On a gorgeous autumnal afternoon, I took myself off into the Surrey countryside to bathe in the last offerings of my favourite season. Always keen to discover new areas of natural beauty, I did some quick research and found myself typing in the post code for Winkworth Arboretum. During the last 10 minutes of my drive I was greeted with the epitome of rural England. Small, narrow lanes curving under a tunnel of trees, as the midday sun filtered through the newly bare branches. Grand estates with farmland appeared every 100 yards or so and then soon enough I was taking the next turning to my destination.
Hiding between Godalming and Hascombe, lives a valley of over 1000 shrubs and trees, many of them rare. Planted by the late Dr Wilfrid Fox from 1938, the arboretum is now in the caring hands of The National Trust. With no specific plan in mind, I started heading towards the viewing platform and passed large collections of sleeping Azaleas, Rhododendron and Magnolias. Overgrown brambles, still clinging on to the last of their fruit, seemed to sneak through the gaps in the natural woodland either side of the steep path. Showcasing the beauty in untamed, wild nature. The viewing platform is a place to admire the rolling hills of the North Downs and to have a moment of stillness. I took some gentle breathes and watched the sun tenderly kiss every tree in its view. Bliss. It was hard to believe I was only 30 miles away from Central London.
As I headed further into the arboretum I discovered Japanese, American and Norwegian Acers. Their leaves scattered thoughtfully on the ground like a mosaic. I was now deep in the heart of the hills and could hear the sound of falling water in the distance. Winkworth is most well known for its breathtaking five acre lake called Rowes Flashe and the large trout that swim there. This impressive body of water is clearly the heart of this place. Climbing Wisteria seems to thrive close to the waters edge as well bamboo and jurassic ferns. I can only imagine its beauty in Spring. Some people visit here just for the lake it’s self but if you are to peel off into the less obvious paths you will find an earthy, fairytale like environment with a small stream running through - perfect for making the most out of wearing your wellies!
Whilst walking back towards the top of the valley, I stopped to absorb the tranquil hillside once more. There are plenty of places to sit all around Winkworth, and I was lucky enough to feel as if I had the whole place to myself. I felt the nearing of Christmas as I walked past enormous evergreens standing with pride. Holly grows in abundance here, and I later found out that around 40 different varieties have been planted in the woodland. Wildflowers that would have been beaming with life a month ago are now slanted, crispy seedbeds, preparing to disperse their seeds any day now. There was a sense that winter was on its way and everything I saw around me was getting ready for its arrival.
Winkworth is full of life and character. I would suggest putting at least 1.5 hour aside to make the most of your visit and so nothing is rushed. An even nicer idea would be to take a book or some lunch with you and lose all concept of time, whilst having the cascading hills of Surrey as your backdrop. They hold a number of events throughout the year from Seasonal Guided Walks, Mince Pie Making and Floral Workshops. I seem to say this about everywhere I visit but I will be back; next time in Spring to see the Magnolias and Bluebells in all their glory.