Days Out: Painshill Park, Cobham, Surrey
Sunday 26 March 2006
Painshill Park is a 160-acre, 18th-century landscaped park created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton. Inspired by Renaissance artists, Hamilton designed the gardens as a series of "living paintings" and he would hold up an empty picture frame to "mount" the views for his visitors. The hills, valleys and islands are dotted with curios and follies, including a waterwheel, a Gothic temple, a temple of Bacchus and a Turkish tent. Left derelict after the Second World War, it has been restored over the past 25 years and now has Independent Charitable Trust.
Something for children
The Crystal Grotto comes into its own at Christmas, with Santa in daily residence in the twinkling cavern, but it is also open at weekends year round. Painshill runs children's workshops and activities throughout the year, including mask-making, shadow-puppetry and kite-making. Themed outdoor birthday parties include Christopher Robin's day out, the camp-building experience and treasure hunt parties.
Something for adults
One might find peace and quiet in the walled kitchen gardens and cottage and discover how landowners grew their own produce. An exhibition traces Painshill's American roots and shows how seeds from across the Atlantic changed European flora for ever. The Elysian Plain and Alpine Valley in the far-eastern corner of the park are places of tranquillity celebrated by esteemed visitors over the years.
The stylish and modern Café Hamilton won an award from Riba for its wooden design, which sits beautifully in the natural environment. It offers simple but satisfying refreshments including cakes, large pots of tea and decent cups of coffee. Feta cheese and spinach wraps or Cornish vegetarian pasties can be washed down with a glass of Chateau Painshill.
The vineyard produces sparkling, rosé and dry white wines, and Sunday visitors can try a free sample of the bottles on sale. Painshill bees provide honey available all year, while permanent mementoes include a paperweight of Painshill's Chinese bridge.
Accessible for people with disabilities.
Open throughout the year, including bank holidays (closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Nov-Feb 11am-4pm (last entry 3pm), closed Mon and Tues; Mar-Oct 10.30am-6pm (last entry 4.30pm), closed Mon. Admission £6 adults, £3.50 children aged five to 16, £18 for a family ticket.
How to get there
Painshill Park, Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey (01932 868113; painshill.co.uk).
By road: exit Junction 10 of the M25, then A3 (Cobham exit) and entrance is off A245. Free car park 200m east of A245/A307 roundabout.
By rail: from London Waterloo to Cobham or Weybridge, then by taxi.
By bus: route 408 (01372 731701) between Sutton/ Leatherhead/Cobham (not Sundays) or route 515 (01932 745230 ) between Kingston/ Esher/Wisley/Guildford.
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