I may now be over forty but I don't feel any older than I did fifteen years ago. There are only three things that remind me I'm ageing:
1) I've started going 'aaaah' when I take the first sip of a hot drink.
2) I can't bend down without making some sort of noise.
3) I've got a National Trust membership.
(Now, that last one may also be because I moved to Ashtead: I often play a little game here where I challenge myself to find three cars, in a day, that don't have a National Trust parking sticker. I rarely win.)
But actively looking forward to and then enjoying a walk at a NT property is a rite of passage that comes with reaching my age, apparently. It's one of the things that my mother smugly told me that would happen, along with owning a pair of 'gardening shoes', identifying birds of prey and hiding behind a cushion if a hospital procedure is shown on TV: all of which I now do. I haven't yet succumbed to cross stitch, however.
The NT membership paid for itself after just a few outings, too. Joking aside, it is a great thing to have in Surrey as we're spoilt for choice with all the lovely places to visit: Box Hill, Polesdon Lacey, Hatchlands, Headley Heath and Leith Hill, to name just a few of the nearest ones (my son and I are also fond of Nymans, which is about half an hour's drive away in Sussex). But for part 6 of my Freelancer's Guide to Getting Out of the House, I'm reviewing one of my favourites: Claremont Landscape Garden in Esher.
Claremont has been around since the early 1700s, when Sir John Vanbrugh (an architect and dramatist who also designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, amongst other places) bought the land, built the mansion and began to design the garden. It has a fascinating history, with names like Clive of India and Capability Brown being involved with the estate's development over the years.
Claremont is also a location with a lot of royal history: it was bought for Princess Charlotte Augusta, by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, when she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in May 1816, at a cost of £69,000. Charlotte was the child of George, the Prince of Wales (hands up, who is now picturing Hugh Laurie?) and Caroline of Brunswick; a marriage of financial convenience for George that became redundant once an heir had been produced. Leopold's niece, Victoria (who would go on to become Queen Victoria), also loved to stay here when she was a child.
The National Trust took over the estate's 49 acres (the rest had been sold off over the years for housing) in 1949.
One reason I'm always eager to go to Claremont, as a work-from-home freelance writer, is the opportunity to stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh air in between work sessions. It's beautiful and the view from the hill beyond the playground is inspiring. I like to picture Charlotte and Leopold strolling around it as excited newly-weds: arm in arm, enjoying their back garden!
I particularly love Claremont in the winter: wrapping up and wandering around the serpentine lake, climbing up the amphitheatre and searching out the grotto before getting comfy in the cosy café with a hot drink and a refreshed mind, full of ideas.
As you'd expect, it gets busy so you need to pick your time but it's a fab place to escape to for a complete change of scene. The WiFi works well, the coffee is great and as it's a National Trust place you can expect to be tempted by some lovely food.
As a venue for freelancers I can't recommend Claremont enough: hugely interesting history, gorgeous scenery and a warm and cosy place to work from.
Next time on The Freelancer's Guide to Getting Out of the House: a space to work, a cafe and an amazing social enterprise all in one! Look out for Part 7 - coming soon!