Monday 7 September 2020

The Deepdene Trail

With the pair of us having more free weekends this year we have been able to do more local exploring. There's always good stuff to be found right under your nose. This time the Deepdene Trail near Dorking calleth......

In its heyday the 17th century Deepdene House was a socking great pile with an equally impressive 12 mile estate.  Over time it evolved to meet the changing tastes of its owners and by the early 19th century it reflected the influence of Thomas Hope's Grand Tour with its Italianate and Classical architectural features. By the 20th century it was a hotel which was requisitioned during WWII as offices for the headquarters of the Southern Railway. Sadly I can't show you photos as it had fallen into such a state of disrepair by 1969 that it had been demolished. Nowadays the site is occupied by an instantly forgettable and unimaginative modern box of a building. However, all is not lost because the formal garden and some of the grounds are now open for the public to wander around freely.

This is the Embattled Tower which was put up in 1825 by Hope. It covers the now blocked in tunnels that an earlier owner, Charles Howard, used as his own personal lab. Amongst other things he experimented with saffron and tanning leather. 

Actually tunnelling seems to have been a bit of an obsession with this gentleman as he also tried to dig through the hill on which the garden is built. His attempts were thwarted by the sandy soil and he had to abandon his plan. His efforts were converted into a grotto in which pieces of sculpture were displayed in the now empty niches [sadly some dear little soul has decided that it could be further improved with a recent daub of smurf blue paint]. During the war it sported a brick interior and was used as an ammo store.

This is the view looking back along the length of the garden with Coady the lion.....the least scary lion I've ever seen. Think more Parsley the Lion from "The Herbs" and you'll be on the track. He's made from Coade stone hence his name.

Beyond the garden there are a variety of trails you can take. We chose the one that skirted round the edge of the nearby golf club. I liked their original take on outdoor seating and it's always a good day in my book if I find a new weather vane to add to the ever expanding collection.

It led us to the rather poignant site of the Hope's Neo Classical family mausoleum which was built in 1818. Tragically Thomas's seven year old son had died following a trip abroad with his Father in 1815. His remains were interred here and later joined by Thomas in 1831 and seven other family members. It had been the target of vandals over the years and was bricked up in 1957 to prevent any further damage being caused to it. It was restored in 2009.

It makes for a pleasant destination in which to while away an hour or so on a warm Sunday morning.  We were pleased to have finally made there, but in all honesty it's probably not one I would return to on a regular basis. It's a bit tame and muted for my weird taste!!


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