Sunday 22 June 2008

Polesden Lacey, near Bookham, Surrey

A refined Regency mansion, painted a creamy yellow, overlooking an unusually serene and beautiful valley, Polesden Lacey has one of the best settings of any National Trust property in south east England. Adult visitors tend to sit on the great, sweeping lawn on the south side of the house, admiring the pastoral view, while their children hurtle down the slope and struggle back up again. But make time to wander through the fine walled rose gardens, admiring the many statues, past the herbaceous border, across the thatched footbridge and through the old kitchen garden. On the other side of the south lawn, you can stroll between the stone pillars topped with diminutive lions, on to the Terrace Walk, a wide grassy avenue, which runs for hundreds of yards along the north side of the valley. Beyond the stone sculptures, inscribed with the poetry of Pope, are more heart-warming views of the luscious, idyllic valley. Access to Polesden Lacey's gardens and grounds is £6.50 for an adult, but worth every penny, particularly if you linger on a summer's evening until most of the visitors have gone and you can enjoy this tranquil countryside at its best. 9/10