Secret Surrey gems to stir the imagination

Hannah Peschar (Photo: Matthew Williams); The Picture Gallery (Photo: Royal Holloway); Witley Park (

Hannah Peschar (Photo: Matthew Williams); The Picture Gallery (Photo: Royal Holloway); Witley Park (Photo: Marc Roberts); Betchworth Kilns (Photo Surrey Wildlife Trust); Limpsfield Common (Photo: Andrew Wright/National Trust); The Great Vine (Photo: Richard Lea-Hair/HRP); and The Sculpture Park (Photo: Matthew Williams) - Credit: Archant

From mysterious underwater rooms to the world’s largest grapevine, Surrey is home to the weird and wonderful if you know where to look. Here are just a few of the most intriguing...

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Ballroom under the lake, Witley

Once an extravagant estate by any stretch, very little remains of Witley Park to mark its memory today – and what there is, is private and strictly off limits to the public. While often referred to as the ‘ballroom under the lake’ its most fairy tale feature is actually more of a spectacular underwater billiards room of sorts. Still, it captures imaginations even today.

Betchworth Limeworks, Betchworth

Currently subject to a major restoration project, managed by a partnership between Surrey Wildlife Trust, Surrey Bat Group, Natural England and English Heritage, Betchworth Limeworks and Betchworth Quarry nature reserves provide a unique combination of natural and industrial heritage.


The Great Vine, East Molesey

Surrey’s more modern vines may be getting all the attention these days, but The Great Vine was planted at Hampton Court Palace all the way back in 1768 – it was probably called something different then. Now the largest grapevine in the world, its planting was directed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.


Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, Ockley

The brainchild of owner Hannah Peschar over 30 years ago, this sculpture garden has grown from a handful of sculptures to over 150 pieces exhibited every summer. The exhibition magically twists and turns through woodland and ponds.


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Holmesdale Museum, Reigate

Founded in 1857, the Holmesdale Natural History Club is one of the oldest organisations of its kind in the UK. At its museum in Reigate (only minutes out of the town centre), it holds fascinating natural history, archaeology, local history and geology collections.


Leptis Magna, Virginia Water

The source of many of the stones that were used to create The Ruins at Virginia Water Lake was Leptis Magna, a Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean near Tripoli, in present day Libya. Today, it forms one of the star attractions at the Surrey end of Windsor Great Park, a man-made landscape that’s been shaped and planted over the last 400 years.


Limpsfield Common dens, Limpsfield

You’ll find a magical world created by volunteers at Limpsfield Common’s Ridlands Grove, where the Owl House, Fox Villa, Hedgehog Hall and Peter Rabbit’s Post Office are all waiting to be discovered. With its extensive network of footpaths and bridleways, the common is a cracking countryside walk – and there’s an old Roman road to saunter along too.


The Picture Gallery, Egham

With an art collection housing world-class paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and watercolours including works by William Powell Frith, John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones, it’s only surprising that Royal Holloway’s The Picture Gallery isn’t more talked about than it is. Regular Wednesday openings take place in spring and autumn.


The Sculpture Park, Churt

With over 300 renowned and emerging artists showcasing 600 modern and contemporary sculptures, which are all for sale, The Sculpture Park is a visual feast for those on the hunt for something a little different. With around ten acres of stunning arboretum and wildlife inhabited water gardens to explore, this is one place you’ll be extremely happy to get lost in for a day.


The Sime Gallery, Worplesdon

Purpose-built in 1956, this gem of a gallery in Worplesdon, near Guildford, exhibits over 800 drawings, paintings, theatrical and local caricatures, watercolour and oil landscapes, fantasy oil paintings, books and letters in a variety of artistic styles by Victorian illustrator Sidney Herbert Sime.



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Secret Surrey: a ballroom under a lake to Brooklands wine cellars via the Wentworth bunker