– Ray Abraham
Described as the ‘Finest Spring Gardens in England’, the 240-acre estate at Lower Beeding was acquired by Penny Streeter OBE in 2017. Penny and her team are dedicated to restoring, maintaining and further improving the gardens and buildings. In 2018, history was made with the planting of the first commercial Pinotage vineyard in the UK. This brought a total of vines under cultivation to 66,000 across 16 hectares.
When the position of head gardener at Leonardslee became available Ray knew he had to go for the job. He first came here in 1977 with Sir Eric Saville and John Bond from Windsor Great Park and met the Loder family who owned the estate.
The gardens at Leonardslee continue to fascinate him because of the incredible amount of history. Also the amount of work that it took for the Victorian plant hunters to create these incredible woodland gardens – Grade I listed. They now need to be kept and preserved not only for future generations to see but because of the botanic value of these plants in a world that unfortunately is destroying habitat on a global scale. We need to keep these wonderful gardens and their collections so that nothing is lost in the plant kingdom and future generations can marvel at the extraordinary lengths people went to, to retain the beauty of flowers that are so important to us all.
This is still the best example of a Victorian woodland gardens in this country and he can see in the future that examples of these plants may well be used in restocking areas of the world where they were native and have sadly become extinct.