On the rare occasions, we don’t have any engagements planned for the weekend, we dig out our trusty National Trust guide and choose somewhere to while away a few hours. As with any impromptu day trip, we don’t tend to head too far from our doorstep – but luckily, we have several NT properties within an hour’s drive. Hatchlands Park – a stone’s throw from Clandon Park which was recently destroyed by fire – sees a classic country house nestled amongst 400 acres of sprawling parkland in the Surrey countryside.
Built in the 1750s for naval hero Admiral Edward Boscawen and his wife Fanny, since then it has housed wealthy families, World War One evacuees, a finishing school for girls and even a printing press. Unfortunately, on the day we arrived, the Georgian country residence was closed to visitors – so we were unable to go inside for a snoop around tenant Alec Cobbe’s collection of paintings, fine furniture and keyboard instruments owned or played by famous composers.
Besides the house tour, there are also several events that are held throughout the year at Hatchlands Park including pony treks and kite flying to open-air theatre performances and guided walks. During the summer holidays, too, there are children’s trails, arts and crafts and giant garden games to keep kids entertained.
However, our main purpose on this sunny Sunday was to just wander the extensive grounds and let Monkey tire himself out. Even though there are several gardens to explore including the Jekyll, we stuck to the main paths on the parkland – trying to spot the cows in the distance through the meadows.
There are five signposted walks throughout the grounds which are marked clearly on the map – including the Bluebell Walk, the Wix Wood Walk and The Long Walk past the Sheepwash Pond. We decided to just go with the flow and not take a fixed route as it was pretty hot.
This being the case, we gravitated towards the shade of the trees. Monkey was excited to spy the kissing gate that leads you into the park’s ancient woodland.
While we pulled up a few wooden logs to sit on, we watched as Monkey delighted in balancing on the wooden beams, scrambling up on the dens, crawling under the make-shift tunnels and marvelling at the wooden sculptures and totem poles. We even tried to watch the bird-feeding station for visitors, but the birds must have had their fill already…
All played out Monkey, who was still full of beans, insisted we take a different route back towards the house and gardens via the pond. He also found several large sticks which he wanted to take home with us. It was a pleasant stroll in the sunshine, trying to spot butterflies and birds, walking amongst the blades of long grass and wildflower meadows – feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere.
By the time we had reached the courtyard area that housed the original kitchens, we were all rather thirsty – and Monkey was desperate for an ice-cream. Trying, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a route away from the gift shop, we managed to find a pleasant spot in the courtyard to enjoy some refreshments. It was just lovely to savour the tranquil surroundings and the warmth of the sunshine. It certainly felt we were finally getting to enjoy a proper English day in the countryside.
National Trust’s Hatchlands Park, East Clandon, Guildford, Surrey, GU4 7RT; Park open 10.00am-6.00pm daily; Gardens and House times vary; Adult: £8.00; Child: £4.00 – see website for more details