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Wakehurst Place Spring Festival: Bluebells and Brimstones

Celebrate spring at a new festival being held at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath, the glorious country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

1 April 2014

The Bluebells and Brimstones festival, running during April and May, will be a celebration of Wakehurst’s spring flowers.

Wakehurst is renowned for its spring flowers, and this year promises a bumper display following the mild, wet winter, with highlights around the 500 acre estate currently including drifts of daffodils, magnolias and rhododendrons.

The festival begins at Easter, with an Easter trail and family activities in the gardens, and special open days at Wakehurst’s Loder Valley nature reserve, a wildlife haven where entry is normally restricted.  (See details below)

Loder Valley Nature Reserve Open Days: 
Good Friday to Easter Monday  (April 18, 19, 20, 21) Also May Day bank holiday weekend  (3, 4 & 5 May) and Spring Bank Holiday weekend (24, 25 and 26 May). Entry included in admission to the gardens.

Visitors will be able to discover the secrets of the reserve, which was set up more than 30 years ago as a sanctuary for conservation and scientific monitoring, and is home to a rich diversity of animals and plants. They will be able to enjoy stunning views, spring wildflowers – and maybe even a glimpse of the Loder Valley’s resident kingfishers! There will be an opportunity to see how charcoal is made in a kiln in the reserve, using traditional methods. (Images attached of a brimstone butterfly and kingfisher.)

Easter Family activities - Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice:
Good Friday to Easter Monday  (April 18, 19, 20, 21) 11am to 4pm

Children can find sweetie signs with sugar and spice connections, and make a collecting activity bag to take a chocolate Easter bunny home in. £2.50 per child, includes trail, chocolate bunny and craft activity (Normal admission applies, accompanied children under 17 are admitted free at Wakehurst)

Other events being held in the coming weeks as part of the festival include guided walks through Wakehurst’s beautiful woodlands and arboreta, and falconry displays.  During May visitors will be able see Wakehurst’s newborn Southdown lambs take their first steps, and follow a nature-inspired sculpture trail around the gardens. (See details of events below)

Iain Parkinson, Wakehurst’s Conservation and Woodlands Manager, said:  “The festival is a first for Wakehurst and it will make most of Wakehurst's natural beauty at this time of year. The festival takes its name from the bluebells, which are one of the most popular spring displays at Wakehurst, and the brimstone butterfly – which is one of the first butterflies of the year to appear here and always a harbinger of spring.”

He added: “There are a variety of special events for visitors of all ages to enjoy, including open days at the Loder Valley nature reserve. The Loder Valley is one of Wakehurst’s best kept secrets and this is an opportunity for more visitors to explore and experience the reserve.

“As well as the special events, there is always plenty to see and discover at Wakehurst , strolling around the gardens and woodlands as nature comes to life.”

Other festival highlights:

Spring walks – April 27, May 4, and May 5  From 11.30am each day

A series of guided walks are being held to celebrate spring, lead by Wakehurst’s volunteer guides, enabling visitors to make the most of the sights and scents of the season.

Birds of Prey – May 3 & 4 and May 24 & 25
A chance to see barn owls, hawks, falcons and other birds at close range in a display by Alfriston Falconry. Visitors will also be able to learn about the importance of meadows and pastures to the birds.

Spring lambs – throughout May
Wakehurst is home to a flock of 50 Southdown sheep and lambing will start at the beginning of May. Around 50 lambs are expected and visitors will be able to see them take their first steps and meet Wakehurst’s shepherd to learn more about the flock.

May Half Term
Family activities Lotions and Potions  Tuesday May 27–Friday May 30
10.30am - 3.30pm

Mix up plant ingredients to make your own fizzy bath bomb. £2 per participant (Normal admission applies, accompanied children under 17 are admitted free at Wakehurst)

All Festival events, with the exception of the family activities at Easter and half term, are included in admission to Wakehurst.

Further information:

For more information call Iain Parkinson or Sarah Cameron on 01444 894067, Kew press office on 020 8332 5607 or email

Images attached of a brimstone butterfly and kingfisher. To download other spring images of Wakehurst Place and the Loder Valley visit our image library: 

Images of Wakehurst Place

Username is press. Password is kewpress.

Visit the website for more information about the Loder Valley:

Wakehurst Place

Wakehurst Place is the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and home to formal gardens, natural woodlands, nature reserves, and a sixteenth century mansion. Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst, is the largest wild plant seed collection in the world. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10% of the world’s wild flowering plant species (c. 30,000 species) and aim to conserve 25% by 2020.

Wakehurst is on the B2028 between Ardingly and Turners Hill (Junction 10 off the M23), West Sussex, RH17 6TN and open every day from 10am, except December 24 and 25. For more information ring 01444 894067 or visit