Homes, Parks & Gardens
As England's most wooded county it is no surprise that there are many open parks, gardens and stately homes to explore in Surrey.
Nature Reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty...
Fox Corner Wildlife Area was created in 1990. It has woods, a wildflower meadow and a pond with lots of wildlife including the great spotted woodpecker flowering meadowsweet.
Lakeside Park is west of Guildford, the Blackwater River runs through this wetland site, which also has ponds, reed beds, an orchid meadow and wet woodland. It can be accessed from Lakeside Road in Ash.
Ockham and Wisley Commons are a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in the north east of the borough. It is managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. The site is mainly heathland but it also has areas of open water, bog and woodland. The cafe, Ockham Bites is a good starting and finish point for exploring the area. Not so picturesque there is also a disused airfield at Wisley.
Riverside Park is a local Nature Reserve in Guildford. The wetland site has open water and reed beds. Breeding birds include sedge warblers, reed buntings, water rails, redshanks, snipe and lapwings, access is via Bowers Lane.
Sheepleas, managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, is a sloping site on the North Downs between the Horselys with woodland, scrub and botanically rich grassland. As the name suggests the area was used for grazing for hundreds of years.
Combe Bottom is north of Shere sometimes known as Shere Woodlands. Managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, this slope of the North Downs is mainly woodland and scrub, with a small area of chalk grassland. The woodland is dominated by beech and yew.
Snaky Lane Community Wildlife Area is a smaller Nature Reserve run by the local community. It has a variety of habitats with mature trees, grassland, scrub, hedgerows and a pond.
Whitmoor Common, on the northern outskirts of Guildford, is part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. The London Basin has a variety of heathland habitats, as well as areas of woodland, meadow and still and running water. The site is open to the public to explore.
Pewley Down is to the South of Guildford town centre. This area of chalk grassland has several species of rare flowering plants, including six orchids. There are over 115 species of bees, wasps and ants. Access is via Pewley Hill.
Newlands Corner is on the chalk ridge of the North Downs Way. With irresistible views this a fabulous spot to spend a few hours. The car park is popular with bikers, walkers and dogs, but there is plenty of space for all. The cafe does lovely coffee, chips and ice creams. and there is an information centre with details of walks and wildlife facts to enhance your visit.
Woodbridge Meadows are simple grassy spaces situated along the banks of the River Wey some with sculptures and all with a lovely view of passing boats or just peace brought by being next to the water.
Parks and Gardens...
Guildford Castle Grounds, award winning gardens and stunning castle views makes this the perfect spot for a bite to eat or just to watch the world go by. A quiet shady area by the bandstand is great to watch a game of bowls in full swing or the peaceful garden surrounding Jeanne Argent's 1990 statue of 'Alice through the looking glass' for a quiet rendez-vous or photo opportunity.
Westnye Gardens is a new and innovative space created within a walled garden setting at the bottom of town. Great for families with small children. There are lots of great things to explore in the playground such as double swings, woven willow living pod, brass rubbing posts and lots more.
Shalford Park is a beautiful riverside park with wide open grassy spaces. Football is played on the full sized pitches during the winter and many public events take place here during the summer - including a duck race and a cheese and chili festival, if you're really lucky you may see a hot air balloon launch.
Sutherland Memorial Park is a great place to laze and watch a game of cricket as well as letting the children run about in the play area. There is lots of open space, if you are feeling energetic you could book in a game of tennis before your strawberries and Pimm's!
Stoke Park, possibly the most obvious of all the parks is Lord Onslow's gift to Guildford. With plenty of places to picnic - either surrounded by the peace and tranquillity of the woods, the expanse of open space or by the boating lake the choice is yours. It is easy to see why it has retained its Green Flag status. The space is used for the annual County Show and more frequently for sport with Park runs every Saturday.
Homes and Gardens...
Winkworth Arboretum, owned by the National Trust is between Godalming and Hascombe. The arboretum was founded by Dr Wilfrid Fox, starting in 1938 and continuing through World War 2. He cleared the land and planted it with carefully chosen trees and shrubs for their autumnal appearance. He gave it to the National Trust in 1952. There are over 1000 species of trees as well as large collections of azalea, rhododendron, and holly on slopes leading down to landscaped garden lakes. Getrude Jekyll explored the woods in the early 20th century.
Painshill 18th century landscape garden in Cobham, was created between 1783 and 1773, by the Hon. Charles Hamilton. He embarked on two Grand Tours across Europe before acquiring the land at Painshill, his vision was to create 'living paintings' in a new style of magical garden inspired by his travels. The landscapes form living works of art into which Hamilton placed follies for dramatic effect. Largely unchanged it is a fantastic place to wander, picnic and some have even proposed at this beautiful garden.
Wisley is the flagship garden of the Royal Horticulture Society charity and one of the UK's most visited and best-loved gardens, attracting around one million visitors, to its 240 acre site, each year. There is so much to see at Wisley including: The Rock Garden, one of the oldest and most magnificent examples of Alpine plating; the Wisteria Walk created in 2017 showcasing 2 varieties intertwined for a stunning display; Battleston Hill with a display of rhododendrons in full colour during the spring and lovely shady paths in the summer; summer is the best time to visit the Bowes Lyon Rose Garden for its colour and scent; not forgetting the Arts and Crafts designed training hub and Laboratory built in 1907 that stands proudly above the beautiful Jellicoe Canal, which houses the second largest collection of water lily cultivars in the UK. At 12m high, and covering an area equal in size to 10 tennis courts, the Glasshouse has three main areas of planting-moist temperature, dry temperature and tropical with a stunning waterfall as a central feature.
Hatchlands Park was built in 1757-9 by Stiff Leadbetter for Admiral Edward Boscawen, with prize money won by the Admiral during his campaigns in the Seven Years War. Hatchlands house is fairly plain, faced with locally made bricks. Its chief architectural interests lies in its interiors; the library and saloon contain neo-classical decorations by Robert Adam, incorporating nautical motifs such as mermaids and dolphins, cannons and anchors. The landscape feature designs by Humphrey Repton, who was at the height of his career when engaged by the estate's owner, George Sumner, to improve the park and garden in 1800. In 1913 Getrude Jekyll submitted plans for a south and west parterre garden, but only the south plans were implemented.
Clandon Park House, an early 18th-century grade I listed Palladian mansion in West Clandon, stands in the south east corner of Clandon Park. The house and gardens were given to the National Trust in 1956, however, the park remains in private ownership. Some of the house's contents have also been acquired by the Trust in lieu of estate duty! The park was landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1781, there are two formal gardens on either side of the house replacing a French garden and transforming part of a disused canal into an ornamental lake. A sunken Dutch garden was created by Frances, Countess of Onslow at the north front of the house in the late 19th century. The house itself was badly damaged by fire in April 2015, probably caused by an electrical fault in the basement, leaving it "essentially a shell", with only one room, the Speaker's Parlour intact.
Polesden Lacey, the former home of socialite Margaret Greville is just 11 miles from Guildford town also owned by the National Trust. The garden's setting at Polesden Lacey is spectacular; perched on a chalk ridge and taking in views of the London skyline to the north. The gardens offer something in every season, bursting into life in spring, with snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells the first to bloom. Throughout the summer, the walled Rose Garden and Double Herbaceous Borders are full of colour and fragrance. Children will love the tree swings and natural play area - or enjoying rolling down the South Lawn.
Loseley House is still fundamentally the same house that was built in the 16th century. There have been minor internal alterations - and an entire wing was added in the 17th century and then lost. The story of Loseley Park begins with the purchase of the Manor of Loseley during the reign of Henry VII by the Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, Sir Christopher More, direct ancestor of the current occupants some 500 years later. He was a man of considerable influence and power and yet it was his son, Sir William More who began building the house. Much of the stone was reclaimed from earlier buildings, in Loseley's case from the Cistercian Abbey of Waverley ten miles away at Farnham where ruins can still be seen and some pilfered panels from Henry VII palace at Nonsuch.
Leith Hill Place has certainly had its fair share of uses and had some fascinating inhabitants. Modernised by merchants, run as school, inspiring genius, the childhood home of one of England's most famous composers and a stint as a boarding school. There has been a house on the site of Leith Hill Place since the 18th-century in 1725, it was bought by Colonel John Folliott, who decided to modernise the house dramatically and "reskinned" the 16th-century house in Palladian style which was fashionable at the time. In 1754 it was sold to Richard Hull, a Bristol merchant, who built Leith Hill Tower, which still dominates the hill today. This house has a fascinating history with strong links to the Wedgwood, Darwin and the famous composer Vaughan Williams' family.