Visitors to Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens can expect to experience an illuminated spectacular this Christmas. An after-dark winter light trail taking place over three consecutive weekends in December, the gardens are lit up with displays and projections onto the historic mansion and the lakes throughout the Grade I listed gardens. Live music and theatrical performances for all the family add to the atmosphere.
Estate manager Adam Streeter says, “The event offers a welcome break from the Covid-19 gloom. We’ve done a lot of work to ensure that it meets the Cornavirus rules and is safe to visit for everyone.”
Your Sussex Wedding editor Kelly got the chance to visit, and although tickets are now sold out for 2020, this romantic night out for the two of you is one to look out for in 2021.
We arrived on a very wet night in December, but as soon as the entrance area, complete with fun fair, food trucks and Christmas market came into view, our spirits were lifted. Excited, and not wasting any time, we headed straight for the trail. The venue had very sensibly reduced the number of tickets on sale so that the queue through the greenhouse (a welcome break from the rain) was easily socially distanced and took no time at all to get through.
There's a hint of the magic to come as soon as you set foot on the trail, thanks to the fairylit walkways. Everywhere is carefully matted to avoid slips in the mud, but you'll still need sturdy footwear as if you're unfortunate enough, like us, not to be blessed with a fine evening, chances are you'll get a little muddy. Helpful staff are also appointed throughout to point you in the right direction and to make sure folk don't get carried away taking snaps and forgetting their social distancing!
The first part of the trail is all downhill as you pass the mirrorball tree and the house. If a magical fairyland is your thing, this is definitely an evening for you, as one could be forgiven for thinking they'd wandered into Rivendell as you encounter a Galadriel-like character and an illluminated dragon. By far the highlight is right at the bottom when you reach the moon over the lake, which no picture can do justice to. Enchanting lighting and the suspended moon's reflection cast across the lake left us mesmerised.
Following the ethereal moonlit lake experience, the rest of the trail is uphill. If you wish to visit with someone who has even slightly limited mobility I recommend contacting the team in advance and checking out the website to discuss accessibility as there are options for you.When you make it back to the top you'll find an impressive light show projected onto the side of a building as you pass through to the main event - the light show projection on the side of the historical manor house. These run every 30 minutes and you'll be glad to hear there's a food truck stationed here, should you feel the need for some warming refreshment after your adventures on the trail. In total the experience takes around an hour on hour and half to explore.
We then headed back to the start, as I was eager to check out the market - I'm never one to miss out on a Christmas market or shopping opportunity! Delighted to duck into the marquee out of the rain, we were welcomed by a variety of stalls selling everything from booze to chocolate, decorations to gifts. There's also a wine marquee where you can stock up on your Christmas drink from the incredible Benguela Cove collection.
With the need to shop sated we were being called by a hot chocolate, a Bailey's hot chocolate no less, and some delicious mini pancakes. Warmed by our refreshments, we headed back to the car and back home to discuss the evenings delights. This night is equally ideal for a romantic date night with your wife or hubby to be, or the kids and family.
Keep your eyes on www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk for details of next year's Leonardslee Illuminated.