10 reasons to visit Walton-on-Thames
PUBLISHED: 15:56 29 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:12 29 October 2015
With its enviable riverside location and array of shops and restaurants, there's plenty to enjoy in Walton-on-Thames. Pete Gardner takes us on a tour...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2015
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The Kowhai Tree
Homebase, New Zealand Avenue KT12 1XA
In the car park of Homebase (stay with me...), opposite The Heart shopping centre, there is a tiny plaque dedicated to the New Zealand armed forces personnel who were hospitalised in the now demolished Mount Felix House (more of which later). The plaque is located under a native New Zealand tree, the kowhai, not often seen in the UK as it prefers a moderate climate. In the summer, the tree produces beautiful, strange-shaped, yellow flowers.
The Heart Shopping Centre
New Zealand Avenue KT12 1GH: 01932 225225 / heartshopping.co.uk
If you’ve been blundering around Homebase car park looking for trees then you’re not far from The Heart, the place to go for a bit of retail therapy. Open Monday to Saturday, 9.30am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm, as well as all the big names there are also some interesting independents. Got a passion for photography? Walton Cameras (tel 01932 246346), a family-run business, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As well as stocking a wide range of camera gear, they also offer expert advice (closed Sundays).
HWM Aston Martin
New Zealand Avenue KT12 1AT: 01932 506947 / hmwastonmartin.co.uk
It’s impossible to pass HWM Aston Martin and not notice the forecourt full of gleaming British sports cars. What is less apparent is just how much history there is behind this iconic Surrey showroom. Hersham and Walton Motors (HWM) was founded by partners George Abecassis, a works driver for Aston Martin, and John Heath, a talented self-taught engineer, in 1938. The business started out originally as a racing car manufacturer, and in fact they were the race team that launched the career of Stirling Moss. Also the world’s oldest Aston Martin dealership, HWM also deal in more modern exotica too – such as the rare Aston Martin One-77.
The Clock Tower
Mount Felix, Bridge Street KT12 1AY
You should be appreciating by now how compact the town is, as this next little gem is within sight of HWM. The Clock Tower is all that is left now of Mount Felix, which was once the wonderful Italianate residence of the Earl of Tankerville. Originally a Georgian house redesigned by the architect Charles Barry, it later went on to be used during World War I as a hospital for troops from New Zealand. Demolished in 1967, all that remains of the building today is this charming tower. Once a bakehouse and brewery, it now houses an 18th century clock and is home to several offices.
Thames Path National Trail
Walton-on-Thames sits right next to probably the most famous river on the planet (the clue is in the name) so now it’s time to get your trainers on and go for a toddle. We’re not suggesting you tackle the entire Thames Path National Trail – it’s 184 miles long from the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in London – but here you’ll find a lovely section with easy access, parking and places to eat. You can do as much or as little as you like, including hopping on the ferry when you get to Shepperton to travel back upstream to Weybridge and a walk back to Walton.
Staying by the river, pause a moment to gaze at the bridge spanning the Thames. Believe it or not, this masterpiece of civil engineering, which opened in 2013, is the sixth bridge to link Walton-on-Thames with the north side of the river. The first bridge, built in 1750, is featured in a painting by Canaletto. Made of wood, it lasted just over 33 years. The current bridge replaced a pair of rusty old iron ones and was the first new Thames road crossing for over 20 years. By the way, don’t confuse this one with Walton Bridge in New York… that one was washed away in the major floods of 2011.
Cecil Hepworth Playhouse
Hurst Grove KT12 1AU: 01932 254750 / elmbridge.gov.uk
This bijou theatre, originally built as a studio by British film director Cecil Hepworth in the early 1900s and bequeathed by him to the local dramatic societies, was recently given a major facelift. A much-loved arts venue in the community, the building once hosted the Walton Hop – reputed to be the first disco in the UK. Now available for hire with a box office, stage, orchestra pit and all the trappings of a major theatre, this month you can catch Submarine, a film hosted by the Walton and Weybridge Film Society, on Wednesday October 21.
St Mary’s Parish Church
Church Street KT12 2QS: 01932 224238 / waltonparish.org.uk
Standing on the highest point in the town and dating from before the Domesday Book, this Grade I listed building boasts a peal of eight bells in the square flint tower. The church has a number of claims to fame with a monument to Field Marshall Viscount Shannon in the form of a sculpture by Francois Roubiliac. There is also a black marble slab in the chancel floor commemorating William Lilly, a famous astrologer, and outside is the grave of Edward “Lumpy” Stevens. Now, if you’re a cricket fan you will know that Lumpy was responsible, by his bowling, for the introduction of the third stump… howzat?!
Station Avenue Memorial
Station Avenue KT12 1NR
On September 27, 1940, Flight Sergeant Charles Sydney, aged just 25, was shot down and killed in his Spitfire R6767. The plane crashed very close to Walton-on-Thames railway station following a dogfight in the skies above the town, and a local resident remembers the Spitfire coming down near where Gainsborough Court now stands. A memorial to the young pilot was unveiled in 2000. Two years later, a further memorial in the form of a bench was also placed here, to offer a place for quiet reflection.
Prima Fila Restaurant
14 Bridge Street KT12 1AA: 01932 228222 / primafila.co.uk
At this ristorante Italiano, the owner’s Sicilian influence means a delicious meal awaits. Try the Rigatoni con Salsiccia – if your Italian’s not up to scratch, this translates roughly into a dish of Italian sausage, dolcelatte cheese, cream and tomato… yum! Follow this up with the Tartufo Classico (sabayon semifreddo and gianduja ice cream coated with crushed hazlenuts and cocoa powder) and you’ll need that walk along the Thames. Other favourites in the town include another authentic Italian, Zio’s, in Ashley Road (worth it for the dessert trolley alone); Thai restaurant Khao Sarn in Bridge Street; and The Anglers, in Manor Road, a great gastropub on the banks of the Thames.