The Mayor of Worthing has commemorated a remarkable man who left an amazing legacy to the people of Worthing.
Councillor Alex Harman paid a fitting tribute by planting a tree at the town’s magnificent Highdown Gardens to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Frederick Stern, the pioneering horticulturalist who created them.
The gardens, which are considered to be a hidden gem, nestle in just six inches of soil high in the chalk above Worthing and are so important they have been designated a National Collection because of their rare trees and plants.
After he died in 1967, Sir Frederick’s widow handed Highdown to the then town council to preserve for the enjoyment of residents for years to come.
The gardens are now owned and cared for by Worthing Borough Council, which is bidding for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of more than £900,000 to safeguard Highdown’s future.
Members of the Friends of Highdown – volunteers who help to maintain the stunning gardens – joined the Mayor for the tree-planting ceremony along with other representatives from the Council.
The guests were also treated to a preview of scenes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream by the Rainbow Theatre company, which today (Tuesday, July 11) starts six days of open-air public performances of the popular play at the gardens.
The Mayor described how Sir Frederick originally began trialling plants at Highdown, where he lived, to shield tennis players from the glare of the chalk cliff.
He said: “The tennis court was soon forgotten and Stern directed his energies into the creation of one of the most beautiful and unusual gardens in the south of England.”
Councillor Harman added: “I am extremely proud that this council has taken on the responsibility of preserving the legacy of this magical place and keeping it open and free to use for members of the public.”
Highdown50 continues next year when the gardens will mark a second 50th anniversary – that of Sir Frederick’s widow, Lady Sybil, handing over the gardens to the people of Worthing.
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