A birthday picnic at Painshill Park

Just when we thought Summer was making way for Autumn, the temperature has soared again – and what perfect timing for us! After a drizzly, grey Saturday hosting Alex’s 6th birthday party (more on that tomorrow!), we’d planned a picnic with my parents and brother on Sunday to celebrate my mum’s birthday.  I repeatedly checked the forecast, and it looked like it was going to be dry but quite cool.  Turns out it was gloriously sunny and hot!

We chose Painshill Park in Cobham as our picnic venue because it’s pretty much half way between Herne Hill and my brothers’ home in Reading.  None of us had been before and we didn’t really now what to expect.  We were just hoping for some green space for the kids to run around in.  We weren’t expecting to be completely wowed!  Painshill Park is absolutely stunning – I lost count of the number of times we all said how beautiful it was!

An 18th century landscaped garden, designed by Charles Hamilton and inspired by the visits to Italy, Painshill Park’s 158 acres are centred around the Serpentine Lake and is dotted with mystical follies – ornamental buildings.  We settled down near the Gothic Temple for our picnic and were soon tucking into vast amounts of food and enjoying the views:



We sent Matt and my brother, David, back to the cars to get rid of all the bags, blankets and chairs – and while we were waiting we explored our lunch spot.  Alex wanted to explore down by the lake – here he is heading back up the hill:


Alex and Sophie loved spending time with their twin cousins, Rose and Lucy – here they are posing for pictures in the Gothic Temple:


Despite the heat, they barely stopped running around – here they are racing each other:


And playing hide and seek amongst the trees!


We wandered slowly around the lake taking in the views – how stunning is this?!



Alex lagged behind as he kept being drawn to the water!  He spent ages looking for pond-skaters and dragonflies, pond weed and lilies.  He even attempted some fishing (with a stick) – but nothing was biting!


I loved all the pretty bridges that crossed the lake, offering beautiful vantage points across the water….


…and of course, offering plenty of opportunity for photographs!


I saw a sign advertising the “crystal grotto” when we arrived at the park and was intrigued! So we were pleased to find it on one of the little islands on the lake.  Recently opened after being carefully restored, the 1760 folly is an entirely man-made construction using hundreds of thousands of crystals including calcite, gypsum, quartz, and fluorite.  It was mind-blowing – and the children absolutely loved it!  The grotto volunteers had torches to hand, so Alex delighted in inspecting the crystals up close and seeing them sparkle.


I love this shot of Alex which captures the surreal drama of the space:


I loved the little “windows” which offered different perspectives on the parkland outside:


Once we’d made it around the lake, we stopped in the shade of some trees to enjoy some birthday cake for my mum and Alex:


We had to re-light the candles several times to allow all the children to blow them out!



Full of cake, the children got a bit silly – with Sophie getting the giggles for ages.  So cute!


Heading back to the carpark, we inspected the little vineyard on the hillside:


And had a quick peek at the lovely kitchen garden:


Alex even took over the camera for a while – I love his shadow shot, and his lovely photo of Auntie Sarah and Lucy.


We had a wonderful family day in a truly beautiful landscape. I’m sure we’ll be back for another walk -we barely saw half of it on our walk. I bet it looks glorious when the Autumn colours are out.



5 thoughts on “A birthday picnic at Painshill Park

  1. What a great idea for a meet up place and actually this time I do know where you’ve been! One of my good friends lived in Cobham and we used to go to the park here with all our children when they were all around the same age as yours. Your post brought back many happy memories for me though I don’t remember the grotto which is simply beautiful. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a birthday, fingers crossed for some more lovely autumn days.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids


  2. Firstly, happy (belated) birthday!
    What an amazing place to find. It’s always great when you stumble across such beautiful places to explore. As for the Cyrstal Grotto, that looks amazing (I can see how a child could see that your first photo looks like the mouth of a monster with enormous teeth!!) What a lovely idea to have a birthday meet up; blowing out the candles outside must’ve felt very exciting for Alex!
    Long may these wonderful, warm sunny autumn days continue!


  3. Pingback: Our London Autumn | Diary of a Herne Hill mum

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