But here’s one that may have escaped your notice, and is a lot closer to Guildford. Just the other side of Bramley is Birtley House – a rather well-heeled looking nursing home, if ever I saw one – and it is currently hosting the annual Surrey Hills Sculpture display.
As sculpture gardens go, this is a relatively small display, so good for a relaxing, low stress stroll, maybe sandwiched in between the more onerous duties of the day. We had fond memories of a Bank Holiday afternoon spent there pre-Eva, and revisited last weekend to find out if she enjoyed it too. It’s a serene affair with the artwork dotted throughout the immaculate grounds. Everything is quite flat and open so, as a bonus, while there is plenty of running space, you’d have to work pretty hard to actually lose your children! (…wait – is that a bonus? Answers on a postcard, please!)
There are some quite serviceable portaloos near the parking area too – including baby change facilities. We are currently experimenting with ‘Big Girl Pants’ so toilet availability was high on our list! (Note to Self, the for umpteenth time: please do not eat straight after using that disinfectant hand-foam stuff they have in Portaloos. Unless you like the taste of Medicated Scones.)
Eva definitely enjoyed galavanting around the grounds, and it was fun to examine the sculptures with her and explore the textures – though of course she did need some gentle policing around some of the artwork when she got a bit ‘grabby’ and also had to be distracted before she threw every bit of gravel in the small waterfall at the end of Birtley’s pond! After about an hour the familiar intonations began: ‘Cake….. Cake….. Cake…’, which was what everyone was secretly thinking by that point anyway, so we set off in search of some. Well done, young person!
Refreshments are to be found in a marquee, as well as what I would term a ‘booze bus’ and a charming ice-cream van (which I am sure I have seen lurking around Wisley on hot days). The one thing that is lacking is a highchair, so just bear that in mind. I don’t see why you couldn’t go the Picnic Blanket route though, to be honest. The grounds are extensive and, if you can avoid the copious goose poop, there are plenty of pretty places to take in some tea and cake al fresco! And actually, had we wanted to extend our visit, we would have taken in the rest of the exhibition in the marquee, then trotted off to explore the rest of the grounds, goose poop and all. But as it was, we quit while we were ahead (i.e: no pants had been peed in!) having spent a very pleasant hour or two amongst the art. Birtley House itself is off limits, but the elderly residents are invariably delighted to see your children if they happen to be taking a stroll in the grounds.
I’m looking out of my window and the sun is shining. Sadly for us, Eva is at nursery today but, if you have your toddler in tow, you could do a lot worse than head down there and let them play amongst the sculptures today.
One more thing to sweeten the deal: Once you’ve bought your ticket, you can use it as many times as you wish for the duration of the exhibition: 30/04/2017 – 04/06/2017. Plus under 16s go free.
Surrey Hills Sculpture Garden, Birtley Estate Guildford, GU5 0LB