Mega mushrooms set to spring up at Wakehurst Place

Giant mushrooms are springing up at Wakehurst Place, near Haywards Heath, as part of a larger-than-life willow sculpture trail which opens at the botanic gardens on May 3.

Giant mushrooms spring up at Wakehurst Place SUS-140425-112421001
Giant mushrooms spring up at Wakehurst Place SUS-140425-112421001

Towering wildflowers, grasses, and seed pods also feature in the ‘Inspired by Nature’ trail around Wakehurst’s glorious gardens and woodlands, the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The spectacular sculptures, standing up to four metres tall, are the latest additions to Wakehurst by renowned willow artist Tom Hare, and will be on permanent display.

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The mega mushrooms going on show are a group of three ceps in Horsebridge Wood, three morels in Coates Wood, and an eccentric-looking horn of plenty design in Westwood Valley. (Please see images of some of the mushroom sculptures attached, including one showing willow artist Tom Hare. Please credit Andrew McRobb/RBG Kew)

Tom has worked closely with fungi experts at Kew to ensure the designs are scientifically accurate – as well as being visually stunning. Each sculpture is painstakingly created by weaving willow stems around purpose built steel frames, with different shades of willow used to create different colour effects.

Two new sculptures are also being installed alongside the UK Native Seed Hub at Wakehurst, a goat’s beard wildflower and quaking grass meadow grass.

These new additions will join a number of existing Tom Hare designs at Wakehurst, among them a giant conker, poppy, harebell and wild carrot, to create a trail of 17 sculptures around the 500 acre estate.

The opening of the sculpture trail is one a range of activities being held over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend as part of Wakehurst’s Bluebells and Brimstones spring festival. These include guided spring walks, birds of prey displays, and open days at the Loder Valley nature reserve. (see details below)

Iain Parkinson, Wakehurst’s Conservation and Woodland Manager, said: “The sculptures are quite incredible and people will be able to follow the trail to explore the gardens and woodlands.

“The scale of the designs and attention to detail will enable visitors to take a closer look at nature from a fresh perspective, by standing under the cap of a mushroom, for example, and looking up at the mass of gills underneath.”

The Inspired by Nature sculpture trail is included in admission to Wakehurst. The mega mushroom sculptures are moving to Wakehurst from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew where they have previously been on display.

Bluebells and Brimstones spring festival events:

Loder Valley Nature Reserve Open Days: 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.

Spring walks –April 27, May 4, 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.

Report and picture contributed by Wakehurst Place.