Art meets nature at Bedgebury’s magic lightshow

Art meets nature at Bedgebury's magic lightshow

The one-mile trail winds through the majestic array of trees, dramatically lighting up their trunks and bare branches – interspersed with remarkable artistic installations.

Christmas at Bedgebury is the brainchild of Zoe Bottrell, Managing Director of Culture Creative.

Last year was the first time it was staged at the National Pinetum and Forest, though Zoe worked at the venue in 2010 and 2011 for its Electric Forest display.

Culture Creative currently run shows at eight venues across the UK, including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Blenheim Palace and National Trust properties.

However, Bedgebury is a special project for her. “It’s a fantastic place, beautifully natural in the darkness of Kent,” she explains.

“It’s very different to working in a formal gardens in a city, for example, with the Heathrow flightpath above your head.”

She adds: “The shows are all very specific, they are created particularly for each site. The delight here is that the tree selection is the star.

“The way that we can play with the natural landscape is a wonder, it’s superb.

“And it’s not pan flat – the undulating nature of it means you can look out over the landscape and you get glimpses of what’s coming but you can’t quite make out what it is.”

Among the stars of the show this year are two new installations: Voyage, a flotilla of hundreds of boats across the lake designed by Aether and Hemera from Milan; and Floraison, a bouquet of giant, suspended red poppies by the French company Pitaya.

Pride of place goes to the Fire Garden, where flames lick around giant pine cones producing a heady scent. The design reflects the logo of the pinetum and was commissioned from the UK artist Mike Jones.

Mike is renowned for his installation Beyond the Deepening Shadows at the Tower of London last year, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

And the much-loved favourite of last year, the Cathedral of Light by Australian firm Mandylights, is back – and proving hugely popular on Instagram again.

“We’ve been illuminating trails since 2005, so we have a huge back catalogue of artists that we are lucky to be able to draw upon,” said Zoe.

She is already planning next year’s show – she works up to 15 months in advance, and said: “We’d like to do more with the water. But we don’t want to bring in too much infrastructure into this natural landscape.”

This year her company have made their debut in the US with Lightscape in Chicago, which will also be taken to Melbourne in 2020. So the future’s bright for Zoe and Culture Creative.

Christmas at Bedgebury, in association with the Forestry Commission and Sony Music, runs on selected dates until December 30 from 4.20pm.

Entry costs £18 (£13.50 for children) – traditional fairground rides are extra. Tickets are available from

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