Things to do in Cobham - where to eat, shop and visit
PUBLISHED: 07:10 08 December 2014 | UPDATED: 12:28 02 May 2018
Painshill Park (strictly no reproduction)
Part of the area known as 'Britain's Beverly Hills', and a stone's throw from the Chelsea FC training ground, it's no wonder Cobham is a Mecca for celebrities...
A potted history…
Once held by Chertsey Abbey, the ancient settlement of ‘Covenham’ gradually grew into the town we now know as Cobham.
The church of St Andrew’s, near the centre, dates from the 12th century, holds a Grade I listing and has many interesting features – in particular its fabulous traceried windows dating from the 1300s and the original 12th century tower.
On another point of interest, the town has close links with motoring and aviation history. Nearby is Brooklands – originally a 2.75-mile long racetrack and aerodrome that opened in 1907 and now a museum of anything and everything that has wheels and an engine.
Wander along the high street and you’ll eventually come to the River Mole where the Riverhill Project, led by The Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust, has opened up and regenerated a stretch of the riverbank with a viewing platform and access to Surrey’s oldest working mill.
Before we leave Cobham’s history books, spare a thought for the Cobham Diggers. Described in the mid-1600’s as a radical sect, they declared the earth was ‘common treasury’ and set about cultivating common land for the ordinary people rather than the landed gentry. They were particularly active in Cobham and also at one point worked the soil at St George’s Hill nearby in the somewhat vain hope of sustainability. They ran out of luck when the landowners suppressed their movement with the law courts and by destroying their shelters and crops.
Today, as one of the most expensive places to buy outside London, Cobham is an upmarket town with its fair share of celebs frequenting its thriving shops and cafés.
What to see
• Not to be missed, Painshill Park is described simply as “England’s most elegant 18th century landscape garden”. You can find it just north of the town near the main A3. With free entry every Wednesday in November, and the last of the autumn colour to be enjoyed, now is the time to go (tel: 01932 868113 / painshill.co.uk).
• The nearby Brooklands Museum (01932 857381) has a huge range of motoring and aviation displays, including the Brooklands Concorde where you can ‘fly’ in the first Concorde ever made - without leaving the ground.
• Now this was a surprise; there is a Shetland Pony Club offering taster sessions and rides for the kids at 79a Stoke Road. Visiting is by appointment at weekends so give them a call on 01372 844077 and trot along to the fun.
• The Medicine Garden in Downside Road is another of Cobham’s hidden gems. Originally a Victorian walled garden, the whole area was developed by landscape designer Paul Studholme and is now a local facility for small businesses, a café, farm shop and garden shop. See themedicinegarden.com.
• At the other end of the month, Cobham hosts its very own Christmas extravaganza, Cobham at Xmas, on the last Friday in November with a yet-to-be-named celebrity opening it – so toddle along and find those difficult presents for uncles and aunts.
• Finally, you’ll have to wait for springtime for this one, but the beautifully restored Cobham Mill, dating back to the early 19th century, is the only surviving, fully-working watermill in Surrey. The Grade II listed mill is open on the second Sunday of the month from April to October (2-5pm) or, for group visits by arrangement, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shop names seem to get more and more bizarre these days, but there is probably a good reason for calling the boutique at 7 Holly Parade ‘Evie Loves Toast’. In any event, inside, you’ll find gifts galore!
Fancy updating your wardrobe with a bit of second-hand chic this autumn? Then head to Phoenix, situated in a charming 18th century cottage at 5 Church Street, where they specialise in re-selling designer clothing and accessories at a fraction of their original price.
Another place worth a visit is the family-run Cobham Cameras, at 17 Oakdene Parade, who celebrated their 30th anniversary last year. Offering a host of digital imaging services, including transferring old cine films and video to DVD, they also sell prints, posters, canvases, calendars and photo books.
For the longest established shop in the town, head to Farrants newsagents, at 15-17 High Street, a family-owned business since 1896.
Last but not least, held on the fourth Saturday of every month in Hollyhedge Road, there’s also a popular farmers’ market featuring some 25 stalls.
You won’t go hungry in Cobham, with loads of places to try.
For a pub meal, visit Wildwood at The Old Bear near Riverhill (01932 860360), where they also hold pizza-making parties.
We’ve already mentioned The Medicine Garden (see far right) but its café comes recommended too: “It’s one of the best,” says local resident Susan Rayner.
Elsewhere, the long-established Italian, La Capanna (01932 862121), at the far end of the High Street, offers “Italian regional cuisine with a twist”, while at the other end of the town, Cleaver Cobham (01932 868794) has handmade Scottish burgers, locally-sourced pork ribs and Norfolk chicken.
Once described as “Britain’s Beverly Hills”, not surprisingly, bearing in mind the property prices, a good gaggle of celebs are settled near the town. This is also helped by the fact that Chelsea Football Club has its training ground in nearby Stoke d’Abernon. So, we have John Terry, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba among (many) others…
Located just off the main A3 London to Portsmouth road, Cobham lies between Weybridge and Oxshott. If you’re going by car, set the satnav to KT11 1JG – there are a couple of car parks very near the town centre. Trains run to Cobham and Stoke d’Abernon railway station on the London Waterloo line served by South West Trains. Buses? No problem. The 515/515A routes run from Guildford via Ripley to Cobham and then on to Esher.
My favourite Cobham
The principal of Notre Dame School, David Plummer reveals his five favourite things about Cobham...
1 One of the things I love most about Cobham is the sense of verdant countryside in this part of the world but the ease of access to London and major airports. I also like the fact that Cobham is a bustling town that maintains the feel of a friendly village.
2 I love visiting the beautifully landscaped riverbank where families come to picnic, feed the ducks and paddle next to the restored and fully working watermill. I also enjoy the historic area of the Tilt and the country walk over the wooden bridge to Downside (and the Cricketers Pub), via the excellent bakery in Stoke d’Abernon.
3 Another thing I enjoy is strolling around Painshill Park, which is opposite Notre Dame. The restored 18th century landscape garden, which was originally created by the Honourable Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773, holds the rare Europa Nostra Medal for its exemplary restoration.
4 The first settlement in Cobham is recorded in the Domesday Book and the present church, St Andrew’s, dates from the middle of the 12th century. It is Cobham’s oldest building, contains a unique brass of the nativity and each year it becomes the centre of the town’s Heritage Day, which is always so well-attended. I also love the beautiful old buildings in Church Street and remember well the delight in finding out one of my favourite poets, Matthew Arnold, lived nearby.
5 Finally, you can’t beat a meal out at the Old Plough, which has a great menu with seasonal specials. Indeed, Cobham is blessed with excellent restaurants and cafés for all pockets.
P.S. And, of course, we’ve also got the best girls’ school for miles around too!