The Red Lion pub, Handcross
The Red Lion pub, Handcross

Handcross is a small village near Haywards Heath. The village boasts a large number of attractive Victorian buildings, and is blessed with not one, but two of the finest gardens in England.

The first is Nymans, a National Trust garden arranged around the shell of an old manor house. At the heart of Nymans is a Victorian walled garden created by noted designers Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. The house and gardens were developed by three generations of the Messel family, who lived here from 1890.

A short distance away is High Beeches Garden, a privately owned garden composed of 20 acres of woodland and water gardens, with rare plants as well as traditional wildflower meadows.

On the edge of the Nyman's estate is Nyman's woods, a beautiful area of ancient Wealden woodland crisscrossed by footpaths. One path leads along a medieval trackway, and others pass through bluebell woods. The woods are dotted with eye-catching organic sculptures created by local artists from fallen trees, making a walk through the woods a delightful and always surprising experience.

As for the village itself, it is the largest of four villages in Slaugham parish and has a variety of small shops as well as two schools. One of the schools is Handcross Park school, a private co-educational establishment on the Old Brighton Road.

There are also two churches, both Victorian. On Horsham Road is All Saints Church of England parish church, built in 1885. On High Street is the Zoar Baptist Chapel, rebuilt in 1887 on the site of an earlier mid-18th-century chapel.

Nyman's, Handcross
Nyman's, Handcross

Perhaps to counterbalance to churches are two pubs; the Red Lion on High Street and the Royal Oak on Horsham Road.

The village crest incorporates a coach and horses, and you can see the symbol on several properties around the village.

Handcros can be quite busy due to its proximity to the A27, and it is not always easy to find a parking place (here speaks the voice of ad experience), but it is a pretty little village and it benefits from the proximity of the two popular historic gardens.