It’s become an annual tradition to take Monkey on an Easter Egg hunt – in fact as the years go on, he’s lucky enough to go on several over a weekend as inevitably friends and family also do them.
Being National Trust members means we have a plethora of destinations to choose from, and it also gives us a good opportunity to have a family day out. This year we fancied something a little different and, as we had to meet a friend who lived some distance away, we chose the perfect location situated in the middle of our homes.
Dapdune Wharf in Guildford, Surrey, may not have the grand estate or endless gardens, but what it lacks in grandeur it certainly makes up for in charm and watery beauty.
Situated on the River Wey – one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, Dapdune Wharf opened to barge traffic in 1653. And it was this 15-mile waterway which linked Guildford to Weybridge on the Thames and then to London. Then, the Godalming Navigation, which opened in 1764, enabled barges to work a further four miles upriver. The route was first used to transport goods such as gunpowder, corn, wood, and flour to London, and to bring back coal for manufacturing gunpowder.
Dapdune Wharf is now a visitor centre and tells the story of the navigations, the people who lived and worked on the barges, as well as a smithy and stable. Meanwhile, there are several different walking and canoe trails that stretch across the heart of Surrey from Weybridge to New Haw Lock; and Guildford to St. Catherines Dock – all dog-friendly, and on easy towpaths.
When we arrived on Good Friday, it was a warm and sunny day, the perfect weather to be outside. Tucked away off the main road, we were lucky to get one of the last few remaining parking spots. But as soon as Monkey spotted a huge barge and a box of hard hats, he was off!
While I queued up for the Easter Egg Hunt worksheet, he went aboard The Reliance, one of three surviving barges. Apart from the serious lack of head height, it was surprisingly large inside and Monkey enjoyed role-playing in the living quarters.
The Reliance was built in 1932 and worked carrying goods until 1968 when she ran into Canon street Bridge in London and sank. The boat was abandoned and only discovered 21 years later at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
After getting our worksheet we set to work finding all the clues. It was easy to find those closest to the visitor centre and around the crafting area – where lots of children were happily creating works of art – however, we noticed some families struggling to find the final five.
But this was because they were dotted around the other side of the river, which made for a pleasant stroll. Monkey enjoyed collecting sticks and throwing them into the water, while we savoured the sunshine. We eventually found all the clues; the questions were all bunny-related and while some of them were simple, I was relieved the answers were available!
After making our way back and claiming our Cadburys Easter Bunny, which Monkey was highly delighted with, we then wanted to take a trip on the Dapdune Belle, which sails along the waterway, passing what used to be the manufacturing quarter or downstream towards Stoke lock.
Unfortunately for us the boat only goes on the hour – and we had just missed it. So we had to make do with waving at the passengers as they went past. Luckily, with the tempting offer of a spot of lunch and our permission to scoff his chocolate treat, Monkey wasn’t too upset and we finished off our outing at the small tea room for some light refreshments whilst watching Monkey make friends in the adventure garden.
Dapdune Wharf is not only full of history about one of our oldest waterways, but it’s also a great day out. Monkey may have been too young to appreciate the facts, but nevertheless, this picturesque area nestled in the centre of Guildford is alive with colour and is a great starting point for exploring the River Wey. Of course, the chocolate was also an added bonus!
National Trust’s Dapdune Wharf Wharf Road, Guildford, Surrey, England, GU1 4RR Tickets; Adults £3.95; Kids £2.30