So, off on our travels again, at last. Philosopher’s first stay away since his illness, at Wotton House Hotel, near Dorking in the depths of Surrey – a lovely old place with beautiful gardens. We stopped off at Box Hill on our way there, and then went to the RHS Wisley Garden on our final day. Had a very good time except weather was very dodgy, with some incredibly heavy rain showers – more like deluges – and one reason for the trip was to visit Philosopher’s sister, who lives in Woking, and is sadly very ill.
Well, first things first, Box Hill. I had been there once, with the first Mr Battleaxe, but despite the fact that Philosopher grew up nearby and went to school in Godalming, he had never been. It is all very National Trustified now, but the view is much as I remember it. Now, one thing about Surrey. I always think of it as being built up, full of very expensive commuter homes. Well, we saw a fair amount of that, but the area we were in is totally empty. It was called the Surrey Hills Area of Natural Beauty, though, so I suppose it is protected… Here is the view from Box Hill and also view from another nearby place we stopped at on another day – Newlands Corner, which Philosopher did visit as a little boy. Empty countryside. There are loads of fantastic walks round there – but the weather wasn’t good enough. (Incidentally, in 1926, Agatha Christie staged her disappearance from Newlands Corner – and later reappeared at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate, which I also know well!)
Wotton House is in the middle of the countryside near Dorking, down a drive which must be over half a mile long. It is massive, an extended seventeenth and eighteenth century house which was the family seat of the Evelyn Family. John Evelyn was born there in 1620, and lived there much of his adult life. He designed the gardens, which are now listed, and very beautiful – Palladian temples, parterres, raised terraces, romantic stream with bridges and rustic waterfall, great big trees, and a proper walk-in grotto. Fortunately, the extensions to make more hotel bedrooms and a restaurant etc have been done sympathetically to blend in with the old building. We were given a map with lots of walks around the wider estate – but the weather wasn’t good enough… Here are some photos.
Because it was our first outing, I had booked a classy room in the old part of the hotel, and very nice it was too – absolutely enormous. We ate in the restaurant both nights, which was fine, and not too expensive. Staff were pleasant and friendly too – but clearly, at like most places, there were probably too few of them… When we sussed out the pool, it was full of kids – half-term plus Jubilee get-away, so we gave it a miss. However, Battleaxe would recommend the hotel – there is so much to do round about it – lots of walking, lovely little villages, many NT places. Would tend to avoid peak wedding season though.
Our visit to Woking passed as expected – a bit sad. We had to go to the shops afterwards for me to buy a fleece – had only brought the flimsiest of clothes thinking it would be, as usual these days, hot and sunny, but not so. It was really chilly – the hotel had the heating on. Then we went to the Lightbox Gallery – nice place, very good shop, but only one small worthwhile exhibition, on Scottish Art, for which we had to pay £7.50 a head – too much. A shame, because the Lightbox has got a very good permanent collection, the Ingram Collection, part of which came to the then Jerwood many moons ago.
Next day, we went to the RHS Garden at Wisley. Philosopher has been before, years ago, but I had never been. Totally excellent and I had not realised how absolutely enormous it is – no way could we see everything in one visit – will have to go again! It is now maximum rose season so we spent a good deal of time on those. The cornus (dogwood) trees were also in full flower – we had not realised how spectacular they are. Here are some pretty pictures to end with.