Yours for £5m: English garden (plus wallabies)

With more than 200 acres of some of England's finest gardens, seven lakes, a historic rhododendron and a mob of 40 "semi-wild" wallabies, Leonardslee Gardens in Sussex are perhaps as eccentric as the family which has owned them for more than 150 years.

But now a new owner is to take over the Grade I listed gardens – one of just 163 in England and Wales – with the family trust putting the grounds, given a £5m guide price by auctioneers Savills, up for sale.

The keeper of the gardens, Robin Loder, 64, said he had achieved all he wanted to do after rebuilding them following the "Great Storm" of 1987 and the family had decided to move on.

The mansion house, near Horsham, which was sold by the Loders in the 1980s and has been used for offices, has also gone on to the market for some £3.25m, providing the opportunity to reunite house and garden once again.

The wallabies are a legacy left by Sir Edmund Loder, the great-grandfather of Robin, who kept a range of animals from gazelles to prairie dogs, mountain goats and kangaroos. He also created a rhododendron hybrid, loderi, now described as among the best in England by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The original plant, which is more than 100 years old, has remained in the gardens along with the wallabies, which proved the only lasting survivors of the exotic animals thanks in part to their usefulness as unpaid gardeners.

Mr Loder, who has moved with his wife, Jane, from the six-bedroom house built in the grounds when the mansion was sold said he expected the new owners would be impressed by the wallabies.

"We have used them as ground maintenance contractors, mowing machines for nearly 120 years – no wages, no petrol, no holiday, no pension fund, no unions – gosh, every good garden should have two," he said. "They are seriously not pets. They live semi-wild and live a very natural existence. Most of them live out in the wider park and garden and hardly get fed at all because they graze the grassy banks.

"They don't eat our bluebells, but they nibble the grass in between and fertilise the soil. Around the lakes, the rough grass is full of wild flowers. The wallabies keep it beautifully trimmed and the wildflowers appreciate it – you should see the bluebells.

"The wallabies are rather characters. I am not sure they are very bright, but they look cute."

In addition to the rhododendrons, the gardens are well known for their displays of magnolia, azaelias and camelias and are popular with the public. In fact, Leonardslee pioneered the idea of public open days, when in 1907 coachloads of tourists came to admire the flora and fauna.

A more modern addition is the Beyond the Dolls House exhibition, which includes a scale model of a Victorian country estate and market town and is being sold as a separate lot.

Mr Loder, who has four children, including Christopher, who will continue to run a nursery on the estate, insisted he would be able to deal with any changes made to his lifetime's work by the new owner. "I shall be wishing the next person has as much fun as we have had there. A garden like Leonardslee evolves, it's not always going to stay the same. Gardens are not fossils," he said.

While the ferocious 1987 storm was greeted with anguish by many, Mr Loder said it had gave him a great opportunity. "I love trees but there was hardly anywhere in the garden where you could see the sky. The storm did a wonderful and much needed thinning job without which the garden could never really have survived," Mr Loder said.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Tutor required for Level 3 Workskills

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Eduction are...

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week