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Waterlily Festival at Sheffield Park and Garden

A wooden pontoon extends into the lake, with patches of pink and yellow waterlilies, and large trees behind the lake, during the waterlily festival at Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex
Waterlily Festival at Sheffield Park and Garden, Sussex | © National Trust Images/Laurence Perry

Sheffield Park and Garden’s picturesque lakes burst with colour during June and July and, to celebrate, the Waterlily Festival will return from 17 June to 16 July.

Join us to celebrate the serenity and elegance of the spectacular waterlilies on the lakes at Sheffield Park with a series of unmissable art events, activities and outdoor installations.

Get closer to the Waterlilies during the Festival

Wander the shores of the lakes, adorned by thousands of waterlily plants and get up close to the bright blooms and buzzing dragonflies with our floating pontoon, installed specially for this natural event. There are seven different species, in different shades and colours, from buttery yellow to deep pink.

Community art, creativity and inspiration

As you admire the lakes, look out for giant flowers and dragonflies created by community-led artists, Same Sky and So Sussex.

Join us on weekends to help us create a kilometres worth of bunting! Design your own triangle and peg it to the ribbon in the garden. £1 per triangle.

Special events

The floating pontoon on Middle Lake surrounded by waterlilies at Sheffield Park and Garden
The floating pontoon on Middle Lake surrounded by waterlilies at Sheffield Park and Garden | © John Miller

Watercolour Art Workshop at Sheffield Park and Garden
29 June

Find inspiration, develop your technique and capture the waterlilies at Sheffield Park and Garden.
Find out more...

Photography Workshops at Sheffield Park and Garden
2 and 10 July

Capture the spectacular waterlily display at one of our photography workshops.
Find out more...

A patch of white waterlilies on the lake, with the house in the background, at Sheffield Park and Garden, E Sussex
Waterlilies on the lake, Sheffield Park and Garden, E Sussex | © National Trust Images/Chris Jonas

Who planted the waterlilies at Sheffield Park and Garden?

A relatively modern aspect of the garden design, the waterlilies were an addition made at the turn of the last century during the time of Arthur Soames.

Arthur Soames became the owner of the house, park, garden and the wider estate in 1910. At the time, the hardy varieties that were being bred were in dazzling pinks and buttery yellows. The varieties that he introduced were Nymphaea ‘Marliacea Carnea’, Nymphaea ‘Marliacea Chromatella’, Nymphaea ‘Gladstoniana’, Nymphaea ‘Mrs Richmond’ and Nymphaea ‘Escarboucle’. These have remained on the lakes ever since.

In 2018, we added more waterlilies to the lakes to build on the impressive displays and add some more groupings to Upper Woman's Way Pond and Ten Foot Pond. Today the lakes contain over 700 plants and seven different species.

Looking after the waterlilies

Once a year, the water levels across the lakes are dropped and the garden team and volunteers put their waders on and get into the water to carry out general maintenance.

In order to preserve the mirror-like appearance of the lakes at Sheffield Park and Garden, any vegetation around the edges has to be cleared, as well as weeding out the yellow wild varieties of waterlilies, called nuphar, that tend to take hold.

Some of the waterlily plants are removed and others are moved to create defined groups. Soames's philosophy was to plant in large swathes but to allow space for the lilies to stand out against the garden backdrop, something that the garden team continue to follow today.

Trimming helps with water flow between the clumps, meaning that the plants are kept in optimal health and water quality remains high. Finally, reducing the size of the patches gives a beautifully refined look which makes for a fantastic view. 

The work itself involves wading out through the deeply silted lake bed. Balancing is surprisingly hard but the seasoned gardeners and volunteers quickly find their ‘lake legs’. New recruits may be more likely to take a tumble!

The boat is used as a floating wheelbarrow and the team use spades to cut through the thick, tangled rhizomes and essentially ‘weed’ the waterlilies.

A mother and child walk hand in hand through the garden at Sheffield Park, East Sussex.

What's on at Sheffield Park

From guided tours to exhibitions and family trails, see what's coming up at Sheffield Park and Garden.

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