North Surrey beckons

Visitors to North Surrey are spoiled for choice. Two major gardens and two vineyards are located within a few miles of each other. The Royal Horticultural Society gardens are at Wisley, just off the A3.The restored gardens (and vineyard) are at Painshill, near Cobham. Finally, Denbies, largest of the currently productive vineyards is at Dorking, a short car journey.

Route

Leave the M25 at Junction 9 at take the Guildford road (A3). The RHS gardens are on the right hand side of the road, but getting into them takes a bit of maneuvering as the road is a dual carriageway. Take the next exit, go under the A3 and rejoin it on the northbound carriageway. Then turn off left along the next (minor) road. The RHS carpark is to your left.

The gardens provide an excellent shop and space to wander for hours, examining plants of all varieties. A recently planted vineyard is now also in evidence. Plants and gardening equipment are also on sale. There is a restaurant, but it is usually very busy, especially at weekends.There is an excellent collection of photographs of Wisley at the Angry Beaton site

After leaving Wisley, rejoin the northbound A3. Cross the M3 and take the next exit (A246) towards Cobham (take 3rd exit on roundabout). Follow this road and look for the Painshill gardens entrance on your right, after the junction with the A307.

Painshill Park

is the 18th C. garden of Charles Hamilton. Between 1738 and 1773 he set about transforming a strip of land near the River Mole into a ‘pleasure garden’ around which visitors could walk and be presented with a series of living pictures. Hamilton ran out of money, and the gardens declined under a series of owners. In 1980 Elmbridge Borough Council, purchased the 158 acres of the estate and decided to restore it. The Painshill Park Trust was then founded in 1981. The Painshill masterplan (1984) was prepared following extensive surveys and archaeology. The Director of the Trust, volunteers and staff then embarked on the restoration of the landscape, lake, plantings and buildings. This included a folly, walk, and a lakeside vineyard planted by Stephen Skelton. There is an excellent restaurant, which serves the wine produced from the vineyard grapes.

If you still have time, return to the M3 and turn south-east towards Leatherhead. Exit at junction 10 and take the A24 which by-passes the town. After about 4 miles, you will approach Dorking. Just short of the town, Denbies vineyard is signposted, with its own roundabout turnoff. The road winds through acres of vines up to the carpark in front of the vineyard buildings.

The buildings contain an excellent restaurant and shop. There is also a guided tour and tasting that includes a 3D film on the growing of the grapes and an indoor miniature railway which goes past the winery and finishes up in the vast cellars. Full details at the vineyard site

For music lovers, the site also contains a music library and Vaugham Williams collection, belonging to Surrey County Council. The entrance is to be found at the left of the main building, with the museum upstairs. The music librarian, Graham Muncy, has assembled a superb collection of exhibits and memorabilia from the life of the composer, who lived in Dorking.