Re-discovering Deepdene’s historic paths

From 12th of December 2016 we began work to resurface two more historic paths on the Deepdene Trail to help visitors find their way and get around. The paths had been opened by hand earlier this year by the hard work of the Friends of Deepdene.

Early Deepdene paths

From its earliest times there has been a path network throughout Deepdene that has encouraged visitors to explore.

In 1653 when Charles Howard became owner of the estate, Deepdene mainly consisted of the deep valley at the heart of the grounds that are the Gardens of Deepdene today. He created there, over the next 20 years, one of the first truly Italianate Gardens in England. This ambition was greatly supported by the steep sides of the valley into which he cut paths creating Italian-style terraces in the manner of a theatre.

Sir Charles has shaped his valley in the form of a theatre with more than six narrow walks on the sides, like rows of seats, one above the other. . .’

John Aubrey describing his visit to Deepdene in 1673

The Hope family’s path network

In 1807 Thomas Hope became Deepdene’s owner followed by his son Henry Hope in 1832 and it is from their time that the main paths of the Deepdene Trail were formed.

‘Here I was much gratified with a pleasing picture of landscape-gardening; the quiet of echoing dells; and the refreshing coolness of caves and subterranean passages, all which combined to render this spot a kind of Fairy Region. Flower- gardens, laid out in parterres, with much taste, here mingle the aspect of trim neatness with rude nature, in walks winding though woods and plantations and containing several ruined grottoes and hermitages, well adapted, by their solitary situations, to study and reverie.’

Timbs, 1822, describing Thomas Hope’s Deepdene in A Picturesque Promenade Round Dorking

The first path we are resurfacing formed a ‘serpentine’ walk through the woods that linked the Gardens to the Terrace. This drawing from 1825 shows the first version of this path in Thomas Hope’s time.

Early path highlighted on map from Britton, J. 1826 Descriptive account of the Deepdene, the Seat of Thomas Hope Esq. © Reproduced by kind permission of the Lambeth Archives department

When Henry took over he completed this route. He also added a new path linking the parterre – the formal garden area that has always been a feature of the gardens at Deepdene – to the Middle Walk.


These paths remained throughout the Deepdene, playing host to visitors such as Winston Churchill who came to see his aunt, the Duchess of Marlborough, when she rented the estate at the turn of the 20th century. Later they entertained guests of the Deepdene Hotel in the 1920’s and 1930’s. As the estate was broken up and the House repurposed as headquarters for the Southern Railway (1939-1966), however, many started to become less cared for and overgrown.

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Friends of Deepdene

This year these two particular paths were uncovered by the Friends of Deepdene. The volunteers worked with us to locate and map out these historic routes then by hand they cut through the overgrowth revealing the routes we use today. Thanks to their hard work we can now relay the surface onto these paths allowing visitors to get around the Trail with more ease and follow these historic routes like visitors did in the past.

Join us!

Would you like to join the Friends on site and get involved in work like this? They currently work two days every week (Wednesday-Thursday). If you are interested in conserving this fantastic historic landscape, looking for a bit of regular exercise or are a dab hand with a pair of secateurs and willing to lend a hand, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact:

The Deepdene Trail is now open!

Saturday 10th September we opened The Deepdene Trail to the public for the very first time on our Grand Opening Day!

Due to open at 10am, eager visitors, dressed for the predicted rain were at the entrance looking for maps and guidance by 9.15am. Our amazing volunteers who had given up their Saturday to help out were on hand to welcome them as we put finishing touches on our decorations.

entranceVisitors’ enthusiasm throughout the day kept smiles on all our faces as we ignored the rain and laid on music, face painting, guided tours and story telling.

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Costumed actors brightened up the Gardens and local artists recreated the views from the Terrace.grotto-view

The young winners of our Children’s Art competition ‘My Dream Garden’ were on hand to accept their prizes from our partners, the Dorking District Fine Arts Society, as their works of art went on display at Dorking Halls.

Over 200 visitors slogged through the storm to visit the freshly restored Hope Mausoleum specially open for the event and admire the Thomas Hope inspired settee on display inside.

inside-mausoleumOver 500 people arrived on the Trail during the day to discover and explore.  They were greeted by our fabulous, enthusiastic volunteers – if you are one of them a huge thanks to you!

The day was a huge success, feedback has been enormously positive, The Trail is getting good media coverage and many more activities are planned for the coming year.

The Partner’s Private View on Friday was attended by over 120 people who listened to Lord Fellowes of West Stafford describe Thomas Hope’s accomplishments and declared the Trail open by revealing our new Coade stone lion in the centre of the Deepdene estate Gardens.

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If you haven’t visited The Trail yet then do see , download the new App or pop by the Council Offices to pick up a map.

Friends of Deepdene March-June update

In the last few months the Friends of Deepdene have stepped up their activities on the Trail and we welcomed fresh support for the team.

FoD barbecue
The team at the annual barbecue celebrating their hard work.

Trail blazing

One of the fantastic achievements of the Friends of huge benefit to the Trail has been the creation of several new connecting paths. These paths were marked out to follow historic routes located on old maps that in several areas had become impassable. With chainsaws, bowsaws and loppers at the ready the Friends have cleared these paths providing great new connections around the estate.

Outside groups lend a hand

The Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) Partnerships team and a MVDC apprentice joined the Friends on site and helped install some essential new steps on one of our new paths. It also gave them some idea of the work that has gone into the Trail by the volunteers.

The Gatwick Greenspace Group also joined us for a few days supporting the conservation of the landscape and helping clear invasive species like, Himalayan Balsam and bracken.

Most recently students from local Starhurst School have been lending a hand on site and learning new skills with our volunteers.

Staff at Deepdene Terraceb
Council team supports the Friends of Deepdene on site.


Deepdene Gardens

The new entrance way area to the Trail at Deepdene Gardens has been made much more visible from the road for walkers and there has been a lot of work clearing debris on the new paths.

Cutting new paths in Deepdene Gardens

The Friends have further widened the paths in the Gardens along the Middle walk and are cutting new spurs that will take visitors off the middle walk into the centre of the Gardens. They worked to carefully clean the flight of flint steps above the Grotto which they will be helping repair before the opening in September 2016.

The volunteers also helped support friendly archaeologist, Justin Russell of Archaeology South-East, who voluntarily performed the standing building survey for the WWII structures in the Garden.

Betchworth Park

At Betchworth Park the Friends have worked on de-frithing the lime trees (trimming the unwanted sprouting growth around the base), leaf-blowing and clearing invasive species. This already popular public path will provide a historic link through the wider estate from Deepdene Gardens to Betchworth Castle and Brockham.

Betchworth Castle

The Friends spent a couple of sessions out at Betchworth Castle helping Martin Higgins lay a new iron stone path next to lovely new railings commissioned by Martin for the Deepdene Trail. This key path has now made the unstable north side of the Castle accessible to future walkers on the Deepdene Trail.

Betchwroth railing
The new railing at Betchworth Castle.

Chart Park

At Chart Park the Friends have been keeping on top of the rapidly growing meadow and grassland, strimming, mowing and pulling out bracken. The area has been lovely throughout spring and early summer.

Helping the community

The Friends of Deepdene also spent a couple of days at Ranmore bike jumps clearing the area for users.ranmore blog

Join us!

Would you like to join the Friends on site and get involved in work like this? They currently work two days every week (Wednesday-Thursday). If you are interested in conserving this fantastic historic landscape, looking for a bit of regular exercise or are a dab hand with a pair of secateurs and willing to lend a hand, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact:


Deepdene Garden renovations begin – the Grotto

The exciting renovations at Deepdene Gardens began last month.

Universal Stone expert stonemasons have made great steps already in works on the key architectural features of the Deepdene Gardens – especially the Grotto.

The Grotto – background

The Grotto at the top of the Gardens began life as a failed tunnel into the hill ordered by then owner of the Deepdene, Charles Howard in the 17th century. The intention was to tunnel through the hill to the far side to enjoy the views; however the sandy soil led to a collapse. Howard kept the entranceway and turned it instead into a Grotto with flint lined archways.

In Thomas Hope’s time this simple Grotto was extravagantly restyled. The flint was covered with brick and render interiors with small alcoves for statues, a decorative balustrade was erected above the vault and a statue of the Egyptian God Seti took pride of place.

In WWII the decorative area was repurposed probably as an ammunition store. The statues had been sold years before and the military installed new interior walls and frontage to contain their supplies.

grotto 1
Interior of Grotto, Jan 2016. Photography with thanks to Alex Lyons.
grotto 2
Exterior of Grotto, Jan 2016. Photography with thanks to Alex Lyons

The Grotto – repairs

Universal Stone began work to return the Grotto to how it looked in Thomas Hope’s time by first recovering the broken remains of the stone balustrade.

grotto 3
Recovered stone balustrade

This remaining stone will be repaired and integrated into a replacement that will once again line the top of the vaulted Grotto. The vault itself was completely uncovered for assessment giving us a glimpse at the original structure.

grotto 4
The exposed vault of the Grotto

Leaf litter was dug away from the exterior allowing us to see the extent of original walls and identify how far the balustrade extended to.

The WWII brick work has been recorded and carefully removed from the inside and from the entrance recreating the classic view of the Grotto as it was in Hope’s garden.

grotto 5
The exposed interior of Hope’s Grotto.

The remaining stone is being sensitively repaired and we will keep as much of the 19th century fabric as possible.

The main structural work will be complete by the end of June and the garden renovations will be ready for visitors in September – we can’t wait!

Children’s ‘My dream garden’ art competition launched

Design your own Dream Garden

This week we launched our children’s art competition ‘My Dream Garden’ in partnership with Junior Youth Voice. We have challenged the young people of Mole Valley to help us celebrate the opening of The Deepdene Trail in Dorking on 10th September by designing their own Dream Garden.

There have been gardens in Deepdene for over 300 years and each owner dreamt up their own new styles for the garden. One famous owner, Thomas Hope, added a Temple and statues of Egyptian Gods and lions. We look forward to seeing what exciting new designs our competitors come up with.



Judging, Winners & Prizes

Entries will be judged by a panel including representatives from Youth Voice, Mole Valley District council and a local artist.

There will be 3 winners chosen from each age group: 4-7yrs, 8-11yrs and 12-16yrs.

A special prize will be given to the School who sends in the most entries.

All 9 winners and a representative from the winning school will be invited to attend the Grand Opening of The Deepdene Trail on 10th September 2016 at Deepdene Gardens to receive their prizes.

Individual prizes have been sponsored by Dorking Decorative Arts Society as part of the 2016 Heritage Open Days celebration ( ). The 9 winning individual entries will also go on display at Dorking Halls from the 10th of September . They will also be featured online at .

How to enter

Do you know a budding artist? Then encourage them to draw/paint/create a collage or create on their computer their own Dream Garden design on an A4 or A3 sheet of paper.

Post or drop off the entry to:

My Dream Garden: The Deepdene Trail, Mole Valley District Council, Pippbrook, Reigate Road, Dorking, Rh4 1SJ Or email it to:

All entries must be received by 7th June 2016, please only enter one drawing.

Don’t forget to fill in your details: NAME, AGE, SCHOOL, ADDRESS, EMAIL, PHONE

For full T’s & C’s see our website or contact us at

This competition is run by The Deepdene Trail in partnership with Junior Youth Voice and Youth Voice. The Deepdene Trail is supported by the Heritage Lottery art1


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: