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Top National Trust winter walks in Surrey revealed

PUBLISHED: 15:58 19 December 2013 | UPDATED: 15:58 19 December 2013

River Wey Navigations by John Miller

River Wey Navigations by John Miller

©NTPL/John Miller

Make it your New Year’s resolution to get outdoors and closer to nature with the National Trust in Surrey. To help you decide where to visit, Mike Buffin, the National Trust’s gardens and parks adviser and author, shares his top six winter ideas

The Boathouse at Winkworth Arboretum by Andrew ButlerThe Boathouse at Winkworth Arboretum by Andrew Butler

1. Polesden Lacey, near Dorking

Polesden Lacey contains what is possibly one of the first ever winter gardens. It was designed by Graham Stuart Thomas, a National Trust gardens advisor, and is planted on a compact domestic scale. During winter the garden is alive with the scent of viburnums and Christmas box; is stuffed full of bulbs and at its heart has a small group of very imposing Persian iron woods (Parrotia persica). This large, tree-like shrub produces masses of tiny, spider-like flowers in early January that make the tips of the branches shimmer red.

• The grounds are open daily in January and February and the house is open on weekends for Glorious Glimpse house tours. Look out for the volunteering coffee mornings, countryside tours and half term events.

Ham House by John MillarHam House by John Millar

2. Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming

This winter garden is set against the backdrop of the National Trust’s only arboretum (tree collection). The garden was planted by Dr Fox, the creator of the arboretum, and it contains a wide variety of winter flowering shrubs planted in a relaxed woodland setting. There is so much to see, including the winter beauty of its impressive tree collection, the massive drifts of winter bulbs such as Narcissus ‘January Gold’, and various winter flowering shrubs, such as the witch hazels and winter flowering Japanese camellias (Camellia sasanqua).

• Winkworth Arboretum and tea room is open every day in January and February

Polesden Lacey by Nick MeersPolesden Lacey by Nick Meers

3. Claremont Landscape Garden, near Esher

If you prefer to enjoy the brilliance of some of the National Trust’s best landscape gardens visit Claremont. Walk around the lake, see the island and pavilion, grotto and many viewpoints and vistas. There are hidden features to enjoy such as the children’s play area and the thatched cottage. Don’t miss the Camellia Terrace, which is a mass of blooms from December to May.

• Claremont Landscape Garden, tea room and shop open every day. The Belvedere Tower is also open on New Year’s Day.

4. Ham House and Garden, in Richmond

With formal gardens, topiary and tree lined arches that look magical in the frost, especially with grand backdrop of Ham House and the river Thames, this is a must visit. Alternatively, go for an atmospheric winter walk along misty rivers banks and crunch on the frost at Morden Hall Park near Merton, Runnymede near Egham, and the River Wey Navigations near Guildford.

• Ham House and Garden is open on 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31 December and weekends only during January and February.

• Morden Hall Park and café is open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Join in their Wild Winter Walk event on 2 January.

5. Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl, near Haslemere

Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl is a marvel. It has the feeling of a true wilderness with panoramic views across a vast natural amphitheatre. The middle of the Punchbowl has a secret feel and grazing Highland cattle. What’s so remarkable is that A3 used to run straight through this landscape, with its noise and near-constant traffic jams. Since the opening of the Hindhead tunnel, paths, cycle routes and bridleways have been reconnected and peace and calm reign. After a stroll, retreat to the cosy café for a delicious warming treat. There is tea and cake, soups and stews.

• Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punchbowl are countryside sites, open all year round. The café is open every day except Christmas Day.

6. Box Hill, near Dorking

There’s nothing like a winter walk to build up a bit of an appetite. Head out in the spectacular wintery landscape of the Surrey Hills. You can pick up a leaflet showing you the best walking routes. After a stroll, retreat to a cosy interior for a delicious warming treat. Visitors can tuck into seasonal delights including soups and hot pots and there is even a roaring log fire to warm chilled hands and feet.

• Box Hill is a countryside sites, open all year round. The cafe is open every day except Christmas Day.

***

If you visit any of these locations this winter, make sure to share your pictures @ www.surreylife.co.uk/photos

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