Polesden Lacey's Paul Dearn on his perfect Surrey weekend
As house manager at Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham near Dorking, Paul Dearn is used to having a busy weekend - especially when he also has his beloved VW van, Florence, to take care of...
Originally published in Surrey Life September 2008As house manager at Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham near Dorking, Paul Dearn is used to having a busy weekend - especially when he also has his beloved VW van, Florence, to take care of...I was amazed, just over 14 year ago, to be interviewed for a post with the National Trust at Polesden Lacey and to my delight was offered the job. While overjoyed, it did mean a big step for me, relocating to this wonderful part of the country from all my family and friends in the West Midlands. The thing that made it easier was the warm welcome I received and the many good friends that I have made in all these years in Surrey. At the moment, I manage Polesden Lacey House, which is such a fantastic and challenging vocation. Plus, I also have the additional bonus of living in the main property! As a result, my weekend is not that typical, in that Friday night as a rule is spent on duty, providing emergency cover for the estate at Polesden and being on call all the way through the night to the following Saturday morning. Last weekend, it was the ever-popular Polesden Lacey Festival and so my Friday evening was spent with Polesden's raffle team selling tickets to raise funds for our project to open our first bedroom to visitors in the house. Or that was the plan, but unfortunately the weather had other ideas as the rain came down and didn't stop all through the evening's production. Well, it was an open-air festival! On the Saturday morning, however, I was greeted by glorious sunshine. With my sitting room being south-facing, the views on to the Downs are spectacular, especially looking over Polesden valley towards Ranmore Common. After breakfast, I will often make time for a walk to take in the early morning. As I work on Saturdays, the house has to be prepared, ready for our visitors from 11am onwards, and prior to that I await the arrival of the dedicated volunteers who help me show it off to the public. The house is closed at 5pm, so then I usually have the evening free, though last Saturday it was back to selling raffle tickets at the final night of Polesden's festival. On Sundays, my weekend really begins. My passion is for VWs - I own a 1970 VW Beetle and, the love of my life, a 1972 US import VW Campervan called Florence. I'm usually up early as there are often a few little jobs to be done on Florence before I meet friends from the club - that's Surrey Air Cooled Owners Club. Next, I might pop over to Merstham and visit Fanny's Farm Shop; what a fantastic place that is - it has real character - and then last Sunday I went on to the Darling Buds Classic Car show on the other side of the border in Kent. The evening is often spent with friends just relaxing at Polesden taking in the wonderful Surrey views. On Monday, as everybody rushes back to work, it's still the weekend for me. As ever, I'm usually working on Florence in the morning - having a VW campervan there always seems to be something to do. Then, last Monday, it was a quick dash into Woking to find The Lightbox gallery and museum as a friend of mine, who is a wonderful textile artist and used to work with me at Polesden, Lona Mckenzie Laycock, was exhibiting her textile art. Many people flock to the countryside, and of course Polesden, at the weekends, and I really do appreciate why. For me, though, it is also the good friends that I have made while living in Surrey that bring this wonderful county alive - ooh, and my VW campervan, Florence!
My Surrey Weekend is a monthly guest column in Surrey Life magazine, where we discover how some of the county's high profile characters spend their weekend. To catch up with the series, click here.