Wakehurst Place, Haywards Heath
We were thrilled to recently discover that we could use our family National Trust cards at Wakehurst Place, part of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew’s country estate. We’ve always assumed that a day out at Wakehurst would be too expensive for us as a family of 6….so to discover that we could use our trusty National Trust membership card was music to our ears! The only charge we had to pay on the day was the £10 fee for the car park (charges vary from £2-£10 depending on how long you stay).
Wakehurst Place is a vast estate that has been cared for and developed by the Royal Botantic Gardens for the last 50 years. We found natural play areas, wildlife, the Millenium Seed Bank, a mansion, walled gardens and a wonderful tree trail. Needless to say…we didn’t fit it all into one visit..but I’d love to share the highlights of our day so you can make sure you don’t miss the best bits.
Wakehurst is a large site and some of the best spots to explore are tucked away. Before visiting make sure you have wellies at the ready..and pocket bribes to keep the kids going when their legs get tired. We found that we walked non-stop on our visit..which totalled 2.5 hours of walking (plus a 30 min sit down for lunch!)
The highlight of our day was definitely the tree trail. This is tucked away in some woodland down to the right, past the Millenium Seed Bank. It is sign posted but it is still quite well hidden so make sure you keep your eyes well peeled. We enter the trail through a tunnelled canopy, guided by wooden stepping stones the children begin to imagine meeting the Gruffalo and his friends. At the top of the tunnel we find ourselves in a space surrounded by gorgeous, giant gum trees…and the rest of the magical tree trail. On this visit in early March the trail was very muddy, however I imagine that mid Summer the ground would be a bit more welcoming. The children dart off in all directions. There certainly is something for everyone to get stuck into here. Logan liked stomping about the large wooden platforms circling some of the larger trees. Daisy loved the rope trails and leaping across the wooden stepping stones. Our older boys liked challenging each other to climb across the tricky wooden climbing wall.
After a good 30 minutes everyone is exhausted and ready for lunch. We head to the cafe in the middle of the gardens, next to the mansion. The cafe serves a range of hot and cold food and great little picnic boxes for the children. It’s just about warm enough to eat outside where there’s a pretty courtyard leading to the mansion.
After lunch we continue to explore the gardens. The children play hide and seek, tag and peepo in the trees and along the well maintained walkways. There are also some excellent trees for climbing! Next we find ourselves pottering about the walled gardens behind the mansion. It’s a little early in the year to see this part of the garden at it’s finest but the gardens are tranquil and pretty and offer another great spot for the kids to explore.
We finish the afternoon admiring the snowdrops making a welcome appearance near the main entrance to the site. Spring is well and truly on it’s way! We really enjoyed visiting Wakehurst and have vowed to visit again when the gardens are in full bloom. It’s a great spot for families….our children range from 18 months through to 12 years and we found that there was something for every age group.
5 Tips for a Family visit to Wakehurst Place
1) Pack your wellies. You may even want to pack a change of clothes for little ones. The tree trail is very muddy in parts and there’s a good chance someone will end up on their bottom on the muddy slopes!
2) Pick up a map. Wakehurst Place is a very large site. If there are specific areas you would like to visit it’s certainly worth not only picking up a map…but also chatting to a member of staff to help suggest family highlights such as the Seed Bank and mud kitchen area ( we didn’t find this!)
3) Take your National Trust membership card…but remember you will still need to pay for parking.
4) Think about becoming an Annual Member. If you don’t have a NT membership you might want to consider becoming a member of Wakehurst Place. The great news for families is that there is no charge for children up to age 16, for adults the entry is £12.50. For just £25 (via direct debit) you can become a member covering entry all year, free parking and a visit to Kew!
5) Take a camera. You’d be mad not to!