Wakehurst is a wild botanic garden owned by the National Trust but managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, under a long-term lease contract since 1965.
Located near Ardingly in West Sussex, England, Wakehurst is a beautiful place to spend a few hours walking and exploring the gardens, the seed bank and the mansion.
Today, the garden covers around 490 acres and includes walled and water gardens, woodland, and wetland conservation areas.
On its grounds, there is an Elizabethan mansion built in the late 16th-century. It originally formed a courtyard before being remodelled several times, and currently is rich in memorabilia of its former owners. However, only a small part of it can be visited.
After several owners, the land was purchased by Gerald Loder (1st Baron Wakehurst) in 1903.
He spent 33 years developing the garden and in 1938 sold it to Sir Henry Philip Price, who used part of his fortune in the promotion of botany and took care of the garden until 1963 when he gave it to the National Trust (read more about NT here).
Nowadays, Wakehurst is important because it is home to the largest ex-situ plant conservation programme in the world, called the Millennium Seed Bank.
Ex-situ means off-site conservation, and it is the process of protecting an endangered species, variety or breed, of plant or animal outside its natural habitat.
With partners across 100 countries, the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) have successfully banked approximately 15.6% of the world’s wild plant species. Specimens are preserved at the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building at Wakehurst and worldwide in their partner seed banks.
Wakehurst’s woodlands comprise trees from all around the world and carpets of wildflowers that provide contrasting colours throughout the year.
The trees are grouped according to the areas of the world in which they grow naturally.
I was lucky that the day I went there, it was almost empty of visitors. So we walked all around the woodland, gardens and had a lovely time.
They have many trails and you can explore depending on how much you want to walk and enjoy the beautiful nature.
Wakehurst has the largest growing Christmas tree in England. The giant redwood stands 35 m (115 ft) tall and is lit with around 1,800 lights between Christmas and New Year.
Along with the garden and the mansion, there is a visitor centre, the Seed café and Stables restaurant.
Because of the pandemic, pre-booking is essential.
Wakehurst, Kew and National Trust members: free.
Children 16 and under (accompanied by an adult): free.
Young adults aged 17 – 25 admission £7.25
How to get there?
Address: Ardingly, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH17 6TN
Car parking charges apply as a contribution to RBG Kew’s conservation work at Wakehurst. Cars cost £3.50 for up to 1.5 hours, £6 for up to 2.5 hours and £10 per day.
The closest train station is Haywards Heath (6 miles away). When you exit the station turn right for the Perrymount Road bus stop and it takes around 20 minutes.
Route 272 stops outside Wakehurst, serving Crawley, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill (Monday to Saturday only).
There is a replica of the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was built in 1884 for James J. Van Allen.
Sheffield Park: is just 8.6 miles away (13km). Read more here.
Ashdown Forest: Winnie the Pooh Bridge is about 13 miles away. Read more here.
Chiddingstone: the Tudor village is 17.4 miles (28km) away. Read more here.