Surrey is known for being a very wooded county but our trip to Priory Park Reigate truly brought that idea home. The park is essentially in heart of the town, yet just behind it is the most wonderful woodland. My family and I had a fun-filled day there. Priory Park is indeed an enchanting green space that all in the family will enjoy.
Brief History of Priory Park
In the park is Reigate Priory Junior School a Grade 1 listed manor house surrounded by 65 acres of parkland, once The Priory. It has a remarkable history, founded by William de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey under King Henry II in 1235. For 300 years it was used by the Regular Canons, and offered shelter to the sick, aged and travellers. After the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, the Priory passed to the Crown then to the Howard family, which included Catherine (the fifth wife of Henry VIII). Ownership changed over the years centuries, eventually coming to Lady Henry Somerset.
Lady Somerset made many improvements to The Priory and the grounds one of which was the Sunken Garden. The final owner Honourable Peter Beatty sold it before is accidental death in 1949, to Reigate Priory to the Mutual Property Life and General Insurance Company in 1942.
Priory Park Facilities
We’ve been to several parks during Covid lockdown, but Priory Park blew our minds. There’s so much to do! In terms of facilities, it has the following:
- Tennis courts
- Football pitches
- Multisport Courts
- Skate Park
- Picnic Area
Regarding car parking, there are several options but we parked on Park Lane East which is 11 minutes’ walk down the hill to the park. I found that spot on the recommendation of the Find My Village blog which also directed me to the fairy doors!
Eat & Drinking
As usual we brought packed lunch, nothing fancy, just a few meal deals from ASDA. However, the Reigate High street has quite a few eaters. My personal favourite is Café Rouge which I dined at with hubby some years ago. There’s M&S, massive Morrisons and other usual high street eateries.
Inside the park is the Priory Park Pavilion which is first building the UK to be designed by award winning architect Dominique Perrault. Perrault also designed the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris and Olympic Swimming Pool in Berlin. The pavilion is home to the café, Pistachios in The Park. They serve coffee, sandwiches, light snacks, homemade cakes and the like.
A Day At The Park
Our time at the park was well spent. The children headed off to the playground with their dad. Usually, we head to the woodland together, but the play area was too wonderous a sight. It has a nautical-theme that ties in with the maritime history connection of the area. The play ground is perfect for little pirates princesses and explorers. Pride of place is ‘The Grey Lady’ ship, complete with sails and a ship’s wheel; other features include: tube slide, balance bars, ladders, a climbing net, hammocks and sensory play panels, all set over two decks. The kids tried everything, from the climbing wall, to the zip wire, climbing net and Lady Grey herself.
As for me, I set off alone looking for the fairy doors rumoured to be in the woods. I don’t know how many there in total but I found two. They can be found at the base of the trees and could easily be missed if it weren’t for door handles. What I was not prepared for was adorable sculptures of the woodland creatures. The easiest way to find them would be to take the earthy path that runs along the length of length of the park, up on the hill behind playground.
The way I found it was to walk back to the sign post for the public foot path where Cockshot Hill leads up into the wooded area above the park. Where the path makes a ‘Y’ I took the middle sandy path and followed it all the way along the all the way to the lake and it was along the way I spotted the fairy doors. I found Number 20 and Number 36. Before leaving, I took the kids to see one of the fairy doors. We didn’t stay for build dens, but that is another activity that woodland explorers would enjoy.
Finally, we brought the day to a close at the pond feeding the ducks. It was a wonderful way to spend a sunny day with my family.
Have you ever been to Priory Park? Did you find the fairy doors? How many are there? What was the best part of your visit?
Feature Image Credit: Historic England
(Updated 30th January 2021)