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Things to do in Woking - where to eat, shop and visit

PUBLISHED: 09:51 28 April 2015

Woking, Surrey

Woking, Surrey

Archant

These are exciting times for Woking with ambitious plans under way for the town centre. There are already plenty of things on our radar though…

The WWF Living Planet Centre is one of the greenest buildings in the countryThe WWF Living Planet Centre is one of the greenest buildings in the country

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2015

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The Woking Martian

Junction of Chobham Road and Church Street East, Woking GU21 6HN

Sure to give any new visitor to the town a bit of a shock, the giant Martian that towers over central Woking has become a well known landmark for locals. A dramatic sculpture by Michael Condron, the celebrated alien was unveiled in 1998 to mark the town’s connection with epic sci-fi novel, The War of the Worlds, by HG Wells. As a local resident, the author based some of the story around the area, including the famous scene where the invaders set Horsell Common ablaze. We usually like to give you a phone number too at this point, but as far as we know not even ET could phone home…

The Hawker Hunter on a pole…

Crown Square, Woking GU21 6HR

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, with a Martian staring down at you, a couple of hundred yards away in Crown Square, right outside The Big Apple entertainment centre, there is a full-size Hawker Hunter jet aircraft stuck on top of a pole. Originally there to advertise The Planet Centre, which was subsequently renamed The Big Apple, this striking artwork is well worth a look in its own right. The centre itself offers everything from bowling and Laserquest to Planet Zoom – a soft play area with snake slides, activity towers and ball pools.

The Lightbox

Chobham Road, Woking GU21 4AA: 01483 737800 / thelightbox.org.uk

An award-winning arts centre, The Lightbox has just got better and better since it first opened in 2007. Now a hub of the community, it offers everything from a gallery, museum and shop to a café and venue hire. There’s always loads happening, but look out for the ‘hot ticket’ this month, the Damien Hirst: New Religion exhibition, running from Saturday March 28 to Sunday July 5. Dealing with issues such as belief, mortality, love and consumption, it’s certainly set to be a talking point. Entrance is with an annual pass (only a fiver – go on…!). For more on the centre’s café, click here.

The Living Planet Centre

WWF-UK, Brewery Road, Woking GU21 4LL: 01483 426444 / wwf.org.uk

Billed as one of the greenest buildings in the UK, the home of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is open to the public from Monday to Friday, offering an exciting, interactive exhibition that brings the wild to life right in the centre of Woking (admission free, with donations welcome). In addition, they also offer a behind-the-scenes tour of the centre (booking required). Tours take place every other Friday at 10am, with the next ones planned for April 17 and May 1, 15 and 29 (suggested donation of £3). There are also events and workshops throughout the year. For a full article on this state-of-the-art building, click here.

Shah Jahan Mosque

149 Oriental Road, Woking GU22 7BA: 01483 760679 / shahjahanmosque.org.uk

Well worth a wander down the road to see, this beautiful little building was the first purpose-built mosque in the country. Founded in 1889 by a Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, it fell into disuse early in the 20th century but was re-established around 1915 when the Woking Muslim Mission was founded. The mosque is now a Grade II listed building and is in constant use as a place of prayer. Guided tours are available by arrangement. For tour enquiries, send an e-mail to the honorary secretary at office@shahjahanmosque.org.uk.

Woking Palace

Carters Lane, Old Woking GU22 8LG: 07722 299026 / woking-palace.org

First recorded as a manor house in 1272, these atmospheric ruins now occupy a tranquil area between the River Wey and Broadmead Wey Navigation. Used by Henry VII and Henry VIII as a hunting lodge, the palace had royal apartments, a kitchen and even a couple of bowling alleys. The ruins are reached by a private road but can only be visited on special open days by courtesy of The Friends of Woking Palace. Why not join in? Contact info@woking-palace.org and for a very reasonable fiver you can become a Friend of the palace too. Next open days, by the way, are Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

Basingstoke Canal

Near the town centre GU21 4AA: walkinginsurrey.co.uk/woking.php

We know how fond Surrey Life readers are of walking in the countryside, so have a look at the website above and head for the section entitled Circular Rambles on the Basingstoke Canal. It has a huge list of lovely walks from a short trot of 2.5 miles to a longer ramble of around 10 miles. Download a map, pack your sarnies (don’t forget some bread for the ducks) and off you go. We particularly fancied Walk 2 – a circular ramble starting at the railway station and down White Rose Lane taking in Woking Park, Old Woking and the River Wey. Keep an eye open for woodpeckers, nuthatches and lapwings.

Woking Shopping Centre

Town Centre, Woking GU21 6GH: 01483 741000 / woking-shopping.co.uk

Tricky, really, to pick out one feature here. Woking town centre has blossomed into a huge shopping arena focused on the mall and surrounding area. Within a few minutes of a shopping-bag laden stagger, you can find the Town Mall, The Bandstand Mall, Market Walk, Peacocks Place and Wolsey Place. There is a huge variety of shops – independents and big names jostling for your credit card – as well as numerous places to grab a bite. The hot tip food-wise for this month is the new training restaurant of the Tante Marie cookery school, offering a range of modern British and European food, which was due to open on Thursday April 2 (for more on that, pick up next month’s Surrey Life). Why not make a day of it and take in the latest show at The New Victoria Theatre too?

Woking Town Gate

Town Square, Woking GU21 6YG: ukattraction.com/south-east-england/town-gate.htm

This is a lovely piece of architecture in the form of a sculptured iron gate that firmly places the town centre in context. Designed and built in 1992 by artist and blacksmith Alan Dawson, at another time when Woking was starting to undergo considerable redevelopment, the gate features a number of interesting Woking-related details – such as the 19th century brick kilns, the canal, railway and a spaceship from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds (for more on that, check out No.1). Why not see if you can spot any more!

Cellar Magneval Wine Bar & Caveau

3 Church Path, Woking GU21 6EJ: 01483 730407 / cellarmagneval.com

You’ll need a rest and a refuel after “doing” Woking, and this lovely little place tucked away in the old part of the town comes highly recommended. Run by Thierry and Jo de Magneval, it opened in November 2013 and has a loyal following already. Named Newcomer of the Year in the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2014, Cellar Magneval offers a bit more than food and drink, with a host of events ranging from tasting evenings, live music, Soiree Francais and Café Scientific too.

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Next month: Godalming

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