasonal best.