Woking: where to eat, shop and visit
PUBLISHED: 17:06 18 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:34 20 February 2013
With RHS Wisley, Surrey History Centre and award-winning art gallery and museum The Lightbox all on the doorstep, there's certainly no shortage of things to do in Woking.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2011
A weekend in...
With RHS Wisley, Surrey History Centre and award-winning art gallery and museum The Lightbox all on the doorstep, theres certainly no shortage of things to do in Woking. Matthew Williams plans out the perfect weekend
Delve into history
With records spanning all the way from a parchment deed dating back to the reign of Henry II to the hair and teeth that a distant relative of Napoleon Bonaparte sent to a housekeeper at Claremont, Surrey History Centre (01483 518737) on Goldsworth Road is always worth a visit. Open from 9.30am to 4pm on Saturdays, their six miles of strongroom-held shelving hold the written memory of our county over nine centuries.
Go shopping with E.T.
As well as two major shopping centres, with all the high street brands youd expect, there is also the general market, open every Monday to Saturday on the Market Square. Woking shoppers may have got used to the sight of the town centre martian a tribute to the author HG Wells who lived in the town for a brief period and his most famous work, The War of the Worlds, which was written here but newcomers still occasionally get a shock
Become a fashion follower
Since 2007, The Lightbox (01483 737800) art gallery has received a footfall that far outweighed expectations and has won not only the 100,000 Art Fund Museums and Galleries Prize but also a RIBA award for its architects, Marks Barfield. Find out why this community inspired project has proven such a success by visiting their latest exhibition, Essential Accessories: Handbags and Heels, which runs until July and celebrates the history of fashion.
Prepare to rock out
It doesnt come much more relaxing than a visit to the RHS flagship garden, Wisley. As well as the always impressive blooms, planting is now well under way for a new Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden, which will feature over 4,000 roses and 5,000 herbaceous plants when it opens to the public this summer. Wisley is also celebrating 100 years of its famous rock garden with its just-launched new crevice garden and the accompanying photographic exhibition.
Explore some ruins
Though merely ruins these days, Woking Palacehas an illustrious past. In its heyday, during the Tudor period, it was a hunting lodge of sorts for passing royals. Although little now remains of the palace itself, its heritage lives on and, what is more, the ruins are located in an idyllic setting by the River Wey. There are regular open days.
And, if you cant get enough of rocks and ruins, a short drive away youll find Newark Priory, near Pyrford. Though its not accessible to the public, sitting on private land, that only adds to the mystique of what is surely one of the icons of Surrey. It can be viewed from the riverside towpath and makes for a great walking destination on a sunny day.
Dont touch the mushrooms
The Horsell Common Preservation Society, which manages the area most famous as a martian crash site in War of the Worlds, has engaged the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust to design a wetland habitat for its new headquarters and visitor centre at Heather Farm a derelict mushroom growing facility off Chobham Road so exciting developments to come. Today, visitors will find common land that Mark Kermode from BBC Twos The Culture Show saw fit to award with an alternative Blue Plaque (for its HG Wells associations). It is also home to a stunning Pegasus statue, which was carved from a damaged oak tree, and can be found opposite the Brewery Road car park.
My Woking weekend
Need to know:
Where to eat: A semi-finalist on MasterChef: The Professionals last year, Ben Piette has opened London House restaurant (07930 113809) in Old Woking. Where to drink: Although neither are in the centre, The Maybury Inn (01483 722115) on Maybury Hill and the independently owned Red Lion (01483 768497) at Horsell are both worth the journey. Something to take home: Perhaps outside most budgets, but if youre lucky enough to work in the banking sector and have a spare 150,000 or so, how about McLaren Automotives new MP4-12C? Pre-order essential Somewhere to stay: Gorse Hill (0844 980 2306) on Hook Heath Road is probably the pick of the bunch hotel-wise. Owned by De Vere, its elegant country mansion architecture offers a welcome break. Top tip: If you happen to find yourself walking down Carlton Road past the Tante Marie cookery school and are bad mouthing Gordon Ramsay, for whatever reason, keep your voice down. He part owns it...
Getting there: Easily accessible by rail, there is a direct rail service from London Waterloo and regular services to the south and south-west. The M25, M3 and A3 are a ten-minute drive.
Get in touch: with what you most love about Woking and how youd spend your perfect weekend there atwww.facebook.com/SurreyLife or comment below.
Next month: Croydon
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2010
Woking: where to eat, shop and visit
Once a base for King Henry VIII and his hunting parties, Woking has seen alien invasions and a space age technology centre move it firmly into the modern age. Stephen Bain looks at some of the many reasons you may wish to pay a visit
A BRIEF HISTORY
Home to the Surrey History Centre which itself is home to nearly six miles of documents recording the countys history Woking has a fair few stories of its own to tell.
The town had solid links with the Tudor dynasty, and in fact a treaty linking Britain with Austria, known as the Treaty of Woking, was signed by Henry VII at the palace in 1490.
In 1838, Woking Common Station was opened on the London and Southampton line. This was the first time a railway system had been through the area, and the station remains one of the main stops on that route.
Woking is also notable for having the first legal cremation, which took place on March 26, 1885.
However, the towns biggest claim to fame has been its association with HG Wells and his novel The War of the Worlds, written in 1898 while the author was a resident in Maybury Road, Woking.
These days, the McLaren Technology Centre, home to Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, has firmly positioned the town at the forefront of cutting edge space age development.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
As well as not one but two major shopping centres, with all the High Street brands you could possibly wish for, you can also look for products in the general market, open every Monday to Saturday on the Market Square. Additionally, those seeking local produce related goods can drop by the farmers market, held on the third Thursday of every month. This month, it will be taking place on Thursday May 20.
GRAB A BITE
Located on Victoria Road, just outside the town centre, Charlie Choys (01483 772 666) offers some of the best cuisine from India, China, Thailand and Europe. After your meal, you can venture downstairs and enjoy a quiet drink in the bar.
A five-minute drive from the town centre, youll also find The Maybury Inn (01483 722115), an ideal place for either a sociable drink with friends or an intimate dinner date, with a variety of popular dishes.
Alternatively, LAroma (01483 770742), between the Peacocks Shopping Centre and Woking train station, provides fine Italian cuisine and is very popular with local residents.
An important site in the 15th century, Woking Palace was the residence of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, between 1466 and 1471. Later on, Henry VIII continued the extension and enlargement of the palace, which was popular with the royals for hunting trips. By the 1620s, however, the palace had been abandoned and fell into disrepair.
Today, the ruins are wonderfully maintained by volunteers and the site is in the course of being professionally excavated. Access to the public is restricted to a few open days a year, and as it happens two such open days take place this month on Saturday May 8 and Sunday May 9. Open between 10am and 5pm, visitors will have the chance to take guided tours around the eight-acre site.
OUT AND ABOUT
With its profile increasing at a rapid rate, The Lightbox art gallery and museum is a relatively recent addition to the town and combines the historical with the contemporary. Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the same people behind the London Eye, The Lightbox includes a variety of paintings and sculptures as well as a wide range of creative workshops throughout the year for adults and children alike.
Around ten minutes drive from the town centre, Goldsworth Park is a great choice for a relaxing walk, away from all the hustle and bustle of town life. Take a seat by the lake and watch the world go by or get some exercise and stroll round the lake at whatever pace suits you.
Alternatively, take a walk around the town centre and look out for the tributes to HG Wells, most notably a replica of one of the notorious aliens from The War of the Worlds.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2009
Ten things you never knew about Woking
Following a hugely successful 2008, which saw the town's art gallery and museum claim multiple awards and Lewis Hamilton return victorious from Brazil to the McLaren Technology Centre, Woking has a lot to shout about. Here, MATTHEW WILLIAMS takes a look at ten things you may not know about the place
1. Aliens are landing
In tribute to the author HG Wells, who lived in Woking from 1895 to the end of 1896 (find out more about his Surrey links from page 42), the town has a rather unusual piece of public art. The Martian, designed by St Martin's School of Art graduate Michael Condron, celebrates Woking's connection with HG and his most famous work, The War of the Worlds, which was written here. The Martian landing even took place on nearby Horsell Common.
2. Let there be light
In 1993, 77 locals got together to ensure that Woking's position as the only town in Surrey without a museum was put right - and how! Having opened its doors in September 2007, The Lightbox has received a footfall that far outweighed expectations and has won not only the 100,000 Art Fund Museums and Galleries Prize but also an RIBA award for its architects, Marks Barfield. With increasingly high profile exhibitions, as well as the Ingram Collection, which is on long-term loan from media millionaire and owner of Woking Town Football Club, Chris Ingram, there is always plenty going on. Sir David Attenborough recently visited to give a special talk to coincide with the gallery's Garden Giants exhibition, which ran until the New Year.
3. Out from the rubble
Though merely ruins these days, Woking Palace had its heyday in Tudor times, as a hunting lodge of sorts for passing royals. Henry VIII spent considerable sums of money on Woking during his reign but in 1620 the Manor of Woking was granted to one of James I's courtiers, Sir Edward Zouch, who pulled down much of the palace buildings and used the material elsewhere in the area. So, although little now remains of the palace itself, its heritage lives on - and, what is more, the ruins are located in an idyllic setting by the River Wey.
4. Multicultural Woking
Woking is home to what was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain, the Shah Jehan, which was founded in 1889 to cater for the spiritual needs of students attending the Oriental Institute at Maybury. The mosque was built by an Orientalist named Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, who purchased what had been the Royal Dramatic College - a large Victorian building in extensive grounds that was a retirement home for retired actors - to found his Oriental Institute. Today, the mosque is the focus of Woking's Muslim community.
5. Cooking up a storm
Last year, Gordon Ramsay became the majority shareholder of Tante Marie - the oldest independent cookery school in the UK - alongside Andrew Maxwell, who is now the principal, and catering connoisseur Lyndy Redding. Lyndy also owns the company Absolute Taste, with Woking-based McLaren boss Ron Dennis, and one of the many divisions of the company is 'Gordon Ramsay by Absolute Taste', which offers his food at events and parties. Past functions have included David and Victoria Beckham's pre-World Cup party in 2006 and Gordon's own 40th birthday party. Tante Marie was originally seen as a finishing school for girls but now Ramsay and co. aim to make it the launch pad for many a high profile catering career.
6. Looking to the future
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, local authorities worldwide were challenged to address global environmental concerns by taking action locally. Since then, Woking has been a hive of green activity, with the council even being granted the Queen's award for enterprise, in recognition of its ground-breaking approach to sustainability, in 2000. The town is believed to be the first UK authority to have adopted a comprehensive climate change strategy that is likely to meet the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution targets of 60 per cent reductions of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050 and 80 per cent by 2100.
7. A place for champions
While training to become a future world champion, Lewis Hamilton lived in a flat by Woking railway station for a while and would run to work at the McLaren Technology Centre as part of his training. Meanwhile, McLaren owner Ron Dennis is a Woking lad, born and bred, who left school at 16 to become an apprentice mechanic. Now one of the most powerful men in Formula One, Dennis will surely be hoping that Hamilton's success will inspire the team on to greater things this year.
8. All dressed up
Surrey County Council's best kept secret is hidden in Westfield Primary School. Surrey Arts Wardrobe is crammed from floor to ceiling with theatrical costumes, accessories and props. It was originally set up to handle the growing number of costumes accumulated by the Surrey Youth Theatre and now has such a well-stocked collection it is able to hire out garments for anything from fancy dress parties to full blown stage productions. Keep an eye out for March's Surrey Life magazine as we go behind the scenes to find out more.
9. On the large side
The largest cemetery in Britain, and probably the largest in Western Europe, Brookwood is so enormous that it even got its own railway line. Opened in the 1850s, after Parliament had ordered the closure of the more crowded churchyards in London, the 500 acres of Surrey countryside that is Brookwood was carefully landscaped, with a wealth of exotic trees and shrubs planted under the guidance of the leading gardeners from Kew. At the time of its opening, it was the largest cemetery in the world.
10. Back in time
Having celebrated its tenth anniversary last year with a rather remarkable baseball discovery, Surrey History Centre has become quite used to being the centre of attention for the national press. If it wasn't bragging rights to sport invention, it was Newsnight, Who Do You Think You Are? or Radio 4 that kept them in the media spotlight. Usually, however, the main purpose of the centre is to allow any member of the public the chance to look into any aspect of Surrey history, whether they want to find out more about their home or their family. With nearly six miles of strongroom shelving, packed full to the brim with old records, it is a haven for those with an historical itch to scratch.