National Trust reveals 12 winter wonders in Surrey

Winkworth Arboretum, by Andrew Butler / National Trust

Winkworth Arboretum, by Andrew Butler / National Trust - Credit: Archant

The days following the anticipation, excitement and festivities of Christmas Day can feel a little flat. How do you entertain friends and family that are visiting between Christmas and the New Year period? Help is at hand from the National Trust...

Box Hill, by John Millar / National Trust

Box Hill, by John Millar / National Trust - Credit: Archant

1. Try out the natural play trail, through the woods at Box Hill. The play trail for families at Box Hill is made from natural timber, in little clearings throughout the woods. It has new features, including dens, balance beams and even star-gazing seats. Settle down in the café afterwards, in front of a roaring log fire. Café open daily. More @

2. Explore a spectacular wintery landscape at Hindhead Commons and Devil’s Punch Bowl. There is a new set of waymarked trails at Hindhead, with free leaflets to guide you. Try an easy-access level walk along from the car park or stride out a more adventurous trail that leads right down into the Punch Bowl. Retreat afterwards to the cosy cafe for a delicious warming treat. Visitors can tuck into seasonal delights including soups and hot pots. Café open daily. More @

3. Make your New Year’s resolutions at the top of the Leith Hill. With as many as 13 counties stretched out before you on a clear day, what better place is there to get an overview on the year ahead? Take a walk up through the woods to the tower and feast your eyes on the views. There is a hatch in the tower selling hot drinks and snacks, daily 10am to 3pm. More @

4. Meet up with friends for a walk around the lake at Claremont Landscape Garden, near Esher. See the island and pavilion, grotto and many viewpoints and vistas. There are hidden features to enjoy such as the children’s play area and the thatched cottage. Don’t miss the Camellia Terrace, which is a mass of blooms from December to May. Claremont Landscape Garden and its tea room are open every day in January and February. More @

Ham House, by John Millar / National Trust

Ham House, by John Millar / National Trust - Credit: Archant

5. Spot the witch-hazels at Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming. The National Trust’s only arboretum was planted by Dr Fox, the creator of the arboretum and it contains a wide variety of winter flowering shrubs planted in a relaxed woodland setting. There is so much to see, including the winter beauty of its impressive tree collection, the massive drifts of winter bulbs such as Narcissus ‘January Gold’, and various winter flowering shrubs, such as the witch hazels and winter flowering Japanese camellias (Camellia sasanqua). From February, look out for small drifts of snowdrops along the main slopes and paths in the upper arboretum. Winkworth Arboretum and tea room is open every day in January and February. More @

6. Set yourself the challenge of walking the length of the River Wey Navigations. The Navigations in winter are an atmospheric place of misty waterways and riverbanks. The towpath stretches nearly 20 miles, from Godalming to Guildford, and all the way up to Thames lock in Weybridge, with pubs along the route. Each length of the river has its own character so why not walk it in bite-sized chunks at a time. Even the names are intriguing: Catteshall Lock to St Catherine’s, Papercourt, Triggs, Walsham and New Haw. Our river conditions blog is a great source of information and you can see at a glance if the Wey is in flood or if everything is hunkydory: or visit for more information on the lengths.

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7. Get the family out of the house at Morden Hall Park, near Wimbledon. There comes a time in the winter when you can’t snuggle up on the sofa any longer and you just have to get out, whatever the weather. Morden Hall Park, near Wimbledon, is free entry and has paths running through a large countryside estate in the heart of South London. Try going out for a gentle jog whilst the kids scoot or cycle, then warm up in the café afterwards with a hearty stew or soup. There are also pocket-money priced gifts in all our shops and little bags of old-fashioned sweets, in case any extra incentives are needed. The café at Morden Hall Park is open daily. More @

8. Go on a romantic walk at Ham House and Garden. This Stuart palace near Richmond has formal gardens, topiary and tree lined arches that look magical in the frost, especially with grand backdrop of the house and the river Thames. The atmospheric cellars of the house are open and you can warm up with a hot drink or lunch in the Orangery café, or browse in the shop. The garden, below stairs, café and shop are open seven days per week and the house is open for tours from February 23. More @

River Wey towpath, by John Miller / National Trust

River Wey towpath, by John Miller / National Trust - Credit: Archant

9. Polesden Lacey contains what is possibly one of the first ever winter gardens. It was designed by Graham Stuart Thomas, a National Trust gardens advisor, and is planted on a compact domestic scale. During winter the garden is alive with the scent of viburnums and Christmas box; is stuffed full of yellow winter aconites and at its heart has a small group of very imposing Persian iron woods (Parrotia persica). This large, tree-like shrub produces masses of tiny, spider-like flowers in early January that make the tips of the branches shimmer red. More @

• From Boxing Day to January 4 (daily, 10am till 3.30pm) try a game of Polesdenopoly in the gardens and play at becoming a millionaire like Mrs Greville, on a family trail. Play for £5 per set, normal admission applies.

10. Step inside the Marble Hall at Clandon Park and discover how the Georgians kept their houses spick and span and how the National Trust cares for Clandon today. The ground floor rooms of the house, garden, restaurant and shop are open every weekend from January 17. Hatchlands Park, just down the road opens on February 15 – its first winter opening - with a newly refurbished café and trails around the parkland. More @ and

11. Go wassailing at Swan Barn Farm on January 23, 7pm to 9pm. Walk down to Swan Barn Farm from Haslemere High Street with torches or lanterns and learn the art of the wassail to improve your chances of a bumper apple crop. Join us for an evening of spirit warding, superstition and fun as we perform a traditional wassailing ceremony to banish the evil spirits from our orchards. Bring pots and pans to bash and scare away the spirits - and sample the traditional drink of the ceremony: wassail, made with apples pressed right there on the farm. More @

12. Runnymede, near Egham, has a big year ahead of it, with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being celebrated this summer. Get ahead of the crowds and walk along the River Thames, through tranquil water meadows in the calm of a January day. There are various intriguing memorials onsite and a cosy National Trust tea room open all winter. More @


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