For many, Winter is a time to bed down green spaces, to nurture beds and bulbs through the colder months, and to pack away garden furniture in favour of warmth and cover. At Wakehurst however, the frosty days and dark nights signal new surprises in the wild landscape. Welcome bursts of colour appear through the gloom of misty mornings in the maturing Winter Garden, where heady fragrances and striking planting displays draw a smile even in the dark depths of the season.
But it’s as darkness descends that Wakehurst’s winter spectacle truly comes alive. Glow Wild, the magical winter lantern trail weaving its way through the gardens, has become a fast favourite in the region, and this year marks a major milestone as we celebrate the 10th anniversary edition.
We sat down with the Wakehurst team to talk what goes into getting the trail ready, favourite Glow Wild memories and more!
What can people expect from a visit to Glow Wild this year?
"For its celebratory year, Glow Wild reflects on awe-inspiring moments in the natural world, from the big to the tiny. There’s epic wildlife, miniscule woodland communities, and a dazzling array of glowing tributes to the weird and wonderful." Glow Wild Creative Director Lorraine Lecourtois, wants the 10th anniversary event to be "a truly awe-inspiring trail, whilst still recognising what makes Glow Wild special – a creative response to Wakehurst's landscape, where visitors can feel connected with the natural world."
What goes into getting Glow Wild ready for the public?
The core creative team of three people grew to a rig team of eight, and eventually up to forty staff were joining forces each night to deliver the ultimate festive experience. There’s a curious alchemy you get on large events when people who started as strangers come together" says Glow Wild Producer, Louise Burton.
"Each year is just so different: new challenges, new content, new operational considerations, the list continues… We strive to get better and better at what we do, and there’s a wonderful bonding and sense of belonging that materialises every time we pull together."
It sounds like it takes a big team to get things ready!
"It’s like a little family who share stories, support each other and enjoy using our hands to create over 1500 lanterns" says Lantern Curator, Katherine Morton. "The volunteers often comment about how therapeutic lantern-making is – the touch of the smooth willow, the shapes you can create, the satisfaction in stretching white tissue paper and the pleasure in creating something beautiful which will be part of something bigger."
What are some of your favourite Glow Wild memories?
"It’s been a privilege for us to witness special moments where visitors have chosen the trail as a place to create memories, from the wonder on young children’s faces as they soak in the incredible sensory experience, to the gathering of families spanning generations." For Louise, a standout moment "has to be the marriage proposal under the Tree of Life in 2021. We were all party to this big secret, sorting out champagne, photographers and tissues."
"There’s something very special about being in the gardens at midnight, telescope at the ready to observe the stars, and being the first to see what Glow Wild will look like each year. I love seeing the delight on people’s faces when they are talking, feeding, dancing or interacting with the puppets." says Lorraine. "If the pieces bring a smile or make them escape into another world for a moment or two, I feel my work is done"
What would you say makes Glow Wild such a special event?
"I love how Glow Wild touches all aspects of the gardens’ operation and all the relationships between the teams. There is no limit to the imagination and ambition, and I am proud to be part of a little slice of winter magic" Katherine says.
What's next for Glow Wild?
Looking to the future, Lorraine comments, "For me, I hope that Glow Wild continues to champion the tradition of craftsmanship and continues to be a well-loved family and community event for years to come."
Glow Wild 2023 runs on selected evenings until 1st January 2024. Grab your tickets while you can!
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