Sussex gardening couple shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution

Head Gardeners at West Dean, husband and wife team Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, have been shortlisted for their Outstanding Contribution; Historic England Angels Awards 2016.

West Dean Gardens are marking ‘25 Years’ since Jim and Sarah began transforming the derelict 19th century landscape in the wake of the Great Storms of 1987.

In the years since 1991, they have overseen tremendous changes which have brought the 92-acre site international respect for both the quality and variety of horticultural practice.

Founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber and supported by his Foundation, the Historic England Angel Awards celebrate the efforts of individuals and local groups all over the country who put hours of hard work and enthusiasm into saving derelict or damaged historic landmarks and bringing them back to life.

The winners will be presented with their awards at a glittering ceremony at the Palace Theatre in London on the evening of Monday 31 October 2016.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said, “This year’s shortlist shows that heritage angels come in many guises and all are dedicated to saving and sharing our spectacular historic environment.”

A major project was the renovation of the 13 Victorian glasshouses. Inspired by the BBC’s Victorian Kitchen Garden (1987), Jim and Sarah’s first project was to restore the Walled Kitchen Garden to a semblance of its earlier glory, including a two-year restoration of 13 magnificent Victorian glasshouses.

West Dean Garden's Victorian glasshouse prior to restoration circa-1992

West Dean Garden’s Victorian glasshouse prior to restoration circa-1992

Designed by Foster & Pearson between 1895 and 1901, they are the jewel in the crown of the walled garden and some of the few working glasshouses in the UK.

As part of The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, equally important was a design that facilitated maintenance with limited resources to ensure sustainability.

Jim and Sarah were determined to work within the historic framework and build on its diverse characteristics, adding their own contemporary contributions as had previous generations.

Further projects over a lifetime’s work has involved the rebuild of a 300-foot Edwardian Pergola, designed by Harold Peto and in pieces on the floor after storm damage; the re-design of a Sunken Garden; establishing a fruit collection of 100 varieties of apples, including many heritage varieties; the transformation of an overgrown Spring and Woodland Garden, and rebuilding the Regency period flint bridges with much of the work being carried out in-house and the redevelopment of the 50-acres St Roches arboretum.

Jim and Sarah head up a team of seven permanent gardeners, 40 volunteers (around eight per day), including international volunteers and a Historic and Botanic Gardens Training Programme trainee.

Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain: Head gardeners

Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain: Head gardeners

Passing on their knowledge and skills is an important element of their work. The team have undertaken everything from hard landscaping, tarmacking, metal fabrication and the vast bulk of arboricultural work, in addition to the comprehensive range of horticultural activities.

A photographic display illustrating the highlights of ’25 Years of Glorious Gardening’ is open until the end of October in the renovated ‘mushroom shed’ at West Dean Gardens and runs until the end of October. Free entry with a ticket to West Dean Gardens.

www.westdean.org.uk

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