Gaining Public Access

Gaining Public Access

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The single biggest issue the project has faced is arranging public access to the site.

The original plan was to open the garden to the public about two or three years into the project, and The Trust began early on to offer guided tours of the landscape for a few hours each week in 1985.

Opening fully to the public, throughout the year, depended on establishing a public entrance, access road and car park.

‘The car park was key, because initially we could only open on 26 Sundays a year because of planning restrictions,' says Mike. The site, however, is bounded by the A3 to the north, the River Mole to the south and southeast, and privately owned land to the west, so that access could only be gained across fields to the east from the Portsmouth Road (A307).
A range of options had been examined in drawing up the master plan, and the best solution seemed to be a car park in the fields to the east of the site, with a pedestrian bridge over the river to give access to the Park.


View of Painshill Park, looking towards the Turkish Tent, photographed by Fred Holmes, November 2005. Copyright: Fred Holmes.

Photograph of the Turkish Tent, Painshill Park, by
Fred Holmes, November 2005. Copyright: Fred Holmes.

Objections from local residents, however, meant that negotiations, planning applications and appeals dragged on for 14 years, absorbing both time and the project's precious resources.

At last, the Trust gained permission for a car park and bridge, although the entrance and car park were not in the position originally envisaged. The car park is now located 100 metres from the bridge, which increases the walking distance for visitors, while the entrance to the Park is in a less prominent position than the Trust would have liked, and on a road which involves visitors driving into the centre of Cobham.

A grant of £848,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled work on the new access arrangements to go ahead, so that in 1997 Painshill became fully open to visitors. This was followed by another grant to build the education and visitor centres, which opened in 2001.

Originally 18th-century visitors would have joined the garden circuit by walking from Hamilton's house, which lies to the north of the Amphitheatre and Gothic Temple. Hamilton's successor, Benjamin Bond Hopkins, built the present house, which is in separate ownership on private land and stands at some distance from the main garden circuit.

These factors, together with the location of the car park and bridge, meant that the visitor centre was best positioned alongside the walled garden, which is not within the historic garden, and is where the circuit of the Park now begins and ends.

Balancing the Books


Photograph of the Chinese Bridge, Painshill Park, by Fred Holmes, November 2005. Copyright: Fred Holmes.

Photograph of the Chinese Bridge, Painshill Park,
by Fred Holmes, November 2005. Copyright: Fred Holmes.