1 December 2023

Top 10 things to do at Wakehurst this winter

Enjoy the perfect wintery day out at our wild botanic garden in Sussex.

By Jessica Hayne

Two benches by a snowy path, in front of a snowy pond.

As leafless trees open up new views and frost descends on the gardens, winter is an enchanting time to visit Wakehurst.  

Read our guide below to make the most out of your trip this coming season, whether it’s a solo visit, an adventure with a loved one, or a day out with little explorers. 

1. Try your hand at some crafts

Although Glow Wild may be over, the magic continues as you can get crafty and make your very own hand-held lantern. Perfect for adorning your garden, or lighting up evening walks. 

Glow Wild Creative Coordinator, Katherine, shares how to craft your own masterpiece with sustainable materials found at home and from the garden.

2. Treat your senses

This winter, we’ve curated a sensory trail for you to take in every corner of our wild botanic garden.  

Pick up our winter arrival guide when you get here, and let it lead you to expansive vistas and peaceful corners, as you stop and listen to the sounds of nature. 

Head to the Pinetum, to lose yourself in the timeless winter fragrance of our conifer collection.

Little adventurers can get their hands dirty at the Mud Kitchen, open throughout winter for messy play. 

A family walk amongst tall trees in Pinetum at Wakehurst
Wakehurst Pinetum, Visual Air © RBG Kew

3. Celebrate our Winter Garden’s birthday  

Stroll through a sensory haven of winding pathways under the canopy of towering birches, as the wind rustles through swathes of grasses. 

Look out for the bright colours of dogwood and cyclamen, and breathe in the sweet scents of witch hazel.  

We’re celebrating five years since the Winter Garden first opened, so step into this tapestry of colour and texture, and discover how it has evolved over time.  

Stems of plants in the foreground, in the background a blurred yellow bush
Wakehurst Winter Garden, Jim Holden © RBG Kew
Sun shines through a gate looking into Wakehurst's Winter Garden, where a path weaves through plants.
Wakehurst Winter Garden, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

4. Say hello to our new arrivals

Every winter, Wakehurst becomes the seasonal home to Galloway cattle and Hebridean sheep, visiting from nearby Ashdown Forest.  

During the colder months, pickings are slim on the Ashdown Forest floor, as their usual food, purple moor grass, is dormant. 

Meanwhile, Wakehurst's fields are bursting with tasty herb-rich grass – it's the perfect place for the animals to take a holiday break.

But they need to earn their keep! The light-footed Hebridean sheep gently tread seed into the soil, opening up the grassland to allow light in, a process which is impossible to replicate with a machine.  

The furry friends regularly move around the site, so keep an eye out on your next visit.

Cows at Wakehurst
Cows at Wakehurst, Jim Holden © RBG Kew
Sheep roam at Wakehurst
Sheep at Wakehurst, Loder Valley Nature Reserve, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

5. Admire new views  

Fallen autumn foliage leaves branches bare, opening up new views across our 535 acres. 

With gardens designed over undulating Sussex landscapes, there are plenty of viewpoints from which to admire expansive vistas on a bright day.  

Our top viewpoint spots are:  

A bench overlooks an expansive valley, with a river running through and hills covered in trees.
Loder Valley Viewpoint, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

6. Warm up with winter treats  

No winter walk is complete without a pit stop and refuel in one of our catering outlets.  

Whether it’s a pastry to start your journey, or a filling lunch at the end of your adventure, stop by Seeds Café, Stables Pantry or Kitchen to indulge in a range of dishes and grab-and-go treats.  

Eating and drinking at Wakehurst

Close up of one hand passing a pain aux raisins on a plate to someone else's hand
Wakehurst Seeds Café, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

7. Experience life in the slow lane 

Our first Nature Heroes mission of the new year kicks off in February!  

From 10 – 18 February, help our Nature Heroes Pip, Bud and Sprout protect the rainforests that sloths call home.  

Complete our Sloth Saver mission to earn a brand new badge for your Nature Heroes cape! 

Seen from behind, two children run down a sunny woodland path in autumn, wearing red and blue beanies and green Nature Heroes capes
Wakehurst Nature Heroes, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

8. Prepare for a year of adventures  

Looking for a new experience for 2024?  

Become a Wakehurst member and enjoy unlimited visits, free parking and exclusive discounts. 

You’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming events and receive priority booking for our seasonal highlights, such as Glow Wild!  

Become a Wakehurst member

Two people sitting on a bench enjoying the views with their dog
Dog walks at Wakehurst, Visual Air © RBG Kew

9. Get your holiday shopping sorted  

Exploring our carefully curated selection of winter plants to stimulate the senses, with a range of daphne, skimmia, heathers and grasses. 

Inside the Visitor Centre shop, you'll find an enticing array of mulled wines, fragrant candles, woollen throws and knitwear to keep the family warm on those chilly evenings. 

To while away the holidays, a selection of jigsaws, sketch books and toys will keep little ones entertained.

Don’t forget, if you’re just visiting the Visitor Centre shop and Plant Centre, parking is free!  

A selection of wine and gin bottles on a shelf
Wakehurst retail, Jim Holden © RBG Kew

10. Take shelter in the most biodiverse place on Earth  

Sometimes the weather gets a bit too much, so step inside the Millennium Seed Bank, where 2.4 billion seeds are safely stored for the future.  

Peek into our labs to spy on scientists at work as they clean, x-ray and sort seeds from across the world. 

Stop by our display to explore how your garden could look in 2050, and find out which plants have adapted in the face of our changing climate.  

A frangipani plant, with more foliage in the background.
Frangipani in the MSB Atrium, Jess Hayne © RBG Kew
An exhibition in the MSB Atrium
Surviving or Thriving, Visual Air © RBG Kew

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