Surrey’s secret lavender field
Oak Tree Farm sits just outside Banstead on the Croydon Lane – and it’s here where the botanicals are grown for local skincare company Naturally Thinking. The farm welcomes visitors free of charge during the growing season (please check the website for open times) offering pick-your-own, lavender skincare products, refreshments including afternoon tea – and the wonderful opportunity to simply breath deep and enjoy the delicious and relaxing scent that hangs in the air.
You might not know it now, but Surrey was once covered in vast swathes of hazy blue aromatic herb.
The chalk soils, south facing aspects and mild climate around Mitcham, Banstead and Carshalton combine to create the perfect conditions for growing lavender, and for decades in the early 19th century it was lavender from fields around the area that supplied much of the world, including the quintessential English toiletries brands Yardley and Potter & Moore.
Sadly though disease eventually struck the English blooms and around this time French fashions become popular, and lavender fields in Provence grew in both number and prominence.
But English lavender is again having its moment – and Oak Tree Farm, along with other lavender farms in the area are part of the revival.
Oak Tree Farm
The farm is the work of local company, Naturally Thinking, which has been producing skincare products from Surrey lavender since 2004, originally as part the the Carshalton Lavender community project.
Born in Carshalton in 2000, Naturally Thinking is a family-run business producing skincare products for its own label as well as spas and brands across the UK and Europe. They also have a farm nearby on the Little Woodcote Estate where other herbs and botanicals – including rosemary, sage, thyme and burdock root – are grown for use in the skincare products.
The first lavender was planted at Oak Tree Farm in the spring of 2016, with the rest of the 25 acre site planted up by autumn the following year. It’s been a massive task – more than 100,000 lavender plants have been planted in total, over 10,000 of them by hand.
There are more than 450 different varieties of lavender in total, and at Oak Tree Farm the fields are planted up with Grosso Lavender, a vigorous English variety that produces exceptionally large and rich, deep violet flower spikes. It also produces one of the strongest fragrances of all the lavenders.
As well as taking a stroll through the heady lavender rows, visitors can take time to enjoy the views – in family groups – on hay seating arranged across the fields.
The farm equipment used to plough, cultivate, plant and maintain the fields will be on display, along with pictures and descriptions of how it works.
Kids will enjoy the easy 1km butterfly trail on the farm – where they can spot and count the butterflies across the farm and take part in the Big Butterfly Count.
There will be a pick-your-own lavender – the only lavender farm in the south of England to offer this – at just £3 for a big cut bundle.
Fancy cream tea in the field? Be my guest! As well as cakes, pastries, paninis and cream teas, there is gourmet tea and coffee.
And of course, Naturally Thinking skincare products made from the lavender will also be available – including shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, hand wash, hand cream, body lotion, body butter, bath milk handmade soap as well as linen spray and pillow spray – plus natural lavender essential oil. Honey is also produced in beehives kept in the fields, and this will also be available to buy.
Oak Tree Farm, 25 Croydon Lane, Banstead, SM7 3BE.
Open Mon to Fri, 10am to 5pm, Sat and Sun 9am to 5pm