Monday, 23 May 2011

A trip to Peaslake, Surrey

Suffolk is one of my favourite counties - Surrey is another. They're different in character . Surrey is very near to London and it has two very distinct aspects for me. 

Some bits of Surrey scream "Suburbia!!!!" - and not cosy suburbia, either. Large areas were covered with dreary spec-built suburban housing development in the 1920s and 1930s, and unimaginative commercial development in recent times has made certain Surrey towns look like the background to "The Office."

Then, thankfully, there's the other part, often referred to as the "stockbroker belt."   Enlightened Green Belt legislation prohibiting unrestricted development, the efforts of the wonderful National Trust and the work of private landowners have helped preserve large tracts of what looks at first glance like beautiful unspoiled countryside.  

I say "at first glance" because Surrey is so affluent that it could never really be traditional countryside. Sure, there are many farms (sheep and horses are popular)  but - shall we say, it's not a place where you would generally go in search of the gritty realities of life.

Although it contains some of the loveliest countryside in Britain, Surrey doesn't promote itself as a tourist  destination because, containing some of the most expensive corners of real-estate in Britain, it doesn't need tourists.   But we've always loved visiting it, and so we took a cycle ride  yesterday.  It's a great place to go to hike and cycle (or canoe, or ride a horse).  An extensive, well used network of footpaths and bridleways cross both public and private land, and because development is now effectively banned, many of the country lanes and rural corners have survived.

As always, I specially appreciated the slightly fairy tale quality of the hidden, secret, landscape.  Sadly the bluebells had just finished; they've been very early this year.  (Oh, all right, then - here are some from last year)

But the Surrey woods are interesting at any time of year.

It is just a dead log, really, but there's something primeval about it

The small narrow lanes can be very steep - you can't really see that in the photo,  but you do feel it on the bike!

This house stood alone overlooking a valley. I found its hedge unnerving and puzzling. Was it intended to be anything, or just an abstract shape?
And this cottage has a miniature railway line running through it - you can see the level crossing barrier at the end, and the tracks in front of the house.

This character (below) gave me a shock at first because until I looked at her properly, I thought she was real, with her white robe and golden hair waving in the wind.

She was of course a scarecrow. It seems there had been a scarecrow festival in the village. 

We got very sidetracked by an Open Gardens when we passed through the village of Peaslake.  It was to raise money for the free school which the parents of the village created for their 3-7 year olds.    The weather was slightly changeable so that one minute it looked like this

And the next it looked like this.

Since we were cycling, I'm glad to say that mostly the weather was good.

One of the gardens that was open to the public belonged to the school itself. I was struck by the rambler rose at the back gate. It was one of the most beautiful (and prolific) I've  seen. I'd like to find out what it was called, and buy one myself.  This shot reminds me of those 1950s ads. The rose is impeccably pink and perfect, the impossible blue sky stretches beyond.

7 year old Georgina was proud of her school and showed us around.  Their Wee Willie Winkie scarecrow had a hot water bottle, something she coveted for herself.  

Children had made flower pictures of themselves.

Some of the residents of Peaslake had extraordinary homes and  gardens. This farmhouse has its origins in the 13th century.   As for the gardens, there were so many interesting and unusual plants, juxtaposed in so many different and creative ways, that they deserve a blog to themselves. 

This lawn was created for bees.

We only did about 15 miles altogether - and although some of that was on rough tracks, and some of the hills were very steep, this is not an impressive mileage. I blame Peaslake for having such a good Open Gardens.


  1. What marvellous photos - so reminiscent of my days in Sussex, which looks fairly similar.

  2. I'd like to see the yellow leaves against the blue iris

  3. What a marvelous blog, Jenny ! I thoroughly enjoyed myself here, going through many of your recent posts. Very interesting photos and commentary ! Thanks for sharing a part of your world with us - this is a place on my bucket list.

    Thank you for visiting my site today and leaving your kind words.

  4. For me this was a fabulous read about one of my old haunting grounds. Thank you!

  5. I like the abstract topiary.

  6. They're lovely photos and I think "the gritty realities of life" are totally overrated. Personally - given the choice - I'd gladly hide away from them :-) Surrey looks perfect for that. Thanks so much for your lengthy comment, I really appreciate it. Have a great week xo

  7. PS: The peacock dress is on show at Smallhythe Place and it looks stunning :-) xo

  8. There is a website with information about the history of Peaslake school, here

  9. Beautiful shots of the place. Very colorful.

  10. As usual brilliant blog! I do love your writing style.
    I would like to visit some place like this if I ever go to your country.
    My favorite are the first and the third from the bottom.
    Have a great week!

  11. I am glad you enjoyed last year's open garden events and that my daughter did a good job of showing you the school garden. Why not visit Peaslake again for this year's open gardens which is on Sunday 27th May and based around the centre of the village. More info can be found on the school website Thanks Jeanette

  12. The 1920's and 1930's arts and crafts suburbia that you are so against actually provide vastly superior homes in both amenities and outlook that more more modern homes lack. It is disgraceful that well housed "nimbys" or "bananas" should be allowed to subvert the housing aspirations of an entire generation. Most people want homes with gardens and these should be provided. With sufficient tree and shrub landscaping new developments will eventually blend seamlessly into the countryside. If you want to look at high quality developments look at Hampstead Garden Suburb (perennially sought-after) or Poundbury, Dorset (Prince Charles' beautiful traditionally designed new development.


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