Enjoy a walk through a spectacularly illuminated winter wonderland at Wimpole estate
Mycellium, marshmallows and music make Wimpole estate’s 2023 Chrismas light trail a sensory journey to savour.
The National Trust property has expanded its annual festive array with dazzling new installations.
When Thomas Edison created the first strand of electric Christmas lights in 1880 he cannot have guessed that more than a century later, the illuminations would have reached such extravagant proportions.
Wimpole’s Christmas Cathedral - at 50 metres in length and featuring more than 50,000 bud lights - is believed to be the longest tunnel of its kind in the country this Yuletide.
Hilary Wilson, general manager of Wimpole, said: “Whether or not it is the biggest in the UK, we’re not entirely sure, but at almost 50m long we’re confident it is certainly one of the biggest. What we are sure about is that it’s a fantastic feat of art and design, which will no doubt be one of the most-loved installations at this year’s trail.”
Passing through as the evocative strains of Walking in the Air ring out on a crisp and cold winter night is an enchanting experience.
Wimpole estate works with Sony Music on its illuminated trail and the right choice of tune certainly makes a difference - the parterre garden in front of the 17th century hall blazed with flaming torches as Sinead O’Connor’s haunting rendition of Silent Night tugged at the heartstrings.
The route winding around the stately home, gifted to the nation by Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie Bambridge, features a new and breathtakingly lovely display called Mycelium Network, by Stevie Thompson of Custom Fibre Optics.
Mycelium are tiny “threads” of a greater fungal organism that wrap around or bore into tree roots.
Stevie explained the origin of the idea: “Apart from being completely obsessed and passionate about fibre optic lighting, I’m also very interested and inspired by mushrooms too, with their magical and medicinal properties. So it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate both of my hobbies into a work of art.”
The result of a stunning creation which would be at home in a David Attenborough documentary.
Also new for 2023 is Crystal Garden, by Output Arts, comprising clusters of glowing shards which sparkle and shimmer.
Pyrite Creative’s Light as a Feather is another new highlight - a series of steel feathers painted to glow in the dark, twisting and turning gracefully as though lifted by a sudden gust of wind.
In contrast to the high-tech lights, Woody Fox’s 12 Days of Christmas display, made from wicker, uses colour, fabrics and recycled materials to create large-scale figures which illustrate the traditional song.
The North Devon artist has also brought a series of Bark Dancers to Wimpole for the first time.
The traditional theme continues with a jolly Father Christmas cheerfully greeting guests as they make their way around the trail.
On the way, there is a chance to stop and tuck into marshmallows which customers can toast themselves on grills laid across fiery hot coals as the scent of caramelised sugar fills the air.
The family-friendly experience, suitable for all ages, also includes a selection of food and drink vendors ranging from Greek fare to traditional mulled wine.
The youngest visitors can also have fun on ticketed fairground rides including a helter-skelter and a merry-go-round.
The after-dark illuminated trail through festive gardens ends on Sunday, December 31, and is closed on December 4, 5 and 25. To book see christmasatwimpole.seetickets.com/
The event begins at 4.30pm each day and last entry is at 8pm (7pm on Dec 24, 26, 30, 31).
Admission (bookable in advance) costs £19 for adults, £14.50 for children and £64 for a family of two adults and two children. Entry for carers and infants aged two and under is free.
Parking costs an extra £8 per car but is free for National Trust members if booked at least a day in advance.
All pictures by Gerred Gilronan