Monday, 25 September 2017

An Early Autumn at Painshill Park

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Painshill Park Cobham SurreySomebody gave us a 10-month buyagift voucher that was to expire today (!) and as is our way, at the last minute we searched for somewhere near to use it. Mike recommended Painshill Park in Cobham Surrey, coincidentally, I've always wanted to go there after M's class went there for a field trip last year. (I blogged about that visit here, where M's school went to secret trips with their year level, took photographs, selected a photo to paint and had them framed for a school exhibit).

The lady at the till said she hasn't seen one of our vouchers before and after consulting with another staff member, accepted our voucher under "membership" without any trouble at all. Painshill Park is an 18th century landscape garden originally created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773, and restored in 1981. Having two very young children, we visit a place just to go for a walk and have a picnic and we did just that.

There are so many things to see at Painshill Park, at first I wasn't really sure what to feel about the unrealness of everything in sight, e.g., how to make sure that you've got a raised flag all the time? Have a metal flag, like that one we saw atop a Turkish tent, permanently flying.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Painshill Park Cobham Surrey
The man-made grotto dates back to
1760.

When I went to their website after M's trip last year, I was sorry for M's class as they didn't get to see the cave in the premises. It's only open on weekends, and the opening times also depend on whether there will be stewards available. Before visiting, I had the impression the cave was natural. We learned that the cave is man-made, and that it took 10 years to build. This extraordinary folly dates back to 1760 and hundreds of thousands of crystals including calcite, gypsum, quartz, and fluorite (AND GLUE!) have been used to create it. The stones with the holes were apparently sourced from the Cotswolds. Basically, Hamilton was inspired by Renaissance and contemporary art and visits to Italy on the Grand Tour, and he decided to create a tranquil landscape setting enriched by follies, water, trees, shrubberies and a vineyard. I took this picture of the grotto (right photo) towards the exit where you could see the landscape outside. For something man-made, this grotto is huge. "I want one!" I joked to Mike, probably not that far from Hamilton's reaction when he saw these things in Italy. I asked the steward how much it was to make a cave like this. Apparently, the recent restorations alone cost about half a million pounds.


gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Painshill Park Cobham Surrey
On the way to the Gothic Tower. Looking for
Rapunzel. Forever a school girl.
At least the waterwheel in the park has some use, is was restored in 1987 and it is one of the largest working wheels in the UK. It was originally created to feed the Cascade and Lake, and to provide water for the plantings. Unfortunately, it wasn't running during our visit. There's also a mini-vineyard reminiscent of the Chianti Region. Painshill produces its own wine from that restored vineyard.

"Hermitage - Hamilton advertised for a hermit to live as a recluse for seven years in the Hermitage. Legend has it that the hermit was found drinking in a local inn within three weeks."

We were very lucky that even though we had visited during the weekend, it was not that busy and we could see the trees already trying their best to change colours, and the hint of autumn was so beautiful. We managed to visit the sites that were only open during weekends like the aforementioned grotto and also the Gothic Tower. Well, I stayed with H whilst Mike and M climbed the 99 steps and caught sight of the amazing views beyond the Painshill landscape to four counties. It said in the leaflet that Canary Wharf and Windsor Castle can be seen on a clear day. Mike wasn't convinced and said you would see them only if you know where they are, and if you do, they are really tiny.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Painshill Park Cobham SurreyOverall, it was a lovely day out and the kiddies enjoyed it very much, especially H who was so enamoured with the swans.

A personal note about Surrey: it used to be my place of work, at the same university where Mike got his bachelor's degree a decade before I worked there, a University of London unit located in the countryside. Mike's paternal ancestors lived in Surrey for centuries. My son H was also born in a Surrey hospital. In literature, Surrey is where Privet Drive is located, where the Dursleys (Harry Potter's unkind relations) lived.

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