Once upon a time there was a young man called Thomas. He dreamed of arranging overseas trips for people who didn’t have access to the Internet. His idea was seized upon and embraced in a very tight hug. To say that Thomas was a success would be like claiming sliced bread was a fairly good idea.
As well as discovering great satisfaction in life, Thomas also made an awful lot of money. This money enabled him to do just about anything he wanted to do. More importantly, it allowed his ancestors to build houses wherever they liked. One of these ancestors, Frank Cook, while visiting the Surrey Hills, stood atop a wooded hill called Barnett and decided it was the perfect place for a stately home.
So, in 1905, Frank had built a Queen Anne styled house (I use the term ‘house’ in an ironic style given it’s immense) which is now called Barnett Hill, after the hill. I wonder why Frank didn’t name it something grander. It could have been Cook Towers or The House That Holidays Built or anything, really. But, no, for reasons known only to Frank, it was named after the hill.
The house and land (24 acres) only cost £35,000 so, with the money saved, Frank employed 14 gardeners to keep it all looking terrific.
And so things remained until 1940 when, recently widowed, Mrs Cook decided the big rambling house was a bit too big and rambling and decided to give it to the Red Cross and St John’s as a convalescent hospital. The British Red Cross ran the house for many years, using it for training among other things, until it was sold to the Sundial Group, who own it now.
Sundial runs training days and conferences for corporate types, the types who probably don’t even notice gardens. I wonder whether this is why they have decided to open the estate for the NGS…which is why I’m going on about it. We (along with many, many others) visited today and loved it. To be fair, we weren’t that keen on the tea room queue but other than that, it was all lovely.
Of special note is the little house in the shrubbery (above). It has a carpeted front room and a tiny kitchen. It is very cute and I bet a few kids have thought about having a cubby house just like it. We thought it might have been an original gardener’s cottage but, apparently, it’s just a very fancy summer house.
One of the best things about Barnett Hill is that dogs are welcome. So, of course, Day-z and Emma accompanied us. Apart from Emma’s strange sliding down the hill on her butt antics, they were very well behaved and almost universally admired. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any bees and had a lovely visit.
As usual, the better photos are on Flickr.