More than 200 people gathered at Henfield Hall to hear plant-hunter Tom Hart Dyke recall his near-death experiences in Columbia.
The talk, to members of Henfield Garden Club, was titled “From Captivity to a Castle”. Tom is the 20th generation of his family to live in Lullingstone Castle near Dartford, Kent - popular with Henry VIII and Queen Anne.
He told how his love of orchids led him to plant-hunting in Colombia where he and friend Paul Winder were taken hostage by guerillas.
After nine months - from March 2000 to Christmas - they were told that they would be killed . . . so Tom spent what he thought was his final day planning a world garden at his home in Lullingstone Castle.
When they were suddenly released he came home to carry out his vision - and Henfield Garden Club members were shown how a two-acre neglected walled garden was transformed into continent-shaped flower beds, and planted with appropriate plants to those countries.
“This would not have happened but for the kidnapping,” he said. “Building the garden has brought joy and fulfilment.”
Tom’s next project at Lullingstone Castle is to build an orchid house.
His books “The Cloud Garden” (with Paul Winder) and “An Englishman’s Home” are best-sellers.