Bluebell walk around Gatton Park
Enjoy this delightful springtime stroll around Gatton Park, and discover the carpet of bluebells in Nut Wood. It's like a story from Beatrix Potter.
Wray Lane car park, grid ref: TQ26275233
Before you start walking through the park take a moment to admire the view to the south from the car park. There is a viewpoint marker just below the cafe and on a clear day you will be able to make out Chanctonbury Rings on the South Downs - a little blip on the horizon 25 miles away. Walk away from the viewpoint across the car park, cross the road and go through the gates into Gatton Park.
The path bears to your right and 50 yards further on is the first black Discover Gatton post. Follow the path round to the left. The path has a stony surface - the old carriage road to Gatton Hall. The path descends slightly and gives you a lovely view over the parkland on your right hand side. Continue down the path to a triangular piece of grass with another black way marker in the middle. Three paths meet here, take the path to the left and you will come to a seat with another wonderful view to the right.
Continue along the path down the slope. In spring this is a lovely route with sunshine coming through the trees. The path is lined with yew trees planted along the left side and on the right there is a woodland of sycamore with some ash and birch. A path joins from the left by an isolated yew tree and another path joins from the right by a pair of twinned beech trees. Carry straight on until you reach Tower Lodge at the bottom. This marks one of the old entrances to the park.
Not a native British tree, the sycamore was widely planted in the 18th century as the timber is hard with a fine grain, making it very suitable for the expanding furniture and cabinet-making industries of the Georgian period. The trees along this path have coppiced, ie cut at the base to produce more stems for harvesting. It can grow on poor soils, as at Gatton, and seeds freely shedding the little ‘helicopters’ in autumn.
At Tower Lodge turn right along the tarmac road. You’ll see a marker post for the North Downs Way on the right hand verge. The fence on the left marks the boundary to the school. You’ll come to a black iron gate. Just to the right here is a nice spot to view the parkland and maybe take a photo. You’ll see the millennial stones here also on the right.
These stones were placed here in 2000 by the Jerusalem Trust in the form of an ancient stone circle such as Avebury. Each stone represents a 200 year era and is inscribed with quotes from that period. If the gate is unlocked you can enter the field for a closer look.
From the stones follow the path round to the right onto the track with metal fences on both sides, and then through the next set of black gates. On your left hand side you will see the Hop Garden Pond, created as part of Capability Brown's redesign of the park in the 18th century. In the field on your right is a dead oak tree, left to provide a perfect multi-storey bug hotel for wildlife.
From the black gates you walk up a slope. To the left you can catch glimpses of the Engine Pond and the Lake beyond the green parkland and where new trees are being planted to carry on the landscaping of Capability Brown. Ponds, lakes and clumps of trees planted on a hillock were favourite features of his designs. As you walk up the slope, there are lovely views of the lakes and the North Downs in the distance. Carry on along the track until you come to a fork in the road by some residential buildings and you will see a gate to the right.
Family fun spot
Just past the black gates, there is a small wood covering a quarry on the right side - a family fun spot for 50 things, building dens, climbing trees, bug hunting. If you look at the edge of this spot you will see some bluebells. More to come!
Go through the gate on the right and enter Nut Wood and then turn sharp right by a black marker post to walk up a steep track through a gate. Look up to your left and you should see oodles of bluebells. To your right is a lovely old beech with a broken trunk and lots of holes - a wonderful feeding station for woodpeckers. The path bends round to the left and climbs steeply. There’s a seat with a great view across to the North Downs. Continue along the path as it straightens out. Carry on up the hill until the path levels out and you reach a gate. There’s a gap on the left hand side to walk through.
Bluebells and woodland
You can see here the magical effect of deciduous woodland with sunshine flooding onto the woodland floor. As the sun warms up the ground the bluebells come into flower before the leaf canopy forms. Bluebells are delicate though - please don't pick them or let dogs and kids trample on them. Crushing the leaves will kill them.
Through the gate you'll find another black way marker and a seat to take a breather. At the T junction turn right along a broad track. Look out for more bluebells to your right. Go past the NT bridlepath post and go through the gate in front of you - there's a gap to the right. Ignore paths to the left and you'll come to an open area on your right side and a stile. There is a seat just up to the left. Pause here to take in the view and get a photo. You can see the rough pasture being grazed by Belted Galloways. You can also see the civilised parkland and the working area of Nut Wood, used for timber, wood and quarried stone.
Bluebells are part of the magic of spring. English bluebells are small, intensely blue and fragrant. Their flower stems droop or nod to one side, the petal tips turn up and their pollen is creamy white. They are under threat from the Spanish bluebell which is more robust, a paler blue and the flower stems is less likely to droop.
Leave the stile to your right and walk uphill towards a black way marker and a water trough in the corner of the field. At the junction, follow the fence round to the right and you’re back at the triangular piece of grass with a black post in the middle and views back over the parkland. Turn to your left, continue to climb. You’ll see another marker so carry on up until you reach the top. The path bends round to the left and you’ll walk back through the posts and into the car park.
Wray Lane car park, grid ref: TQ26275233
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