Sunday 19 January 2014

Wakehurst Place

Wakehurst Place is the National Trust's most visited property, which I found really surprising as I'd never heard of it (sorry Wakehurst). 

I would have guessed Bath Assembly Rooms or Chartwell or somewhere like that, but it turns out that Wakehurst is the country estate of Kew Gardens. Why Kew Gardens needs a country estate is another question but it no doubt sends swarms of visitors in Wakehurst's direction. 

And that's the thing: the estate at Wakehurst might belong to the National Trust but it's very much run by Kew Gardens. And the scones are neither Kew or NT - they're provided by a third party. 

So I don't feel too bad telling you that the Wakehurst scone could have been better. Well, actually I do feel bad saying it, but it's true. It was very dry and it seemed to take a long time to eat. And that's that. 

Wakehurst Place National Trust Scone

Wakehurst, on the other hand, was a revelation and I highly recommend it. It really does feel like a miniature Kew Gardens, complete with areas dedicated to plants from all over the world, such as the Himalayan Glade and the areas signposted as 'AFRICA' where you marvel that anything at all has managed to stay alive. 

And I'm no botanist but the sight of a few snowdrops pushing their way through the mud made me happier on a cold January day than I can tell you and I wasn't alone, judging by the amount of people just staring at them with 'happy!' on their faces.

The Elizabethan mansion at Wakehurst is stunning. It was built in 1590 and had been handed down through various families over the years, before being given to the Trust in 1963. Inside the house was an exhibition asking 'what should we do with the mansion?' At first I was a bit nonplussed by this (it's obvious, isn't it; do it up a bit, let people come and look round it?) until I read the options and realised that even venerable old buildings have to earn their keep. The thought of it being turned into flats makes me want to cry so I would gladly - GLADLY - let them stick a lift in there to accommodate functions. Even turning it into a hotel is better than turning it into private dwellings. 

But what do I know? It really brought it home to me that preserving buildings is about a lot more than just buying them, filling them with furniture and opening the doors to the public. Once again I found myself loving the National Trust for everything they do. 

So definitely go to Wakehurst but maybe avoid the scones. 

Wakehurst Place National Trust

Scones: 3 out of 5
Wakehurst: 4 out of 5

1 comment:

  1. You were extremely luckily not to pay the £10 all day car park charge. Many of us locals are now boycotting. Perhaps you need to update your blog with the pricing policy for NT members as many have got caught out. See trip advisor for the number of complaints. Food etc is also rubbish and expensive.