Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on somewhat of a mission to enjoy the autumn foliage while it lasts and National Trust sites have been my go-to for exploring the countryside near London. Last week we visited Winkworth Arboretum in Godalming, Surrey (just under an hour’s drive from west London), a wooded valley with an award-winning collection of over 1,000 different shrubs and trees planted by Dr. Wilfrid Fox, who had a vision and passion to “paint a picture” with the scenic landscape.
The result is the perfect place for a crisp autumn walk with around 100 acres of woodland bursting with vibrant reds, golds and orange foliage, two lakes with a boathouse and several viewpoints overlooking the rolling Surrey Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
After our visit, I read up a bit more on Dr. Wilfred Fox. A dermatologist at two London hospitals, Dr. Fox lived near this woodland area and, passionate about trees as a hobby, he founded the Roads Beautifying Association in 1928 to promote ornamental tree planting.
In 1937, the land on which Winkworth Arboretum now stands – at the time a neglected corner of farmland – went up for sale and Dr. Fox snapped it up and founded the arboretum. Dr. Fox carefully selected over 1,000 species of shrubs and trees, chosen for their color, rarity and beauty, and his collection would go on to win awards and prizes from the Royal Horticultural Society, including the Victoria Medal Honour, the RHS’s highest honor.
In 1952, Dr. Fox donated 62 acres of the arboretum to the National Trust and chaired the committee until his death in 1962. The National Trust has since procured the remaining 35 acres.
There was some gorgeous yellow and orange foliage around Winkworth Arboretum during our visit and I can picture it continuing to change beautifully over the next couple of weeks. I’m tempted to head back! If we don’t make it back soon, it is definitely on my list for springtime to see its renowned bluebell carpets.
We walked down a steep slope to the lake, where a boathouse overlooks this tranquil scene. We watched geese and ducks swimming about below us while a man went out on a rowboat, the picture of serenity. As I mentioned on Instagram, over on the boathouse balcony was a different story as Little T asked on a loop, “Why is he on a boat? Why?” while desperately trying to squeeze through the balcony railing.
We took a break on a nearby bench and the sound of Little T eating his snack apparently piqued the interest of two geese that soon appeared waddling over from the lake’s edge. The geese marched right up to us – one with a leaf stuck to its chest like a badge – while Little T and I leaned further and further away until we were sidling right off the bench and down the path.
They’re fun to watch though and we had a good laugh – once we were at a safe distance watching them make their way back to the lake.
It was soon time for us to make our way home and take a long, winding path back up the slope as the late afternoon shone through the trees. At the top, we found an excellent viewpoint for one last look across the sweeping countryside. And before heading out, we stopped at the café at the entrance for some cake and refreshments.
If you’re looking for a spot within an hour’s drive of London for some spectacular leaf peeping, Winkworth Arborteum is the perfect place with acres of woodland to explore and fantastic vantage points to take in the autumn foliage. It’s great for a countryside walk year round and high on my list to head back for a bluebell walk in spring! It was also interesting to learn the story behind this arboretum and that through his hard work and passion, Dr. Wilfrid Fox has created a landscape of fantastic natural beauty to be appreciated and enjoyed for many years to come.
Winkworth Arboretum, Hascombe Road, Godalming, Surrey GU8 4AD
Opening Hours: Opens at 10am and closing time varies during the year. 1 April to 31 October: closes at 6pm. Rest of the year closes at 5pm or at dusk if earlier. Closed 24 and 25 December.
Tickets: £7.25 (£8.00 with Gift Aid) for adults, £3.60 (£4.00 with Gift Aid) for children aged 5 and up. Entry free for National Trust members and under 5’s.
Good to Know:
There’s a small tea-room offering hot and cold beverages, freshly baked goodies, light lunches and kid’s picnic boxes.
Restrooms can be found just after the entrance kiosk.
Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance. There are several trails marked on the map showing level of difficulty and access available. There are plenty of picnic spots and park benches throughout the area, including some with great viewpoints.
Keep an eye on their website for details on holiday events.
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