Painshill Park is an pretty 18th century landscaped garden and lake based near Oxshott and Cobham in Surrey.
Set in 200 acres of peaceful ancient woodland, Toy’s Hill is a idyllic place to come for a short walk. The area forms part of the Lower Greensand Ridge and is the highest point of the Kent Downs, meaning glorious, rewarding views can be found across the Weald of Kent.
There are a few different options walk wise ranging from a half a mile pushchair-friendly option to 6 miles of tramping through Chartwell country. The pushchair route is a nice half hour amble. There is a good viewpoint at the site of the old Weardale Manor plus a couple of dens for the kids to explore.
The 145 room Weadale Manor site is fascinating. All that is left now is the line of one wall but you can imagine how stately it would have been in its time. It was built in 1906 by Lord Weardale, a former MP and opposer of war and suffrage. After his death in 1923 his wife rarely visited, preferring to stay up in London. After her death in 1934 it fell into a state of disrepair and was demolished in 1939. Just 33 years of use.
The natural landscape has also been influenced by history. The old economy at Toy’s Hill was based upon charcoal burning, churtstone quarrying and livestock, and its mark can still be seen on walks here. Charcoal pits and quarries can be found and many of the ancient trees have been pollarded, which was done for grazing purposes.
Toy’s Hill contains plenty of nature for little ones to spot including bats, dormice, grass snakes, woodpeckers, bluebells, stag beetles and marigolds.
I do apologise for the not so great quality of the pictures I post on here. I vaguely knew I wanted to start a blog about all this, and imagined all the arty, lifestyley shots I would take, but the reality has been a little different.
For a start I often forget my camera so have to rely on my iphone. The amount of stuff you have to cart around with you when you have a small person is jokes. Half an hour down the road I think CAMERA! CRAP! But it’s too late by then.
Then when I do remember the camera I never have my hands free. Or the wrong lens is attached. Or I am messing around with the aperture and whatnot then his nibs starts whinging. Or I am half lugging buggerlugs, or change bag, or looking at a map, or holding an umbrella. Or generally just trying to manage being out and about on my own with a small person, which is doable, but is hard work. So I hope to improve in the future, but it’s a work in progress for now.
A while back I drove up to Dulwich village. Very easy with a sat nav. Parking is easy too. Dulwich Park. Loads of spaces. Free. On my agenda was the park, the village, the art gallery, and if I only did one of these things I would be happy. Often with a small person, I find you have to scale back your expectations. Pre Fred I was so used to dashing round at a million miles an hour getting this and that done and forgoing a lunch here and there to fit it all in. You can’t do that with a baby. You have to work around them. You have to think about timings and naps and food and forward plan it all. Well I do. And that’s fine too. It just means that maybe you won’t see or do as much as before, but maybe you will see a different side to things, or visit places you wouldn’t have done without children. And I love that.
We walked around Dulwich Park and admired the ducks in the pond before stopping at the Pavilion cafe in the park. This cafe is great for babies and toddlers. Loads of buggy-maneuvering room, child-friendly meals, and even a small play area with some toys and books.
I’ve been to the village before but I didn’t really remember it, other than it was quite pretty and villagey. In fact, it still it, but there isn’t much there really. A few gift shops and trendy cafes and estate agents. I think I’ve been spoilt by living in the greatest place in London ever (Crouch End but you knew that right?).
But Dulwich does have an art gallery. Small but perfectly formed. Freddie fell asleep just as I got there, which was good news. He’s the type of baby that you have to keep moving with all the time. Does anyone else have this trouble? In supermarkets, it’s like some kind of trolley dash. No stopping allowed.
I could have spent this time taking better pictures, but instead I decided to join my son in having a doze. Sorry Dulwich!
Petworth is the antiques heart of Sussex (can you tell I like antique rummaging yet?) It’s also a beautiful small town that has the added bonus of the National Trust’s Petworth Park on its doorstep; a park that seems even grander than Richmond Park.
We visited when the little guy was about 10 months old. I know this as it was mid autumn and a glorious vest and shorts day. Days like this are even better than hot summer days I think, as they are unexpected. I remember sitting lazily in the sunlit gardens at Petworth Park, Freddie content, and thinking ‘this is what happy feels like’.
To earn my rest I trogged round the shops with Freddie in a sling. I managed about an hour before he became too heavy (I’ve always wondered how people manage toddlers in slings? Please tell me the trick. I’ve always wanted to be that mum who carries their kid not pushed them, without success). I would suggest (now that Freddie is a very active 18 month old) that a trip to Petworth shops is only really doable with a immobile baby.
Petworth is an upmarket place. I realised this as soon as I saw the first price tag of £500. Hmm don’t think I’ll be bringing much back. But it’s enjoyable all the same and the stuff for sale is good for inspiration. Plus most of the shopkeepers loved Freddie and he seemed pretty happy to be nosing around too!
I unfortunately didn’t take many pictures (too intimidated!) but here is a list of the key shops.
You can walk round in an hour no problem. There are also some fab places to eat, though we chose to have a picnic in the park.
Back to the park…(and this place is GREAT for older children) as we all know National Trust is a beacon to parents across the land. Even without all the extra kid friendly stuff they put on, just having some safe outdoor green space to run around is worth paying the membership for. Freddie was too young to enjoy the NT for himself at this point so it was a selfish visit for moi.
The park consists of formal gardens and a 700 acre deer park. It was the deer park that captured my heart, probably partly to do with the weather being so blooming glorious for October. Sublime rolling hills as far as the eye could see with a backdrop of Petworth House – a massive 17th century mansion. For the green fingered out there, the gardens were fashioned by Capability Brown. And for the artists, Turner then immortalized these gardens into his famous paintings. If you have time to go inside the mansion, you would also be rewarded with an epic collection of art from Turner, Blake, Reynolds and van Dyck.
Coming here made me realise how much there is going on culturally outside of London. Yes, you may to look for it and drive here there and everywhere, but it’s oh so rewarding when you find somewhere special like Petworth.
Staffhurst Woods, near Oxted Surrey, is managed by the Woodland Trust. The best time of year to visit is April/May as the ground is transformed into a carpet of bluebells. However it’s good any time of year (bar mid winter) as the paths are wide and accessible enough for a buggy.
I’m always trying to find places to go and walk around that are doable with a pushchair. It’s not straightforward as there is no one place to go for reference. A lot of footpaths are accessible but you don’t know till you get there.Generally cycle paths, byways and bridle ways are ok but they often traverse roads too. Doing a search for disused railway paths often brings up other ideas of places to stroll safely. I’ve also found these websites helpful when browsing for accessible places to walk.
Anyway, I take the little guy for a walk in Staffhurst Woods on a regular basis. In the early days it was for me – I needed to get out of the house during mat leave otherwise I would have gone mad. And there is something about woodland (and heathland and the coast!) that really settles my soul and makes me feel more at ease and content.
As my son gets older it’s more to give him a change of scene. He loves woodland. He likes looking at all the leaves. And now he’s walking there is a whole new dimension. I can put him on the ground and let him explore for himself.