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.

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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.

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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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‘A perfect way to spend Sunday morning’- walks, talks and Trail activities

Since the Grand Opening we have been delighted to see many visitors exploring and enjoying The Trail activities such as seasonal trails, walks and talks. We have also been pleased at the useful feedback received so far that will help us improve the Trail as the project continues for its second year – a year full of more fun events and activities!

Halloween Hunt

Throughout October half-term this year we ran a Halloween hunt. Nine spooky skeletons crept into the gardens of the Deepdene Trail. Families hunted them down and used the letters they held to discover the name of one of Deepdene’s treasures. Many visitors then headed back to Dorking Halls Café to collect Halloween treats.

“Fun Halloween trail for kids, lots of informative boards about the history of the site, and space for kids to explore and enjoy the woodland and wonderful views from the Terrace. Full credit to all the local volunteers who have been involved in creating, promoting and maintaining the Trail!”

Visitor to the Trail

Dorking Museum guided walks

Dorking Museum have taken on delivery of fantastic guided walks of The Trail since the opening in September. Visitors can book on an advertised public tour or book a private group tour. The dedicated volunteer walk leaders guide visitors from The Trail entrance through the Gardens, up the Terrace and for an exclusive look inside the Hope Mausoleum illustrating the walk with stories from Deepdene’s past.

Commonly fully booked, the next tour will visit the Deepdene on January 8th 2017 – book your place now!

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Dorking Museum volunteer leading visitors into the Hope Mausoleum.

 

Talks

We have been spreading the word about The Trail through talks to groups and societies such as the Friends of Holmwood Common, public talks hosted generously by Dorking Library, and inspiring others to give talks based on Deepdene’s history.

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Talk at Dorking Library

 

Walk for Health Christmas Special

27th November 2016 we embarked on a seasonal celebration of healthy walks on the Deepdene Trail with Mole Valley’s Walk for Health Coordinator Estelle Holmes. Families joined us for a frosty Sunday morning walk of the Trail with a few facts thrown in by Activity Coordinator Gail and a chance for the little ones to try out the Trail’s new Winter Woodland Bingo. It was a great success ending with delightful drinks, mince pies and craft activities for the kids at Dorking Golf Club.

“A perfect way to spend Sunday morning and even the weather cooperated!  Gail was so knowledgeable it added another dimension to a trail we had already explored a little and she balanced giving information in an interesting way with the need to keep on the move. The refreshments at the Golf Club were a perfect finish to the morning. . . with lovely activities for the younger ones to enjoy while mums and dads had a few minutes of peace.”

Visitor to the Trail

Why not try our Winter Woodland Bingo for yourself? Visit our website to download the bingo sheet and have a go!

Friends of Deepdene: July-Sept update

September 10th The Deepdene Trail opened successfully to visitors and the Friends of Deepdene played a key role in getting it all ready, especially between July and September this year.

The Gardens

There was a huge volunteer effort in the Gardens of the Trail before the opening as one of the areas previously closed and hidden from the public. The activities included: opening and clearing paths ready for visitors, mowing the garden slope or ‘dene’, checking and re-cutting key views around the garden slopes and preparing and planting beds around the newly restored parterre area (the lower garden with gravelled paths and the lion statue).

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The group also cleaned up the historic flint steps that link the gardens to the Terrace to assess their stability. As visitors saw on the opening day they were sadly in bad repair and could not be opened. Now trained up in flint working the volunteers have taken on these steps as one of their key conservation activities since the opening.

They also prepared the Trail entrance for visitors clearing the entrance paths off the A24 of felled trees, rhododendron and overgrown grass.

Chart Park

Chart Park was cared for with plenty of strimming, raking and mowing the wonderful meadowland areas. The Friends also seeded the new ground around the new overflow car park, finalised the last linking path from the Terrace to the golf course with rustic steps and helped with the hay cut.

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They supported the work at the Mausoleum, clearing debris, planting and giving the walls a good scrub up before the opening day.

Deepdene Terrace

The Terrace was cared for with strimming in the overgrown areas along the avenue and around the slopes and leaf blowing and clearing of the flint steps from the Terrace down.

Outside groups lend a hand

On the 20 July Democratic Services, the Legal Team and the Policy & Performance team from Mole Valley District Council braved the hot weather and spent the day volunteering at Chart Park as part of the Deepdene restoration project. They helped with moving rubble from the Mausoleum, and building paths and steps from the Terrace.

Above and beyond

In recognition of the amazing work the Friends of Deepdene have put into the Trail the group was successfully nominated for Mole Valley District Council’s Above and Beyond Customer Services Award by Project Manager Alex Bagnall.

‘The volunteers have worked tirelessly over the last five years, amounting to in excess of 15,000 voluntary hours, and the project could not have happened without them. . .The skills and knowledge of the group are immense and continue to expand as new volunteers join and further training is undertaken. . .I will never be able to thank them enough for their outstanding contribution to this project and truly believe that they have gone above and beyond.’

Alex Bagnall

Response from volunteers:

‘What a wonderful and completely unexpected surprise we had when the Friends of Deepdene team members were each presented with an ‘Above and Beyond’ Award from MVDC for the work we had carried out on the Deepdene Trail over the past 4 or 5 years.

As volunteers we do the work, not just because we enjoy it, but also because we are able to contribute to a more pleasant environment for the community of, and visitors to, Dorking and the surrounding towns and villages.

We really are lucky to be working outdoors in our Surrey countryside, yes sometimes we get wet, we get cold, we get tired, but we also get terrific satisfaction when completing each small project that adds to the Deepdene Trail story.’

David Stagg

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

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 www.deepdenetrail.co.uk , 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.

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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

 

Locals explore work on the new Deepdene Trail

Our second set of ‘behind the scenes’ walks for visitors revealed the recent changes to the Deepdene Trail as we prepare for it to open in September 2016. The walks were illustrated by stories from the past provided by Project Manager, Alexander Bagnall and Activity Plan Coordinator, Gail Mackintosh.

Both walks in February this year started with our visitors walking from the centre of town out across the Cotmandene to the Deepdene Gardens. Illustrated along the way with images and tales of the Deepdene’s owners’, Charles Howard and the hero of our project – Thomas Hope.

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New Paths

The visitors were amongst the first to use the newly laid paths into the Gardens, currently still closed to the public without a project guide, as work vehicles continue to use the site. The location of the entrance mirrors the entrance way shown in early paintings of the Estate in the 18th century and the driveway used in the Hotel era of the House in the 1920s-30s.

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Visitors using the newly laid paths into Deepdene Gardens – not yet open to the public

Visitors were excited to hear about the new works about to start to repair the Grotto and Embattled Tower that feature prominently in the Gardens.

 

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Visitors learn about the different phases of the Grotto’s history 

 

The Terrace

Our adventurous walkers were then first to use the new trail just opened up by our amazing volunteers – the Friends of Deepdene. The Friends had incredibly only taken a few weeks to reopen ancient routes up the hill to join the existing paths to the Deepdene Terrace. The views from the top were fantastic, one way looking down the flight of flint steps into the Gardens and the other taking in the fantastic panoramas of Chart Park.

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Standing on the site of the now lost Temple on Deepdene Terrace.

The Mausoleum

 

From there an exciting scramble took us down to 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 conservation work is almost complete with and the restored Mausoleum will soon be revealed.

Many thanks to our visitors for supporting the project and to our expert stone masons PAYE for letting us onto site whilst they worked.

We hope to arrange a special visit to the Mausoleum once it is complete. You can keep up to date by Signing up to the Deepdene Trail Newsletter and keeping an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

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

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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.

Our call for memories

In November 2015 we began a ‘Call for Memories’ about the Deepdene Estate, Dorking. We aim to gather stories and memories about the Deepdene Estate. These memories will form part of our records and interpretation of the ever-changing life of this great landscape.

frosty view

News so far

We have already been contacted by former Southern Rail employees who used to work in the house in the 50’s and 60’s, locals who lived in the new housing that spread across the Estate and even descendants of those who worked for one of the House’s last owners before it became a hotel.

These generous individuals have told us little snippets of their experiences of Deepdene – how there was a Southern Railway Home Guard made up from workers at Deepdene in World War Two, how a large computer was transported in pieces up to Deepdene House and how the large marble fireplaces were the only heating for the House in the 1950s.

As well as these stories shared in passing and via email we will also be recording memories as part of an Oral History Project in partnership with Dorking Museum.

The project

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Brass plate from Deepdene House fireplace, the House was demolished in 1969.

An initial meeting for those who had a story to tell or wanted to learn how to help collect memories from others was held at Dorking Museum in late December last year. We were delighted to meet locals with memories to share and potential interviewees. A particular highlight was the arrival of a visitor with an actual piece of Deepdene House, a brass plate from one of Deepdene House’s fireplaces!

 

We were delighted that a group of volunteers signed up to learn about collecting, archiving and interpreting Oral Histories. These volunteers will be trained up by an expert from the Oral History Society in interviewing, editing and transcription techniques. The mix of audio and video recordings will then be archived with the support of Dorking Museum to preserve these memories for the future. A mix of the memories and stories will also be displayed in a variety of ways as part of the project including on the new project website (coming soon!) and at events such as our launch in September 2016.

Look out for updates on our progress in our quest for memories over the next few months.

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Visitors to Dorking Museum at our evening meeting December, 2015.