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.

Deepdene_map_1825
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.

deepdene_paths_1870

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:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

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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.

gardens
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:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

 

Friends of Deepdene: Volunteer Update

The Friends of Deepdene have been providing essential support across the landscape of the Deepdene since 2011 but over the last few months they have been working particularly hard on The Trail.

The Hope Mausoleum

At the Hope Mausoleum the Friends donned their hard hats and high vis vests and spent time digging out the remains of the walls of the Mausoleum under the supervision of the Stone Masons PAYE. Their hard work helped reveal which elements of the stone work could be rescued and the extent of the walls that needed to be rebuilt.

The repairs to the Mausoleum are being carried out by PAYE, expert stone masons, on the advice we received from English Heritage to ensure the last surviving building by Thomas Hope is sensitively restored.

Chart Park

The Mausoleum sits nestled in the historic Chart Park – now mostly occupied by Dorking Golf Course. There are some areas around the Mausoleum however that the volunteers have been working hard to clear of brush and debris so that it can eventually return to grassland and wildflowers as it was in the early 19th century.

Chart park
Chart Park

Betchworth Castle

Further afield at the Eastern edge of the new Deepdene Trail lies the dramatic ruins of Betchworth Castle. Here at the end of last year the volunteers joined Castle owner, Martin Higgins, in moving young Yew trees growing on the slopes of the hill up to line the terrace around the Castle joining some ancient yews that still remained. This will strengthen the terrace which when the Trail is open will form part of a circuit of the Castle.

FoD volunteers at Betchworth 9.12.15
Volunteers at Betchworth Castle
Betchworth Castle 9.12.15
Betchworth Castle

Deepdene Gardens

mosaic stone_ Deepdene Gardens find_13.1.16  (1)
Mosaic Stone found in Deepdene Gardens

A major part of the Friends’ work has been in the heart of the Trail at Deepdene Gardens. The Gardens are still closed to the public as major works go on to repair key architectural features and open up the historic paths into the site for new visitors. The Friends have been working hard to open up these paths, cutting back the overgrown rhododendrons, digging out tricky tree stumps, even undertaking minor tree works with volunteers trained in using the chainsaw and bow-saw.

 

This fantastic transformation even uncovered an unusual stone find which is currently with Dorking Museum and we look forward to seeing if we can uncover more about which part of the life of this great estate it is linked to.

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) but we are looking at doing the occasional Saturday once the better weather sets in. 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:

thedeepdenetrail@molevalley.gov.uk

Find out more on the Friends’ website.