Today Mummy Warren and I wrapped up warm and drove to Wakehurst Place, a National Trust Park in nearby Ardingly. Not only is it home to a stunning mansion, expansive nature trails and the world’s largest seed bank, it also grows England’s tallest Christmas Tree.
Unfortunately, we were a little early to see the Redwood in its full glory because the 2,000 (low energy) lights will be switched on next weekend – December 1. But we still marvelled at its size – 121 ft – before busying ourselves with plenty of other sights at the park.
First stop and of course my favourite: the mansion.
The late 16th century house is made from a gorgeous sand-coloured stone that lights up the landscape. It sits in the middle of the 500-acre garden, which was mostly planted and nurtured throughout the 20th century. The site is one of the National Trusts most popular, with nearly 5 million visitors a year.As ever with these houses, we frustratingly weren’t allowed upstairs, but we wandered the rooms downstairs – a small lounge, a drawing room, a library, a chapel room now used as a classroom for school groups and wooden-panelled hallways. The rooms were gorgeously open and light thanks to high ceilings and long windows that looked over well-manicured lawns.
Afterwards, we headed outside to have a look around, stopping momentarily by a pond near to the house to look back at the building framed with the red, oranges and yellows of autumn. There were also some pretty bold ducks.
The trails, which must be gorgeous in Spring and Summer, are lined with plants from across the world, with a country per flower bed. I was glad to see that some buds were braving the winter chill and that the bushes were dotted with colour.
Then we wandered down to the most modern building on the land – the Millennium Seed Bank. This project, which is sponsored by Kew Gardens, aims to store seeds from a quarter of the world’s plants by 2020. The idea is to provide an ‘insurance policy’ to prevent any plants from extinction by using the seeds in the future. It started in 2000 and celebrated storing its billionth seed in 2007.
I was expecting to see rows and rows of storing cabinets (Mum was expecting to see a big pile of seeds… umm…) but instead we were provided information about the drying and storing process and a glimpse into the labs.If any of the seeds are needed, they remove the hardened shell and induce moisture into the pods to kick them out of dormancy. The success rate is far from 100% though, so the researchers are constantly testing stored seeds to make sure they’re good to go if and when they’re needed. Cool ya
Then we headed back home for a cuppa and a slice of birthday cake.
This was a lovely day trip. It was a shame it was a little chilly, but the park is still winter friendly thanks to its warm mansion, coffee shops and resilient flowers that aren’t shy of the cold. I’d love to nip back in the summer time though, when its gardens will no doubt rival that of Gravetye Manor’s.
And I’ll have to look for pictures of that Christmas Tree light switch on next week!