GirlAbout Sussex reviews Leonardslee Illuminated in Horsham
What I loved about it:
Despite living in West Sussex for the majority of my life, I have never actually visited the magnificent Grade 1 listed Leonardslee Gardens in Horsham. I have always admired the events they put on throughout the year, so when I saw that they were running an ‘illuminated spectacular’ after-dark winter light trail for the festive season, I knew this would be the ideal time to visit.
It was the coldest evening of the year so far and we even had a sprinkling of snow as we arrived at the entrance area that had a Christmas Market, funfair and food stalls. The atmosphere was buzzing and the sweet smell of Churros was most inviting.
We had an allocated time slot and walked right through to the star lit walkway that meandered down to the lake. The rainbow flashes of pink, blue, red, yellow and green caused much excitement as the kids ran down the trail to find out what was ahead.
The first thing the kids spotted was a bright yellow luminous half moon and they just had to have a photo on it. “We’re on the moon!’. Next to the moon in the woods, we heard a lady singing. The kids cautiously walked over to find a woman suspended in the air dressed in a white nightgown. She was singing lullabies to a small group of children sat mesmerised on logs in front of her. They were all silent. I was surprised that our excitable kids were so stopped in their tracks. They both sat down just watching in wonder as she softly sang “each night before you go to bed my baby”.
She wasn’t the only character we encountered on the trail. In different locations we met The Witch, Edmund and Mr Tumus from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The actors were brilliant and their performances got the guests involved in a delicate non-pantomime way. Along the trail you also encounter some live musicians where guests chose to pause and take the ambiance in.
The favourite part of the trail for me was definitely the ginormous globe. The illuminated Earth is suspended over the lake, reflecting its colours in the water below. There was plenty of space for us all to stop here and admire the view surrounded by the trees. I remember one Christmas as a child, the only thing I asked for was a light-up globe and I used it as nightlight. Staring up at the breathtaking illumination took me straight back to my childhood.
The water display on the lake was totally enchanting. We spent quite a while just watching the water shooting out in different colours to the atmospheric music created by Foz Creative.
Out of the thousands of lights displays, the kids’ favourite was definitely the replicas of Leonardslee’s famous wallabies and other woodland creatures including bears, deers, rabbits and owls, all created by Artpod.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Leonardslee Illuminated and for the first time this year, I really felt festive. The kids thought it was magical and there were so many surprises along the way to keep them entertained. It just felt so peaceful and we can’t recommend it highly enough. I am already looking forward to going back in the spring and seeing the gardens in daylight.
Tickets cost £18 per adult, £10 per child 16 and under, and kids under two years old go free.
Leonardslee Illuminated runs from 4.15pm until late, 9th – 12th December, and 15th to 22nd December. Advance booking online only.
Images by Ray Gibson.