Visitors take a look behind the scenes

 “I was surprised at how much there was to see and hadn’t really appreciated [The Deepdene Estate’s] significance nationally.”
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November walks

Throughout November we ran our first series of behind the scenes walks for visitors showing them our plans for the new Deepdene Trail that explores the Deepdene Estate and will open in September 2016. The walks were illustrated by stories from the past provided by Project Manager, Alexander Bagnall.

Five walks were held: two shorter walks exploring the paths, old and new, of Deepdene Gardens and three ‘Hard Hat Tours’ that extended the walk to take in the mysteries being uncovered at the Hope Mausoleum.

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Alex leading the group in Deepdene Gardens

 

The shorter walks were run with Mole Valley District Council employees and Kuoni Travel employees, the ‘Hard Hat Tours’ were open to the public. We had a fantastic response, the ‘Hard Hat Tours’ were fully booked and we have a waiting list for the next set to be announced in the New Year.

 “The enthusiasm of Alex was wonderful and I was sorry his talk wasn’t longer.”
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Cotmandene

The walks all took in the panoramas from the heart of the Cotmandene that in the past would have revealed to visitors their first view of the Deepdene Estate. Visitors also discovered the remnants of the 19th century kitchen gardens of the great Deepdene Estate still surviving on the Cotmandene.

Deepdene Gardens

Moving into the Deepdene Gardens we took visitors on a scramble through the new entrance to the gardens revealed by the hard work of the Friends of Deepdene volunteers. Over the next 10 months this will be transformed into an accessible entrance way.

After trekking through the tree and rhododendron-lined paths the route opened out to reveal the Deepdene Gardens. Alex delighted the visitors with stories about the garden’s, and estate’s, historical owners especially Regency arbiter of taste, Thomas Hope. He also highlighted how the landscape has changed through time from its earliest creators into the era of World War Two.

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Hope Mausoleum

For the adventurous walkers on our ‘Hard Hat tours’ we then descended down to Chart Park and the Deepdene Trail’s hidden gem – the Hope Mausoleum. Visitors discovered the sad tale behind its construction in memory of Thomas Hope’s young son who died, aged only 7 and that Thomas Hope is himself laid to rest inside Mausoleum’s vaulted chamber.

The Mausoleum was not at its best as we are in the process of conserving and reconstructing the damaged architecture. The works aim to be completed by February 2016 and the Mausoleum will be a key feature of the new Deepdene Trail when it opens in 2016.

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“A buried treasure. . .”
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Look out for more walks next year!

Many thanks to our visitors, staff and Kuoni Travel for supporting the project and to our partners including Dorking Golf Club who also supplied our visitors with welcome refreshments.

Another set of behind the scenes tours will be announced in the New Year so keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

 What surprised you the most about the Deepdene Estate? – “That it existed!”

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The story so far . . .

First Steps

The first steps towards the successful launch of our project Hope Springs Eternal: The Deepdene Trail began in 2011 with Alexander Bagnall, Mole Valley District Council’s Tree and Countryside Officer. But the story wouldn’t have the happy ending it does without the support of the Friends of Deepdene – a group of inspired locals interested in conservation and the history of the Deepdene.

Thomas Hope’s Mausoleum

Alex’s interest sparked in 2008 with the V&A exhibition about Thomas Hope, owner of the Deepdene Estate in the early 19th century. As part of Alex’s role at the time he was responsible for the Chart Park area. A physical remnant of Thomas Hope’s time was still just visible in the Park, the Hope Mausoleum.

Hope Mausoleum 2008
The Hope Mausoleum 2008 – this mysterious chunk of stone and concrete was all you could see.

Alex contacted the Mausoleum and Monuments Trust who helped start a campaign to save the Hope Mausoleum. As a result in 2009 the Mausoleum was partially excavated and a year later survey work led to the first look inside in over 50 years.

The Friends of Deepdene

Around this time Bryan, Surrey Wildlife Trust Warden for the Deepdene Terrace became Warden of Chart Park. Soon other locals became interested in supporting the conservation of the site and by the end of 2011 a group of volunteers formed – the Friends of Deepdene, dedicated to the conservation of the Deepdene Estate with interests in local wildlife and local history.

Alex worked with The Friends’ volunteers tirelessly over the next year to highlight areas of interest around the Deepdene in order to find out what could be salvaged of the once great Estate.

Uncovering the Deepdene Estate

In 2012 they cleared the Coach Road in Betchworth Park, opened up views to the Terrace from Glory Wood and restored the beautiful steps up to the Terrace.

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Volunteers working on the Deepdene Terrace steps 2012

They also uncovered the remaining shape of the Deepdene Gardens from the undergrowth with the support of owner’s Kuoni Travel, lots of hard work and a few good fires!

In early 2013, the Friends put their backs to the shovels with work at Betchworth Castle and at the Hope Mausoleum. Other works over the year included improvements to the Deepdene Terrace and a great effort to clear Betchworth Park of Himalayan Basalm, an invasive and destructive plant.

First success – Development funding awarded

This hard work revealing what the Deepdene Estate still had to offer allowed Alex to put in a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery in 2013. They awarded funding to the Mole Valley District Council to conduct surveys, consultations and other key activities to further develop plans on how to rescue the Deepdene Estate.

Alex oversaw the development work seeking supporters, working out what needed to be repaired and conserved and developing the community engagement plan. The Friends continued to maintain the Estate and find ways to return the land to its historic roots.

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The Friends returning areas of Chart Park to pleasant grassland alongside their new car – ‘Jude’

The Friends also gained two key pieces of equipment that year, a car generously donated for transporting tools – nicknamed ‘Jude’ – and a shipping container that they transformed into a storage area – the Bothy.

2014 saw further development of the proposed project by Mole Valley District Council and Alex alongside the support on site by the Friends of Deepdene. A range of partners and stakeholders came forward to ensure the project’s success (see details on our partners).

Project Success!

Earlier in 2015 the project succeeded with the award of a £1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The funds will be used to repair key architectural and landscape features to relink the fragmented parcels of land of the historic Deepdene Estate. We will also engage the local community and wider public in rediscovering this Great Lost Landscape. The new Deepdene Trail which will open to the public in September 2016.

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A big THANK YOU to all the volunteers who supported Alex and the Council and to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting us in making this project possible. On-going support from our will ensure the Deepdene Estate can be enjoyed by all its visitors for many years to come.

Find out more about the Friends of Deepdene  at:

http://www.surreycommunity.info/friendsofdeepdene/