Wakehurst Place Garden
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN
Tel: 01444 894066

Wakehurst Place is the sister site of The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is run by The National Trust. It is a truly beautiful place to visit at any time of the year. The scenery is spectacular, the collections of both native and 'foreign' plants are a joy to behold and the exhibits and tea rooms inside the Elizabethan mansion are warm and cosy on a winter's day.

How to get there

Wakehurst Place is situated 1.5 miles northwest of the village of Ardingly, near to Haywards Heath, in West Sussex, England. It is about 40 miles from the centre of London (grid ref:N51:04:18 W0:05:58). Unfortunately it is relatively off the beaten track and is therefore most easily accessable car. The easiest route for most people will be to come via the M25 motorway. Take the M23 exit off the southern section of the M25 and travel south; come off at junction 10, and follow the signs to Wakehurst Place, Ardingly - about 15 mins from the motorway.

The nearest train station is about 6 miles away in Haywards Heath, and from here you can catch bus number 81, 82 or 88.

Opening times

Wakehurst Place is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Times vary from 10.00am to dusk in the winter months (4.00pm November to January; 5.00pm February, 6.00pm March and October) and 10.00am to 7.00pm from April to September.

Entry Charges:

Visitors arriving by public transport are entitiled to a reduction in their entry fee.
Adults - £7
Concessions - £5
Children up to and including 16 years (to be accompanied by an adult) - Free
Visitors with special needs - Wheelchair users (wheelchairs may be borrowed at the entrance) - £5; Blind and partially-sighted visitors - Free
Essential carers of wheelchair users, blind/partially sighted visitors and those with learning difficulties - Free

Members of The National Trust can get in free on production of their membership card.

Annual season tickets are available, the standard ticket costs £24.

The gardens

The first record of ownership of the land was by William Wakehurst in 1205, when he bought a mere 40 acres. More land was gradually accrued by his successors over the next 250 years and although there are many records of ownership disputes the family became well respected in the area. When the Wakehurst line ended in 1454, ownership passed to the Culpepers, indeed the reknowned herbalist Nicolas Culpepper was probably a regular visitor.

Wakehurst Place is sometimes called 'Kew in the Country'. There are over 170 acres of open spaces to roam in, from carefully landscaped and formal gardens to natural woodlands, valleys, rivers, lakes and streams. The outer gardens are designed in a horse-shoe shape which follows the natural lines of the river. There are many natural looking, but artificial, water features which allow planting of a large variety of water and bog plants.

The gardens near the house were designed in the 20th century in the gardenesque style, initially by owner Gerald Loder (an avid rhododendron collector) and his head gardener, Alfred Coates, in the early 1900s. Both Loder and Coates had a very keen interest in shrubs and trees and they planted mixed woodlands containing both native trees and American species (such as oak, beech and the North American hickory and Monterey pine). Their rhododendron walks are an amazing site in late spring - there is a huge collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias which are rarely seen together in this country.

The Price family bought the site in 1936 after the death of Loder, but Coates remained as head gardener until he retired just after the war. The new head gardener, Reginald Wallis, had an enormous interest in plants and inspired owner Sir Henry Price to have an interest in horticulture - together they developed many new cultivars of a variety of plants, many of which can be seen in the cottage garden, called the Sir Henry Price Garden, near the house. When Sir Henry died in 1963 he left the house and gardens to The National Trust, who subsequently leased the gardens to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Other parts of the gardens include a pinetum, much of which were sadly destroyed in the great strom of 1987, a heath garden, two walled gardens, herb gardens and wonderful rocky outcrops with plants from various habitats from all over the world.

Special Exhibition - The Millennium Seed Bank Building

The overall design of the building aims to create a dialogue between internal and external spaces that should both inspire and focus the mind on the global importance of seed collection and bio-diversity. At best, the project will evoke a sense of spirituality. Both adult and child should leave the Seed Bank feeling enriched

The Wellcome Trust Millennium Seed Bank Building in the grounds of Wakehurst Place aims to house a collection of seeds from more than 10% of the world's flora, by the year 2010 in order to preserve species from extinction in the wild. The building has been specially designed to house the collection in an underground frozen vault as well as to provide an area for research, an education centre and display area. It was built with moneys from the Millennium Commission, The Wellcome Trust and Orange plc and cost upwards of £80million.

Wakehurst Place was a favourite day out when I lived in the south east of England. I was a regular visitor (being a National Trust member helped financially) with my children, and with friends and family. We would have a picnic in the summer, see the trees change in the autumn, crunch through the fallen leaves in the winter and wonder at the reawakening of colour in the azaleas, rhododendrons and crocuses in the spring. Hopefully my toddlers were as inspired by the natural beauty of it all as I was, although I fear that lies somewhat dormant now they are in their teenage years! Wakehurst Place will always be dear to my heart and it is one of the places I miss most since moving away from the area.


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