During a week off work earlier this month, I paid a visit to Claremont Landscape Garden, a Grade 1, 18th century listed garden, close to the village of Esher, in Surrey.
I’d never been before, but after a week of job hunting and sitting in front of my laptop, I decided it was time to get out and about for some fresh air and to have a little explore.
As with all National Trust properties and gardens since they re-opened following the first lockdown here in the UK, bookings must be made online in advance.
Claremont is easy to reach from London and has a car park which was easy to locate with plenty of available space on the day of my visit.
Claremont was long known as a countryside retreat for heirs and queens. It was a playground for the wealthy and the influential.
Over the years Sir John Vanbrugh, Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and ‘Capability’ Brown, and Queen Victoria have all made their mark on the garden.
Before Claremont became Claremont, the land, which was known as Chargate Farm and Wood at the time, was purchased by Sir John Vanbrugh, in 1709. Sir John Vanbrugh set about creating an idyllic retreat in the heart of the Surrey countryside.
In 1714, Sir John Vanbrugh sold the estate to Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Duke of Newcastle. Sir John Vanbrugh remained involved with the land, and it was he who turned Chargate Farm and Wood into Claremont.
There were a number of other wealthy owners who took on the house and gardens over the years, including royalty! From 1816-1922, Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold made it their home.
Queen Victoria also used to visit her Uncle Prince Leopold here and loved playing in this idyllic setting.
In 1922, many of the buildings on the estate were knocked down by housing developers, leaving the main house and just 210 acres of land.
In 1949, Claremont and its remaining 49 hectares fell into the trusted hands of the National Trust.
On my visit to Claremont earlier this month, as I entered into the garden, I took a left-hand turn up a steep embankment towards the top of the amphitheatre. Amphitheatres were popular in the 18th century, and whilst many were created to be used as a stage, the amphitheatre at Claremont was designed for the use it has today, a viewing point which looks out across the serpentine lake and the beautiful display of autumnal colours.
After spending some time standing, looking in awe looking at the amazing array of colours, I headed away from the amphitheatre towards the North Terrace. The North Terrace has recently been lovingly restored after rows of laurels started to take over the boundary between Claremont and a neighbouring school. It’s a beautifully peaceful part of the gardens, ideal for sitting and pondering away an afternoon.
As the weather was still mild for November, I decided to take over one of the many benches in the gardens and sat reading a couple of chapters of a book until the temperature started to dip.
Once I started to feel the autumnal nip in the air, I packed my book away and headed off in search of the Belvedere Tower.
The Belvedere Tower is one of the main attractions at Claremont, although sadly it was closed on the day of my visit. The Belvedere Tower now stands within the grounds of Claremont Fan Court School, who allow the National Trust to gain access to the Tower on set dates throughout the year.
The tower is a Grade II listed building and was built over 250 years ago by Sir John Vanbrugh who was Prime Minister at the time.
On a clear day, it is said that you can see as far as Windsor Castle, The Shard and Wembley Stadium from the top of the tower.
From the tower, I headed through the woodland, back towards the Serpentine Lake. The woodland area is such a treat at this time of year. The autumn leaves offered such a fantastic display of colours, and the woodland smells were just divine.
Once I arrived at the water’s edge, I decided to take a stroll around the lake before heading home. The maples and the liquidambar make Claremont a magical place to visit at this time of year. The reflections of the yellows, greens and reds in the lake were something else.
I finished my visit to Claremont with a hot chocolate and a fruit scone from the cafe. Whilst it’s outdoor seating only at the moment, it’s a lovely spot to get a light refreshment at the end of your visit.
For anyone looking to visit, it’s £10 entry for adults, £5 for children or free if you’re a National Trust member. It’s worth noting that members still need to book in advance to secure their slot. For those of you with weaker bladders, there is only one set of toilets which are located in the car park, so make sure you use them at the start otherwise you can’t access them again until you leave the site.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at Claremont Landscape Garden. It was lovely to get away from the stress of job hunting, and to experience autumn at it’s finest.
I hope you’re all keeping safe and well x