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Fab, fun & free… things to do in Surrey

Summer funds might be running low but there is still plenty to squeeze out of August right here in Surrey. Shall we take a look?

Check out someone else’s dahlias

The National Garden Scheme sees over 3,500 private gardens in England and Wales open for charity – adults pay but children go free. This is brilliant for two reasons: firstly, you can indulge in a bit of real-life garden porn, and you can pick up clever border design ideas while sending a few quid (normally around £4) to highly worthy charities. We’re keen to pop to Titsey Place Gardens (above) in Oxted (16 Aug), Moleshill House in Cobham, Pratsham Grange in Holmbury St Mary and Randalls Allotments in Cobham (all 23 Aug). Booking essential.

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Get your art fix

We’ve missed our lovely local museums and galleries, haven’t you? Luckily, some of our favourites have reopened including Watts Gallery in Compton and The Lightbox in Woking. We’re particularly loving the free exhibition at the Lightbox – Stay Home Superheroes by Surrey photographer Jo de Magneval – which opened this week. At Watt’s Gallery, Norman Ackroyd’s Etching the Archipelago exhibit is on until 27 Sept with free admission. Unto This Last: Two Hundred Years of John Ruskin opens at Watt’s Gallery on 17 Aug which is free for friends of Watt’s Gallery and under 18s and £13.75 for everyone else.

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Play al fresco tennis

Game, set and match! There are plenty of tennis clubs and leisure centres in our ends where you can pay to book a court for an hour but I’ve scoped out some free options, all you need to bring is a bat and ball. Or balls, plural, if your serves are as wayward as ours. The West Byfleet Recreation Grounds has three tennis courts which are all fine for a casual knock with friends. At Priory Park in Reigate there are four all-weather tennis courts – just turn up and play – while at Kingston Meadows at East Horsley there’s one tennis court which is free on a first come, first serve basis. Cobham Recreation Ground, the West End Recreation Ground in Esher, Long Ditton Recreation Ground and Oatlands Recreation Ground in Weybridge also have tennis courts free to use – you just have to register with Elmbridge Borough Council to get your free Parks Tennis Pass.

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Pack a picnic

Nothing says summer quite as much as a wicker basket packed full of strawberries, Champagne and salmon sandwiches (or perhaps more likely, a bag-for-life with a box of sausage rolls, a can of coke and a couple of Kit Kats). And if you come prepared with umbrella, waterproofs and rainproof rug, you’ll have a good time whatever the weather throws at you. Head up to the top of Box Hill to make the most of the incredible views across to the Surrey Hills, while Frensham Great Pond just south of Farnham allows you to stare dreamily across the water (although it gets VERY busy on hot days), while ignoring the wasps attacking your ice lolly.

Tap up some regional heritage

Picture courtesy of Guildford Borough Council

Guildford Castle is a vibrant and popular park which is free to enter. The gardens are pretty and there’s also a life-size statue of Alice Through the Looking Glass. There’s a small charge if you want to explore the 11th century Castle Keep. Waverley Abbey was the very first monastery founded in Britain by the reforming Cistercian religious order. But perhaps more interesting for kids, is the fact it’s also the backdrop for Hollywood films like 1998’s Elizabeth (starring Cate Blanchett and Joseph Fiennes) and Disney’s Into the Woods. Take a picnic.

Go for a ramble

Image courtesy of Reigate and Banstead Council

Make the most of sunny days by stomping through our lush woodlands and undulating countryside. Head to Banstead Woods and follow the easy 5km Nature Trail or the Narnia Trail. For water views, head to Virginia Water and do the classic circular walk around the lake, or for views (and wild ponies if you’re lucky) there’s the National Trust’s Hidden Hindhead Trail – it’s less than 5km and dog friendly. Many more headline-worthy walks can be found in our guide here.

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