Painshill Park - The Place I LoveWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
Like so many people, a lot of life is spent on a PC, (tablet, laptop) and I needed somewhere to escape from the world of telephone calls, meetings, Microsoft Office, Email, Social Media and the World Wide Web. So a few years back, I started to explore what was on my doorstep, via my mountain bike. Much to my delight I found Surrey to be scenic and picturesque with a great history. I found pleasure riding along the wonderful canal tow paths or round Esher Common, Oxshot Woods, Ripley and much more. I started to find cycling therapeutic, enjoyable and exciting, discovering new places on each ride. In addition, it was one morning whilst cycling away from Cobham over the A3 and towards the Seven Hills Road that I saw the sign for Painshill Park and thought, why not.
Even before I paid my entrance fee, I felt like I was entering into something special, as the ride (drive) into the car park is bumpy like a country lane, and crossing over a futuristic bridge, called the Mole Bridge, which is slightly reminiscent of the Millennium Bridge in London gives me a sense that I am leaving my everyday existence and entering into a new and magical land. As a child, I loved books where the key characters (usually children) found and crossed into a new world, full of escapades and magnificent characters; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Enchanted Wood, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Midnight Folk were books that “fire(d) my imagination”. Once you cross over the bridge to your left is a walled garden, full of colourful flowers and Roman statues, just like the one Mary Lennox discovered in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.
Straight ahead is a sixties style architecture building, that serves as a ticket office and souvenir shop. Once you pay your entry fee, for adults it is £7.70, ( prices alternate for minors, groups and concessions), you come out of the shop, turn left, walk through a large path way, and then before your eyes, you can’t help but be transfixed by the sheer exquisiteness of the green grass, hills and trees, it so serene. The landscape is not just the appeal of Painshill Park, what also adds so much to the mystique of this place, are the follies, non-particle buildings that were built to blend with the scenery, popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries, especially in Great Britain, influenced by Roman, Turkish and such like architecture.
Painshill Park was created by the Hon. Charles Hamilton, (13th November 1704 – 11th September 1786) younger son of James Hamilton, 6th Earl of Abercorn, a British politician, who sat in the Irish House of Commons (1727 and 1763) and the British House of Commons (1741 to 1747). He purchased the land in 1738. Furthermore, in England in the 18th Century, there was a cultural revolution in terms of gardening, many felt that the British Garden then was static and stuck in tradition, they wanted the garden to be an experience, that you didn’t see everything all at once, that you could walk through it, and upon this walk discover new things. These ideologies were known as The English Landscape Movement, and by 1730, the movement had grown momentum. Hamilton, being inspired by The English Landscape Movement and Italian Renaissance and contemporary art, combined the two, and gave his vision to make Painshill Park a ‘living work of art, in other words, to make the visitor feel as if they were in a painting. For me, Painshill Park makes me feel as though I am in a classic novel. Nevertheless in a way that falls into his original intention.
Invited guests of Hamilton would come and see the wonders he had created. Moreover Hamilton spent the next 35 years perfecting the Park until, unfortunately, he ran out of money and was forced to sell to Benjamin Bond Hopkins in 1773. Painshill Park changed owners over the next two centuries, and the park became totally defunct in 1948. It may have stayed that way until, 32 years later in 1980, Elmbridge Borough Council purchased 158 acres out of 200 acres of the original park, and by 1981 thanks to the newly formed charity, Painshill Park Trust Ltd,the park was restored it to its former glory, and it was opened to the general public, which continues to prosper today. I am pleased that Painshill Park Trust Ltd resurrected Painshill Park and its follies, which always delight me. The Ruined Abbey has a sense of mystery; the Turkish Tent and The Gothic Temple offer marvellous views as well as taking you to another place. The Gothic Tower with its marble floor and symbols, makes me recall Edger Allan Poe or such like novels. Whilst sitting in the Turkish Tent you feel like a General looking down at your soldiers, and planning battle. The Waterwheel is mesmerising as it turns in this tranquil setting. The Crystal Grotto is magical, as I walk into an enchanted cave and the sound of running water is truly a delightful encounter, as I start to recall the children’s classic novel of Charles Kingsley The Water-Babies.
There is an active Vineyard, which produces Hamilton’s Painshill Sparkling Wine, which gives me a feeling that I am in the South of France, and I adore the walk to the Gothic Tower, which is situated at the far west end of the park, on a hill and surrounded by a wonderful wooded lane. As I stroll through the woods towards the sinister looking tower, I start to feel that I am Van Helsing embarking on a mission to rid the world of dark forces, and as for the tower itself, it’s eerie and as I climb the winding steps to the top of the tower, I really do feel I am in Castle Dracula, and once I get to the top I adore the stunning view of the park, whilst hoping no vampire creeps up behind me.
There are more delights within Painshill Park, like The Chinese Bridge and The Cascade, and each with its own merit that adds to the place and which gives me a sense of travel, history and art that sparks my imagination. I love the place, and go once a year around springtime, it helps to inspire and relax me at the same time. I do like to go in the week when there are less people , but that’s just me as I do at times enjoy my own company. However it does cater for families and by the entrance there is a reasonably priced café, with nice snacks ranging from hot meals to sandwiches, and fully licenced. So, if like me, you fancy a day away from it all, it’s ideal, or if you fancy a romantic walk with your lover it’s perfect, you even have a wedding ceremony there. If you want a nice and memorable day with the family it’s also ideal because Painshill Park is truly a wonderful and magical place and the creator, Charles Hamilton, summed it up the best a “living work of art”.
Painshill Park Official Site
Dedicated to a Very Special and Wonderful Friend
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