I visited Wakehurst in West Sussex in October 2019. Wakehurst is owned by the National Trust and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Wakehurst is home to an Elizabethan Manor House, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and over a 500 acres of gardens.
I spent the afternoon exploring the grounds, which are a mix of woodland, lakes and formal gardens. I didn’t look round the manor house or the Millennium Seed Bank on this visit, but I hope to on my next visit!
Gerald Loder (later Lord Wakehurst) created the gardens in the early 1900s. He continued this work for 33 years until his death in 1936.
Sir Henry Price, a British businessman and philanthropist, then purchased the estate. Sir Henry continued this work until his death in 1963, when the estate was given to the National Trust. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has leased the estate since 1965.
Since taking the lease, RBC has developed the gardens, including the creation of the Loder Valley and Francis Rose Nature Reserve. Wakehurst is also home to the National Collection of birches, beech trees and Skimmia shrubbery. It’s also home to the world’s largest living Christmas tree in England — 35 metres high!
The Millennium Seed Bank opened in 2000 to collect seeds from all of the UK’s native flora. They aim to save species from extinction by conserving seeds from 25% of the world’s flora by 2025.
About my visit
The grounds are over 500 acres, set around a valley. The main route around the estate is just over 2 miles with dramatic changes in height of up to 70 feet. It’s vast and very easy to get lost — fortunately, each sign post has a number and these are listed on the map, which really helped!
Because the estate is so large and has so many different themed areas, there is sure to be something you like.
Here were my favourite areas:
- The lake outside the manor house. This is home to waterfowl, with jackdaws and peacocks also roaming around the grounds. It was a beautiful spot to eat my lunch, sharing it with some bird friends.
- The Himalayan Glade. This was recommended by the friendly team in the ticket office. It offers a beautiful view down into the valley, and there are little birds everywhere. I love bird watching, I find it incredibly soothing, and this spot was the perfect place!
- The Horsebridge Wood. This area is North American themed. It has giant redwood trees, Douglas fir conifer trees and sweet gum trees. It’s the largest part of the estate, and the valley is the perfect area for it. I got the American vibe straight away!
- The Wetlands. This area has boardwalks and benches to allow visitors to explore and relax in this area. It was so peaceful and calm, despite the rushing waterfall.
The whole estate is so peaceful with well-placed benches for quiet contemplation and relaxation. Many times on my walk around, I sat down to relax and enjoy the beautiful views. Particularly as it is such a large estate, it is easy to walk around for a few hours without seeing anyone!
The Redwoods Coffee Shop is also worth a mention — I stopped for a coffee and a slice of cake and it was delicious!
Planning your visit
National Trust members receive free entry to the estate, though they still have to pay for parking. Parking is up to £10 for a whole day (over 2.5 hours). Members of Wakehurst or Kew Gardens receive free entry and parking, as well as a discount in the shop.
Visit the Kew website for details of upcoming events, opening times and ticket prices.