Activities events Festival Outdoors Reviews Things to do Wakehurst

Science Festival at Wakehurst

The Young Londoner is fortunate to get a sneak peek of the upcoming Science Festival at Kew with a visit to Wakehurst.

Sure we love London. But sometimes we need a little escape so we ventured outside the big smoke to attend a great day of exploring, learning and interacting with all things science at Wakehurst (the home of the Millenium Seed Bank), in the heart of Sussex.

The science festival at Wakehurst was a great family day out and it has left us even more excited for the upcoming Science Festival at Kew Gardens on the 20th and 21st of July 2019.

For this writer, science remains a bit of an achilles heel. A bubbling passion that I try to nurture at every opportunity; a bit of chemistry in my cooking, a bit of biology in my garden and a lot of (often misjudged) physics in my child rearing, hence my bad back! So I was excited to share this passion with my progeny and I am pleased to say the Science Festival at Wakehurst did not disappoint and it provided visitors of all ages with unlimited learning, playing and exploring opportunities.

We reached Wakehurst within an hour and a half drive and we were let loose (alongside many other families) on to the premises. With 500 acres of woodland and gardens there is plenty space to run around and let off some steam. There’s loads of ancient huggable trees ready to share their wisdom and energy with anyone happy to embrace (or climb) them and there is an endless supply of supple soft grass that is perfectly suited for crawling, walking or rolling. The rhododendrons were in full bloom during our visit and the background hum of bees at work was an energising replacement to our usual urban vibrations (airplanes and cars with a siren thrown in for good measure).  

We were beyond impressed by the gigantic mushrooms on display where kids of all ages (and adults too) could communicate and interact. Dare to shout something through the web and see who may hear it, a nature’s alternative to Twitter I guess? Only this is a lot more educational as you can find out about the wonders of the Fungi Kingdom and the Wood Wide Web, the most extensive network ever imagined.

We also had the opportunity to engage in a painting in the field session (the toddler didn’t last long here but it’s a great activity for those with a longer attention span). And in the process, we did however learn why this is still an important part of plant discovery and preservation work. Afterwards we went to collect and create our own Herbarium specimens that we could take home with us.

The Science Festival also had workshops and the scientists and plant experts were at hand to talk about the important work they do and to engage with the young ones into better understanding (and protecting) of our environment. We loved the pop-up science labs were we learned hands-on about extracting the DNA from a strawberry, saw a cool experiment about protecting the future of plants through better seed preserving techniques (bit like ice-cream being made with super-cool liquid nitrogen) and took a field trip to the far reaches of the Earth with the help of virtual goggles where we learned how to identify and conserve rare and threatened species.

The wonderfully quirky theatre shows exploring the life of bugs through gentle music, expressive dance (bugstyle) and lots of obscure facts and statistics managed to keep both parents and little ones entertained. The shows were elegantly acted by actors at Second Hand Dance company. For those of us who were not that much into watching bugs dance (not mentioning any names ‘Young Londoner dad!’), the science talks at the Science Café were equally entertaining with family games and quizzes that got us thinking more about serious science topics (plus it meant he could have a cup of tea and cake).

No fun day is complete without a treat and we all reunited in the gardens’ Seeds café for snacks and cups of tea before we took off for the journey back to East London.

We thoroughly enjoyed the event and we’ve put the Kew Gardens Science Festival in the calendar for 20th July. We were impressed with the variety and number of activities on offer, the organiser’s enthusiasm about all things science and their patience with the little ones (ours included), and the older ones as well, helping us to be a child again for a day in this beautiful place surrounded by nature.

Kew’s sister Wakehurst is a place for all seasons but it’s that much more fun in the sun. To make the most of this tranquil oasis take a day out and grab some friends and a picnic and enjoy great quality time spent together in the beautiful surroundings.

The entrance to special events such as the Science Festival is part of the usual entrance fee (£13.95 for an adult with children under 16 getting in for free) but check the website for details.

To make the most of what’s on offer, we recommend the annual pass for unlimited access to gardens throughout the year.