As well as having an exceptionally fine Elizabethan house, Wakehurst Place has some spectacular gardens which are actually managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. A Millennium Seed Bank is being created here to ensure the survival of many species of the plants and so far it has collected ten percent of the world's plants in ten years.
Gorgeous in the autumn, the mansion is set off by the vibrant reds, golds and browns of the trees as the leaves change colour. They are reflected in the many lakes and ponds to give an added dimension to the glorious views around the estate. This is definitely a place to take your camera and capture the many picturesque settings of this secluded Sussex valley garden.
The gardens cover more than 3,000 acres and were the hobby and creation of Gerald Loder, Lord Wakehurst, who spent from 1903 to 1936 working on this ambitious project. With its redwoods, rhododendrons and mature wellingtonias it has year-round colour.
Wakehurst Place was donated to the National Trust in 1964 who then leased it to Kew to manage and use for science-based conservation projects and research.
The gardens seamlessly flow from formal gardens around the Elizabethan house to natural woodland, wetlands and lakes with many undisturbed nature reserves. They are arranged geographically in continents and the way-marked 3.6km (2.3 mile) route meanders through the varied flora at a gentle pace. Taking a guided tour may further broaden your knowledge of these 15,000 plants, some of which are endangered.
The mellow sandstone house makes a beautiful backdrop to the more formal gardens with their clipped yew hedges. Almost every view from the mullioned windows is of water in one form or another. Sweeping manicured lawns, two walled gardens and tree-lined arbors make this a truly enchanting place to discover.
The house itself is open to the public, but the emphasis is mainly on the gardens and seed bank facility. It is mainly used as a venue for weddings as the premises are licensed for civil ceremonies. There is a light and bright gallery within the historic gabled Elizabethan mansion and the wood-panelled dining room makes the perfect setting for family celebrations. There is also a library with its original fireplace which looks out over the formal gardens.
Although much of the established gardens were damaged by the storms of 1987 and 1990, the replanted Asian heath garden now looks as if it has always been there.
Visitors will find refreshments at the on-site licensed restaurant at the Stables and lighter fare served at the Seed Café. There is also a shop and a plant centre which will no doubt prove irresistible to green-fingered visitors, eager to introduce a little piece of Kew to their own garden.
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