Volunteer Alan Cornwell will light up England’s tallest Christmas tree at a ceremony at Wakehurst Place on Saturday (December 1).
Alan was chosen to switch on the lights after winning an award in recognition of the outstanding contribution he has made in 12 years as a volunteer at Wakehurst Place, the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Alan, from Burgess Hill, spends four days a week as a horticultural volunteer at Wakehurst, helping with a range of tasks around the gardens and keeping the area in front of the Wakehurst mansion clean and tidy.
He was recently awarded the individual Marsh Trust volunteering award for Kew volunteers for 2012.
Paul Reader, Alan’s supervisor, said: “Alan is a very well liked and respected volunteer and switching on the Christmas lights is the perfect accolade for him after his recent award.
“He is very dedicated and enthusiastic and in 2011 gave over 1,500 hours of his time to Kew. He is always happy and smiling and has a positive effect on those people he works with.”
Alan will take centre stage at the Big Switch On event, which marks the start of Christmas festivities at Wakehurst, illuminating 1,800 lights on a 118ft (35m) giant redwood tree which can be seen for miles around.
The lights will be switched on at 6.15pm on December 1 - visitors are advised to arrive in plenty of time as this is always a popular event and car sharing is recommended as parking is limited.
As part of the countdown to the switch on a choir will be singing near the tree and children’s activities will be held in the Wakehurst mansion.
Visitors can also enjoy festive food and drink and relaxed Christmas shopping, and the East Sussex Guild craft fair in the mansion. Entry is by donation from 5pm, minimum suggested donation £2 per person, £5 per family.
The tree will then be lit daily from 3.30pm throughout the festive season from December 2 until January 5.
Other Christmas events at Wakehurst Place:
Christmas craft fair – Saturday December 1 and Sunday December 2
East Sussex Guild Christmas craft fair – exhibition and sale in the mansion, 10am to 7pm Saturday and 10am to 3.30pm Sunday.
Festive Sundays – December 2, 9, 16
Carol singers will be wandering in the grounds and Santa will be in Wakehurst’s sixteenth century mansion. The mansion will be decorated for Christmas by floristry students from Plumpton College.
Normal admission prices apply (under 17s are admitted free), gardens open at 10am. A visit to Santa will cost £5, to include a gift.
Christmas wreath making – Wednesday December 12 and Thursday December 13
Make your own natural Christmas wreath using beautiful plant material collected from the Wakehurst Place gardens, with advice on hand advice from horticultural staff. Activities include weaving willow rings or decorating a pre-made willow ring, then attaching a stunning array of foliage , berries, cones and ribbon. Children’s wreaths are also available. Wreath making will take place 10am to 3.30pm in a marquee in the carriage ring at Wakehurst. Normal admission prices apply, prices for wreath making: Small children’s wreath £3, medium £5, large £7, pre-made £15 (limited stock)
Carols Evening – Friday December 14
Join local choirs and a band for carol singing under the Christmas tree at Wakehurst’s popular Carols Evening. Gates open at 5pm and carols begin at 7pm. Festive food and drink will be available, children’s activities will be held in the mansion and the gift shop will be open for Christmas shopping. Entry by donation from 5pm, car sharing is recommended as parking is limited. Minimum suggested donation £2 per person, £5 per family.
Christmas trees and Christmas shopping
Christmas trees are now on sale in the Wakehurst Visitor Centre and shop. Four varieties are available – the traditional Norway Spruce as popularised by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria with its evocative scent; Nordman fir which has excellent needle retention; the Blue Spruce with unusual colouring; and Serbian Spruce or Omorika which has an unusual scent and compact shape, ideal for smaller homes. Every tree purchased helps the work of Wakehurst and Kew.
For full details of Christmas activities check the website www.kew.org or call 01444 894067.