Painshill Park’s head gardener Andy Mills on his perfect Surrey weekend
PUBLISHED: 08:44 06 August 2015 | UPDATED: 08:51 06 August 2015
Spending the weekend at your workplace doesn’t sound very relaxing, but what if you lived on-site at an 18th century landscape garden? Andy Mills, head gardener at Painshill Park in Cobham where he resides with his wife and son, tells us more…
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2015
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I have a massive commute home on a Friday – from the landscape team’s ‘mess room’ to the cottage it takes, ohh, about 50 strides. I always hope there isn’t a rabbit or a badger in the way that might delay my journey. Seriously, I know how lucky I am, and I really feel for everyone stuck on the A3 as my weekend begins about a minute after I finish work.
I start my weekend with a Friday evening dog walk around Painshill, normally with my wife and son. With 158 acres of landscape garden, there are plenty of walks to choose from. If it’s a nice evening, we might even take a picnic. Once, we were sitting in the Gothic Temple on a Friday night watching the sun go down, eating alfresco, when suddenly it belted down with rain – it was really dramatic! Back at the cottage, Friday night is finished with reading pages out loud from Harry Potter or a film; Despicable Me is an absolute favourite.
It really is such a luxury having Painshill as your back garden. After closing time, it becomes this wonderland that you have just discovered with magical follies and nature happening all around you. My son loves it, especially the hermitage as it’s like this crazy hidden den.
As you can imagine, we have become very popular since moving to the cottage at Painshill so we usually have lots of friends or family coming to see us over the weekend. I love it as I can share it with them and it gives me a different viewpoint on the landscape garden because I’m not working; plus, I get time to enjoy things like the Crystal Grotto.
On a Saturday night, we cook. My signature dish has to be roasted vegetables, pasta and good English pork sausages, all smothered in a pesto sauce and sprinkled with oak-smoked cheddar. This year, I’m hoping to grow more vegetables in the Walled Garden, which we might be able to use ourselves if they’re in abundance – one of the perks of the job! I’m not a big drinker – in fact, you are most likely to see me with a mug of lemon and honey tea. If we have guests though, we may push the boat out with a bottle of wine. For a special treat, we sometimes have a bottle of Painshill Sparkling Wine made from the historic vineyard on-site.
Sunday is definitely a day to chill. I treat myself to a lie-in – well, sort of – I get up at 6.30 instead of 6! I then might do a bit of gardening, which is a bit of a busman’s holiday but I find it relaxing.
As newbies to Surrey, there are still heaps of places to explore; it’s also great to be so close to London and the coast! Sunday afternoon might be spent visiting a local attraction or just taking the kite down to Littlehampton. I have yet to visit all the neighbouring gardens, but I have met the head gardener from Polesden Lacey and have been to Claremont. We have a huge list of local places to visit lined up for weekends to come, but because we are so content with where we live, these might not be ticked off for a while.
• Painshill Landscape Garden, Cobham KT11 1JE. Adults, £7.70; concessions, £6.60; children (five to 16), £4.20; under-fives, free; family ticket (2+2), £25. Tel: 01932 868 113. Web: painshill.co.uk