How do I get there?
High Beeches Woodland & Water Garden can be accessed by car by exiting the M23 at Handcross. They are ½ mile east of Handcross on the B2110, in mid-Sussex, within easy reach of London, Gatwick and the South East.
Borde Hill Garden is 1½ miles north of Haywards Heath by car and 20 minutes North of Brighton, or South of Gatwick on the A23 taking exit 10a via Balcombe. Direct trains from London Bridge or Victoria to Haywards Heath take 45 minutes with taxis available outside the station for a 10 minute transfer.
The Bluebell Railway is situated in the beautiful Sussex Weald near the Ashdown Forest and runs between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park, near Uckfield and Haywards Heath. Sheffield Park Station is situated on the A275 East Grinstead – Lewes main road, about two miles north of its junction with the A272. (The Bluebell Vineyard is close by in Sliders Lane also off the A275.) Access by mainline train is easy from central London, direct via London Victoria, and East Croydon since it is only a short walk between stations in East Grinstead. A variety of buses run directly to the railway, including Saturday services from Compass Travel 121 serving Chailey, Newick and Lewes to Sheffield Park and Metrobus 270 serving Brighton, Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath to Horsted Keynes. Metrobus services 270, 281, 291 and 400 also serve the surrounding area and stop at East Grinstead bus station close by.
Both Kingscote Wine Estate and Gravetye Manor are to be found in Vowels Lane, close to East Grinstead and accessed by car off either B2110 from East Grinstead or approached from the North via the B2028 and off the road to West Hoathly and Sharpthorne.
Ridgeview Wine Estate is nestled at the base of the South Downs near Ditchling and to the south of Haywards Heath off the B2112.
Bolney Wine Estate is located 10 miles south of Crawley on the A23. Leave the A23 signposted for Ansty and Cowfold and take the third exit off the roundabout onto the A272, signposted to Billingshurst and Peters field. Please do not take the Bolney Village exit. If travelling north from Brighton, approximately 14 miles, take the Petersfield/Haywards Heath turn off. Take the first exit off the roundabout signposted to Cowfold. Turn right onto the A272 at Cowfold Road.
Ockenden Manor Hotel is tucked away in the village of Cuckfield, off the B2036, west of Haywards Heath and South Lodge Hotel is situated off the A281 south of Horsham and north of the village of Cowfold.
Can I become a member and what benefits do I get?
Did you know that as a Wakehurst member you can get 10% off your purchases in the Visitor Centre shop and Plant Centre and one free entry to Kew Gardens in a year, as well as free car parking each time you visit?
If you become a Friend of Borde Hill Garden, membership includes:
- FREE entry to Sussex Prairie Garden between 1 June and 11 October 2020
- FREE entry to the Chelsea Physic Garden
- Discount on an adult All Day Rover Bluebell Railway ticket (standard travel)
And, if you join the Bluebell Railway as a member, you benefit from:
- Free admission to the stations, museum & visitor areas throughout the year
- Unlimited travel on 3rd class coaches at greatly reduced rates on all normal timetabled trains
- A free copy each quarter of the award-winning Society magazine, Bluebell News
- 10% Discount on selected bookshop items
Ridgeview Wine Estate offer their OurView Wine Club and membership benefits include 20% discount on their range, a case of their wines delivered twice a year, as well as advance tastings of all their new vintages and a complimentary tour and tasting.
Ockenden Manor and South Lodge hotels both promote competitive membership schemes to non-residents for their luxurious and extensive spa and pool facilities.
Where can I park and is it free?
There is generous free car parking available at both Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes stations on the Bluebell Railway. There is no public car park at Kingscote station but East Grinstead offers a number of pay and display car parks within easy walking distance of the station.
What is there for kids to do?
With discovery trails and activities throughout the school holidays, plus a new adventure playground located within the Garden at Borde Hill, there’s plenty to keep families occupied during the open season. Visit the adventure playgroundand let your children navigate their way through a series of exciting equipment including swings, stepping logs, climbing frames, a slide, spring rider and a zip wire for the most adventurous. Why not also bring a ball to kick, or a kite to fly in the extensive parkland outside the formal garden.
Obviously, the tours and tastings at the vineyards in Mid-Sussex are more focused on visitors over 18, but they do organise family-friendly events during the year and Bolney Wine Estate offers a Vineyard Trail for kids complete with an engaging trail map and prize for finding Bertie, the Bolney Bunny and children are also accepted on Bolney Wine Estates drop on tour and children are welcome in the café at any time.
Both South Lodge and Ockenden Manor Hotels welcome families and there is plenty to do in and around the grounds, including croquet on the lawn, an unusual in/out pool at Ockenden Manor Hotel Spa and a 22 metre swimming pool, 10 metre vitality pool and 18 metre outdoor swim pond in the spa at South Lodge Hotel.
Apart from the obvious attraction of the steam engines, kids of all ages can learn about the science and stories behind steam in Bluebell Railways’ interactive exhibition SteamWorks! at Sheffield Park station. Set among some of the fabulous collection of locomotives in the running shed, kids can get hands-on with interactive displays and even have a go on a Stepney locomotive driving experience! There is also an extensive museum, which tells the story of the railways, and the Bluebell Railway in particular, through a stunning collection of artefacts, display panels and videos. Visitors are invited to pull a signal lever in the authentic Victorian signal box and children can do a quiz and win a badge. At Horsted Keynes station, there is an original railway van which moved elephants belonging to Billy Smart’s Circus from town to town. Now, it has been imaginatively converted into an undercover soft play area for little ones and is full of wonderful activities for them to enjoy. At Kingscote station, there is a charming railway-themed playground and picnic area.
Can I bring a picnic?
Visitors to Borde Hill Garden are welcome to bring their own picnics or to buy take-away food and drink from The Gardeners’ Retreat Café and enjoy it in the garden or extensive parkland areas. Picnics may not be taken into the garden at High Beeches but they recommend that you use the table and benches provided at the garden entrance. Ridgeview Wine Estate offer hampers filled with local produce to enjoy in their Wine Garden in the summer and Kingscote Wine Estate can also organise hampers through their shop to enjoy in the countryside surrounding the estate or on one of their self-guided walks.
Attractive grassy picnic areas with seating are available close to the lines at Sheffield Park, Horsted Keynes and Kingscote stations on the Bluebell Railway. Covered areas are also available beneath platform canopies and in the Waiting Rooms at both Horsted Keynes and Kingscote stations. Snacks can also be eaten on board the train.
Can I bring my dog?
At Bolney Wine Estate well behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the café and they accept dogs at their wine bar but they must remain outside on the balcony. However, dogs are not accepted on tours due to hygiene and out of respect for other tour guests and it is advised that for special events that no dogs are brought along as these can be busy and potentially not the right environment for a dog. They also ask if you kindly only let dogs drink/eat out of a designated dog bowl.
Dogs are welcome at the Bluebell Railway on standard operating days and they even get their own ticket to travel on the train. However, they ask that all dogs are kept on a short lead and that you do not let your dog climb up onto the carriage seats.
During Special Events there may be some restrictions, so they advise you to check before travelling. Dogs, except registered assistance dogs, are not permitted into any catering outlets, the museum at Sheffield Park or on any of theon-board dining services.
Can I get something to eat or drink?
The Stables Kitchen and Seeds Café at Wakehurst serve children’s portions and offer kids meal boxes and you can also ask a member of staff to warm bottles.
Set in the old Peacock House beside the Rose Garden, the Gardeners’ Retreat Café at Borde Hill Garden is the perfect spot to sit and relax with a barista coffee, light lunch or delicious afternoon tea. Choose from an enticing selection of freshly made sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes, soup and savoury delights, as well as delicious cakes, bakes and cream teas.
The Eighteen Acre Café and Restaurant at Bolney Wine Estate is open everyday but Christmas Day and Boxing Day serving scrumptious breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas, using locally sourced produce, that you can enjoy inside or on their outside balcony overlooking the vines. They also run a popular Friday night Wine Bar and dining experience with regular entertainment.
The Pass at South Lodge Hotel takes the ‘Chef’s Table’ concept and has developed it so that diners at this 28 cover, award-winning restaurant are closely involved in the kitchen drama! Guests visiting Tom Kemble at The Pass can expect a culinary experience focusing on ingredient-led seasonality. Also open for everyone to enjoy, not just spa guests, Botanica is a brand new restaurant at the Spa at South Lodge Hotel where head chef Jonathan Spiers draws on the South Downs as a larder for fresh and seasonal ingredients. Although not exclusively vegetarian, the menu features a plethora of plant-based plates influenced by Mediterranean dishes. For spa guests who are after something a little more casual, The Watershed serve a selection of drinks and light bites for those relaxing by the swim pond throughout the day during the summer months.
Children over the age of seven are most welcome in the Michelin Star dining room at Gravetye Manor, however, younger children can only be accepted when part of a private party using one of the private dining rooms. This includes ‘babes in arms.’
Bluebell Railway’s very own pub restaurant, the ‘Bessemer Arms’, at Sheffield Park station serves anything from a sandwich and a drink up to a hearty hot breakfast or main hot or cold meal year round. When trains are running and during peak season, The King George V Buffet at Horsted Keynes serves tea, coffee and snacks in this charming original waiting room. During holidays and high season, The Well House Kiosk at Kingscote also offers drinks and snacks and when trains are running The Grinsteade Buffet at East Grinstead provides quality teas, coffees, cakes and snacks in a beautiful original dining carriage complete with traditional 1930’s Southern Railway Express Restaurant Car chairs. The Railway also boasts a whole range of special on-board dining experiences so check their website for full details, including luxury Pullman dining, afternoon tea, fish and chip suppers and Rail Ale trains.
Bluebell Railway offer a range of children’s options in The Bessemer Arms restaurant, if your children want to enjoy a hot meal as part of your day out at the railway. Alternatively, Stepney lunch boxes are also available to purchase in the Bessemer Arms Restaurant. For a larger party, these can be pre-ordered for collection on the day. The lunchboxes can be eaten in the restaurant, picnic areas or on the train.
Is there accessibility for everyone?
- registered blind and partially-sighted visitors
- essential carers accompanying visitors with a disability
There are a limited number of parking spaces next to the Visitor Centre available for cars displaying a Blue Badge.
There are many gravel and hard surface paths around the gardens and a large area of the ornamental planting, lawns and water features around the Mansion is level and accessible via a hard surface path from the Visitor Centre.
The remaining garden and woodland areas do have steep slopes and steps although there is level or ramped access to the interactive exhibition in the Millennium Seed Bank, Visitor Centre, Shop, The Stables Kitchen and Seeds Cafe.
There are a limited number of wheelchairs available to borrow but there is no need to book in advance, just ask when you arrive. Wakehurst also has two mobility scooters to borrow but these must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
The majority of the formal Borde Hill Garden is accessible to those with restricted mobility. Gentle slopes with hard surfaces allow wheelchair access. There are also plenty of benches for relaxing and taking in the sights. A mobility map is available for those who may be disabled, have child buggies or other mobility needs. Wheelchairs are available for use at no charge (please telephone to reserve). Disabled car parking is situated in front of the Garden entrance.
Please be aware that High Beeches is a woodland garden and therefore the paths throughout are unmade and uneven. They are also sloping in places and can be slippery when wet, wheel chairs are not recommended.
Level access is available from each of the station drives at the Bluebell Railway but although platform access is level, stations have bridges or subways connecting the platforms. However, those with walking difficulties or wheelchairs can be escorted by our station staff via a ramped crossings between the platforms. Guide Dogs are most welcome on the Bluebell Railway and train destinations are indicated both visibly with traditional “finger boards” and through audible announcements.
On the trains one of the carriages has been extensively modified with double-doors, wheelchair lifts and an open saloon. Please ring the Sales and Information Office in advance to find out if this wheelchair-accessible saloon is operating, and if so on which train. Otherwise, Wheelchair passengers can also be carried in any carriage brake-van, with access via a portable ramp.
Can I bring my bicycle?
Bicycles can be accommodated at the Bluebell Railway in the luggage compartment of the train, subject to availability, you just need to purchase a special ticket at the ticket office. There is limited space at the Stations where bicycles can be stored during your visit.
South Lodge Hotel has bikes available for guests that can be used to explore the grounds and surrounding areas.
What are the toilet facilities?
Is there a shop onsite?
The shop at Borde Hill Garden can be found at the Garden entrance, although you don’t need to buy an admission ticket to browse the gift shop and plant nursery. It offers a wide variety of artisan and locally sourced gifts for all the family. Browse the excellent selection of homeware, bags and scarves, or tempt your taste buds with their delicious range of Sussex food and drink. Why not take home a lasting reminder of your visit by choosing from a range of bespoke products created especially for Borde Hill Garden. The shop also stocks gifts for gardeners, while the plant nursery includes varieties for sale that are flowering in the main Garden and selected by the Head Gardener.
Bolney and Ridgeview Wine Estates, Bluebell Vineyard and Kingscote Estate all benefit from online shops to purchase their product ranges directly. You will also find selected wines on your local supermarket shelves, with Ridgeview wines available at Waitrose and Fortnum & Masons no less. Kingscote also has a produce shop that is open daily and the Bolney Wine Estate shop is again open daily stocking a wide range of beers, gin, toiletries, chocolate, condiments and mixers, as well as their range of Bolney & Kew wines.
The Bluebell Railway shop at Sheffield Park offers something for every railway enthusiast young or old. From Bluebell Railway souvenirs, books, badges and dvds to model railway engines and accessories, toys and tableware. Free to access via the platform when trains are not operating but otherwise for the nominal cost of a platform ticket.
Can you visit all year round?
The vineyards at Bolney, Kingscote, Ridgeview and Bluebell Vineyard Estate all open throughout the year for a variety of tours and tastings. Ridgeview offers tours and tastings on most Saturdays and Sundays, as well as selected weekdays, particularly in High Summer whilst Bolney has different tours, including lunch and afternoon tea, scheduled on most days from March till the end of October. Kingscote books tours Thursday through to Sunday during the year and Bluebell Vineyard organises a popular local cheese and wine tour and partners with the nearby Bluebell Railway for a ‘Steam and Vine Experience’.
Bluebell Railway runs regular train services throughout the year, including every day from the end of May until the beginning of September, as well as during the school holidays. They also run trains Wednesday to Sunday in April, May, September and October, and during weekends in March.
They also run special Christmas services, including Santa Specials and dining trains during December, as well as a Christmas Service between Boxing Day and the New Year. Even when they are not running trains, Sheffield Park Station, with its shop and restaurant, is still open for platform viewing every day except Christmas Day.