Wakehurst is only 12 miles from Cumberland House. The National Trust property is set in 465 acres of country estate and boasts ornamental gardens, temperate woodlands, a nature reserve and an Elizabethan mansion.
Throughout the year there are free daily tours which include discovering plants of seasonal interest as well as and learning about the history of the estate. The tours start at 11.30am and 2.00pm, meeting near the Stables Restaurant. There is no need to book a place and it is offered as part of the general £15.00 entry fee to Wakehurst. Currently there are a couple of spring events including:
- Brilliant Bark Trail – until 1 May 2017, 10am to 3.30pm walk and tour and get to know eight North American trees with brilliant bark (downloadable App via the website).
- Badger Watching – April 2017 to September 2017, 7pm to 11pm. This is on Tuesdays evenings only but is an opportunity to see badgers in their natural environment in the Loder Valley at Wakehurst. Meet at 7pm in April and September and 7.30pm from May to August Price: Adults: £12
Within the 465 acres of Wakehurst are a range of different natural attractions: Formal gardens such as the Southern Hemisphere Garden exhibiting plants from South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the Mansion Pond and Spring Border is alive with flowers from late March through to late May as well as the Tony Schilling Asian Heath Garden with its plants from mountainous regions of Taiwan, Korea, the Sino-Himalayas and Japan.
Or maybe you prefer the soothing presence of Water and Wildlife environments?
In which case, choose from The Bog Garden or The Water Gardens – where “small streams and narrow wood-chip paths meander among moisture-tolerant plants, including hostas, arum lilies and zebra grass, shaded by rhododendrons, maples and oaks. Amongst the interesting plants here are the unforgettable Himalayan blue poppies and flamboyant Asian rowans with fiery red autumn colour”.
There are vast wooded areas too including Bethlehem Wood – the National Birch Collection, and Coates Wood – the National Southern Beech Collection.
More “research” is probably required after all the walking and sight-seeing, so a visit to either The Seed Café or The Stables Restaurant might replenish any tired feet before moving on to, what Prince Charles called “ ‘a gold reserve … a place where this reserve currency, in this case life itself, is stored’ – the environmentally important Millennium Seed Bank.
It is the largest ex situ plant conservation programme in the world whereby seeds are conserved as an insurance against the risk of extinction in their native habitat. Already over 13% of the world’s wild plant species have been ‘banked and the aim is to save 25% of the world’s species with bankable seeds by 2020 (75,000 species).
Wakehurst’s general opening times between March and October are 10am – 6pm, although both the Seed Bank and Mansion close at 5pm (and the mansion is sometimes closed due to private functions such as weddings so if this is of particular interest please call beforehand).
If you are a member of the National Trust then why not visit some of the other National Trust properties within easy driving distance of Cumberland House during your stay. These include:
- Petworth House and Park, near Midhurst includes fine art paintings by Turner, Van Dyck, Reynolds and Blake.
- Uppark House and Garden, near Petersfield has an elegant Georgian interior complete with servants’ quarters.
- Standen, near East Grinstead is a gem of the Arts and Crafts Movement
- Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge is virtually complete – surrounded by a moat on top of a hill, with battlements and spiral staircases and views of the Rother Valley from the top of the towers.
- Bateman’s, near Burwash boats the mullioned windows and oak beams of the 17th century family home of Rudyard Kipling;
- Alfriston Clergy House, near Polegate is a rare medieval Wealden ‘hall house’ which was also the first building to be saved by the National Trust.
- Monk’s House, near Lewes was the country retreat of novelist Virginia Woolf.
As the proverb says “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow”, so make sure you pack up your bags, put a spring in your step and book into Cumberland House and enjoy all the delights we can offer!
The Kew Gardens 24-hour Visitor Information line is 020 8332 5655.