Contractors are moving in next week to begin the £1m project to preserve world-famous Highdown Gardens for future generations.
But as part of the 23-week programme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, one half of the Highdown Hill car park nearest the gardens will have to be closed to allow workers to begin the transformation.
The gardens themselves are already closed as the work begins but from, February 17 until summer roughly half of the car park will close to allow work offices and building equipment to be safely housed away from the public. When ground conditions allow the overflow car park will be open to deal with extra capacity.
A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council said, ‘We realise this might be an inconvenience for walkers on the Hill but it should not be for long and of course the prize will be the re-opening of the gardens in late summer with new facilities like the visitors’ centre and a sensory garden and more facilities to manage the fragile plant collection.
‘We hope everyone will see that the temporary closure will be for the benefit of these beautiful gardens.’
The range of work will be undertaken includes; building a new greenhouse to help the propagation and preservation of extremely rare plants from around the world; building a brand new visitors’ centre; exploring and digitising the archive of this fascinating landmark; creating new accessible walkways; and the sensory garden. In addition the public toilet block is to be upgraded and has been closed to re-open in the summer.
The lottery-funded dramatic transformation will preserve the vital work undertaken by Sir Frederick Stern and carried on for the last 50 years by owners Worthing Borough Council.
The 8.5 acre gardens, internationally important because they are home to hundreds of rare plants and trees uniquely grown on chalk soil, are visited by tens of thousands of people every year.
A plant heritage officer funded by the project is already at work cataloguing the hundreds of rare and exotic plants Sir Frederick bred and grew at Highdown including many from plant hunters he sponsored on trips around the world. Many of these have not been identified in recent times and could add to the Garden’s importance as a National Collection.
Seeds from several of the rare plant specimens have been selected as valuable additions to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex.