Days out

This year, the school Easter holidays have missed Easter Day itself, and run throughout April. Happily, the National Trust is swinging into action, with fun-filled days at parks and period homes in easy-to-get-to Surrey.
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Hatchlands Park and Clandon Park

Sink into a sea of bluebells in the woods at Hatchlands Park. This 18th century mansion has fine interiors by Robert Adam, and the world's largest collection of keyboard instruments. The formal garden was planted by Gertrude Jekyll, the famous early 20th century garden visionary. And at Hatchlands, more exotically, you can meet the Surrey Hills llamas on 9 and 16 April, from noon to 4pm. A "mini-trek" around the parkland costs £10 per family group, plus admission charges (see below).

Close by, Clandon Park is an 18th century Palladian mansion with an exceptionally fine porcelain collection. It is also home to the museum of the Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment (entrance is free with ticket to the house). The attractive grounds, complete with grotto and sunken Dutch garden, are currently carpeted with daffodils. A quirky attraction is a Maori meeting house brought over from New Zealand in 1892.

Hatchlands Park and Clandon Park, near Guildford (01483 222482); combined admission costs £10 for adults, £5 for children, and £27 for a family.

Polesden Lacey
Polesden Lacey in Great Bookham, near Dorking

Polesden Lacey

They say it's addictive. Certainly, the Chocolate Weekend at Polesden Lacey is always popular. It takes place this year on 12 and 13 April (11am-5pm), and a weekend of gastronomic chocolate feasts is promised. You can taste/buy luxury chocolate, dip into a chocolate fountain, and browse stalls selling local produce.

To keep the kids happy there will be a face-painter, an entertainer and a spring trail. The Regency house has famously elegant Edwardian interiors. See stunning views across the Surrey Hills from 30 acres of landscaped gardens. A spring woodland stroll is on 30 April (11am-1pm), when warden Andy Goodwin will identify trees and flowers (£6 adults, £5 children; booking essential).

Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking (01372 452048); admission to house and garden costs £9.50 for adults, £5 for children, £24 for a family.

Dapdune Wharf
Dapdune Wharf on the River Wey, near Guildford

Claremont Landscape Garden

Claremont Landscape Garden in Esher is a tranquil landscaped parkland, famous for its fine camellias. Explore the unique 18th century grass amphitheatre, and see how many you can spot of the 52 species of wildfowl around the serpentine lake. Children can let off steam in a new play area, and follow a special holiday trail from 5 to 20 April, with a face-painter calling by on Fridays (at extra charge).

Claremont Landscape Garden, Portsmouth Road, Esher; 01372 467806; admission costs £5.20 for adults, £2.60 for children, £13 for a family.

River Wey, Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf

Also near Guildford is the River Wey, Surrey's oldest waterway. This wildlife corridor has a Wharf visitors' centre, children's trails, and the Reliance, one of the Wye's last surviving barges. Children can play bug detectives on 27 April (1pm-2.30pm), with pond dipping and bug hunts in and around Coxes Mill pond (which is the meeting point). Booking is essential, £1.50 per child.

Shalford Mill
Shalford Mill in Guildford
River Wey, Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf, Wharf Road, Guildford (01483 561389). Free access to towpath. Admission to Dapdune Wharf is £3.80 for adults, £2 for children, £10.50 for a family.

Shalford Mill

Also in Surrey is Shalford Mill, a well-preserved timber-framed 18th century water mill. Millers Geoff and David will lay on a special tour on 9 April (11am-4.15pm). The following week, 16 April, a fun day explains gearing, with a chance to hoist a sack of grain from ground to attic - without breaking your back (11am-4.30pm)

Shalford Mill, Guildford (01483 561389); admission costs £2.50 for adults, £1.25 for children, £5 for a family.

Winkworth Arboretum

Lastly, the impressive Winkworth Arboretum is on hillside woodland with two lakes, and with a magnificent array of spring flowers such as magnolias, rhododendrons and bluebells.

Winkworth Aboretum, Hascombe Road, Godalming (01483 208477); admission costs £4.60 for adults, £2.30 for children, £11.50 for a family.

And don't forget, tearooms and restaurants serve home-cooked snacks/meals, made from fresh local produce. Full details of all events listed can be found at

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