Friday 26 October 2007

Hatchlands Park, East Clandon, Guildford, Surrey

A large and handsome 18th century red-brick mansion containing an extraordinary collection of antique harpsichords and early pianos, associated with great composers, such as Chopin. These beautiful instruments, together with a jumble of furniture and paintings, are arranged almost haphazardly around the few downstairs rooms that are open to the public. Hatchlands' owners still use some of these rooms - the lounge has a modern phone, TV and recent family snaps - and the fireplaces sometimes contain last night's embers. Four walks, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, are laid out through the rolling parkland and woodland that surrounds the house. There is also an atmospheric cafe, serving tea, cakes, jacket potatoes and other snacks, housed in the original kitchen, which still has many of its period fittings, including a framed poster of the strict rules Hatchlands' domestic staff had to follow. Run by the National Trust, admission to the house and grounds is a reasonable £6.60. 7/10