Wakehurst Place: Kew's country cousin is as accessible as tricky terrains come

"Ahh, I long to have flowerbeds neatly mulched like this," says my godmother, covetously, eyeing up the azaleas. We are at Wakehurst Place in Haywards Heath, Sussex, admiring the neatly kept gardens, now all kitted out for summer. We've wandered through the bluebell woods, admired the long views to distant birch plantations, and done the sums on a June wedding hosted in the Elizabethan mansion. And it's not even lunchtime.

Wakehurst is the country cousin of the Royal Botanic Gardens, playing home to its Millennium Seed Bank and a host of dramatic tree planting, but horticultural standards are, if anything, higher than at Kew itself. Wakehurst is no bumpkin in terms of facts and figures either: the land is on a long lease from the National Trust (so you can use your member's card to enter) and it's their most visited attraction annually. Yet the garden still maintains its gentle Sussex feel, with an ample car park hidden among mature trees, and plenty of paths to wander, leaving hustle and bustle behind.

Wakehurst was originally the private garden of the Loder family, a proper old Tory dynasty based in Sussex, and it was Gerald Loder who began the development of a garden there in the early years of the 20th century. Though "garden" is putting it mildly – the house has formal herbaceous borders and lawns, but then a series of lakes and dramatic rock escarpments lead downs to a much wilder, hidden valley below: rather unexpectedly Himalayan in the gentle territory of mid-Sussex.

Despite the nature of the terrain, the delights of Wakehurst are nicely accessible. When we visit, the party includes my friend Mani, who uses a wheelchair, so we're pretty relieved to find we can make our way easily to Bethlehem Wood on the map's marked yellow paths (just avoid the red ones, which may induce palpitations). There's a delicious perfume in the air: "It reminds me of the Isabella Plantation," says Mani, and it turns out it's the scent of azaleas, wafting across the haze of bluebells.

Bethlehem Wood is marvellously kept, with specimen trees widely planted to allow sunshine to fall, and bursts of colour provided by the rhododendron family. The light is still that bright-green shining through new leaves, and from afar we hear pheasants calling: a smart chock, chock call not quite sufficiently suggestive of their epic dumbness.

Wakehurst also has more formal delights: head for the mansion, and the walled Sir Henry Price garden is a jewel. The original cutting garden for the grand house, it is now planted with a series of dark tulips in mauves, pinks and lilacs, growing above purple sage, wine-coloured Sambucus and dark bronzey penstemon leaves ("Husker Red"). And now we're in an English garden at 4pm. It must be time for a cup of tea.

Wakehurst Place has a minibus tour of its estate tomorrow for those who would find it hard to walk around (kew.org). 'The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain' is available free to Blue Badge holders (accessibleguide.co.uk)

Access all areas

1. Chatsworth

This Derbyshire estate has three bookable electric scooters for the landscape garden and golf buggy tours every half-hour. And if it rains, a lift ensures everyone can see inside the upper floors of the house too. chatsworth.org

2. Eden Project

This Cornwall attraction won a 2010 Rough Guide award for accessibility, in part due to a huge team of access volunteers to help people with disabilities round the garden, and a website that lists the gradients of paths. edenproject.com

3. Stowe

Bookable golf carts make a whizz around the Palladian bridges, grottoes and temples of this huge 18th-century Buckinghamshire landscape a joy. nationaltrust.org.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas