Dogs and kids at Hatchlands Park in Surrey
Days Out

Visiting Hatchlands Park in Surrey with children and a dog

3rd April 2024

Hatchlands Park National Trust site in West Surrey has lots to offer for adults, children and dogs, from exciting trails to yummy cakes. If you are looking for places to visit in Surrey with both children and dogs, then this could be the place to go. But how easy is it in practise to visit this huge estate with your dog, especially when you have kids, babies and buggies to think about too? 

We gave this a go on the bank holiday Monday at the start of the Easter holidays in early Spring, hoping that the Easter egg trail would keep my 4 year old amused as well as stretch my dog’s legs, and wouldn’t be too difficult with our all-terrain buggy and 1 year old son aboard. With the other half fishing for the day and the weather looking more or less dry, I thought Hatchlands Park in West Surrey would be the perfect choice to entertain my little handful and be a great place to visit with both children and a dog in West Surrey.Dogs and kids at Hatchlands Park in Surrey

A dog friendly parkland

We aimed to arrive for 10am at the site as I really wanted to be in the car park close to the entrance rather than in the overflow car park, these little things can make a big difference when you are herding toddlers and excitable spaniels! Naturally we were 15 minutes late, despite my best efforts to make sandwiches in record time! However there was still a few spaces left in the back corner and we parked easily – so far so good!

The majority of the estate is dog friendly being given a ‘two pawprint‘ rating by the National Trust themselves. This means dogs are allowed throughout most of the estate including the cafes, however the house and formal gardens are not dog-friendly. I had already checked on the map where dogs were allowed at Hatchlands Park, but I spoke to the lady just to check and she confirmed we needed to take the path to the left that skirts around the formal gardens and we couldn’t take the path in front of the house. I thought this might be long and muddy, but the matting they had put down was great for the pushchair and the route actually felt like a shortcut rather than a long way round.

A little playground where dogs are welcome

It took us to the stables, were we looked for the donkeys but they were in the paddock behind. We stopped at the picnic benches here and had a snack while my 4 year old played on the equipment – this is perfect for toddlers and great that we could sit so close to this play park with the dog. We then continued on and took advantage of passing the toilets to nip in. The disabled fit all of us in and had a baby change in there too so there was no need to tie the dog outside and hope she hadn’t stolen anyone’s lunch as they walked by before I came back out.

To join the egg trail we had to collect a pack from the end of the courtyard so we picked one of these up and passed through to the other side where the trail started. It took a circular route, first going up near the children’s play area, then turning left towards the west of the park and looping back around to the courtyard and cafes.

Holly under a benchOur dog Holly is quite well trained, but like many dogs can go a bit deaf when there’s something really exciting happening. Therefore I brought along our running lead which fits around my waist and is elasticated so softens the impact if Holly pulls suddenly, and gives her a bit more space to move around than her normal lead. This worked perfectly, and meant I was hands free to deal with my two little rascals when they needed it. Also the lead wasn’t long enough for Holly to get in front of the pushchair easily, so she wasn’t in danger of getting run over at any point if I got distracted.

An egg trail both children and dogs can enjoy

We set off up the path to the play area and started doing the Easter trail activities which were along the way. The first one was climbing over bales of hay and then jumping hurdles, which children of all ages were enjoying. My daughter didn’t fancy that (she can be a bit funny about what she gets involved in). However the next activity was looking through different coloured plastic windows to see the scenery change colour and she really liked this one. This one also gave us a good view of the cows which were in the field behind an electric fence, as well as the pheasants that were among them.

Holly is fine around livestock, but she will definitely chase a pheasant so I was pleased I had kept her on the lead. This part is also very open, and Holly loves a good gallop around when she comes to an open area, feeling that she needs to let her inner hooligan go wild. However the rules for dog walking at Hatchlands Park state dogs should be under close control, and i’m not sure Holly’s excitement would fall into this definition. Most dogs along this bit did seem to be on lead though so perhaps not just a problem we have!

The playground is ‘almost’ dog friendly

Before turning left, we first went to the play area which is one of the better ones for dogs at National Trust sites. This in my opinion is why it also makes it one of the best places to visit with children and dogs in West Surrey. Here you can bring your dog in to the benches at the entrance, rather than have to leave them completely outside. It perhaps isnt the most exciting playground for Children compared to the other National Trust sites in Surrey, but very helpful if you are visiting with both children and dogs. This meant that we could go in, as otherwise I would have felt unhappy leaving my dog out of site, such as at Polesdon Lacey for example, another nearby National Trust site in Surrey. Having the running lead also helped here as the benches were quite full. Instead I could easily lock the lead around a large fence pole at the side using the waistband part of the lead (the fence itself looked a bit too weak to do this).

Having Holly secure, out of the way, unlikely to cause trouble but still in sight meant that I was able to relax and let my son have a toddle about while my daughter played on the equipment. My son isn’t yet walking but is keen to keep trying, he needs a helping hand to do so but enjoyed tottering about and looking through the house, and watching the antics of the other children on the equipment. My daughter loves the tree house here, although she would love it more if there was also some swings she could go on. 

There wasn’t any Easter activities to do in the play area. During the Christmas trail they had also built the play area into the trail with a couple of activities here too, but I imagine it just gets too busy to do this during the Easter Holidays. If you do enjoy the Easter Trail at Hatchlands Park then it is worth coming back to do the Christmas trail too – in December 2023 it was based around Narnia and my daughter loved it.

Dog proof fencing was along a lot of our walk

After 15 minutes and one bruised shin and a few tears from tripping over one of the logs, we decided to carry on with the trail which looped past the field with cows (and pheasants!) in. This path was well fenced and I would have been happy letting Holly off the lead here if it wasn’t that she was paying so much attention to the pheasants so I kept her on, however we passed lots of dogs off lead along here. Unlike normal courtesy, I didn’t notice anyone put their dog back on lead when approaching Holly even though she was on lead. And they didn’t stop their dog approaching her. Whether this is because so many dogs are on lead for control reasons rather than reactivity reasons I’m not sure, but definitely something to watch out for if you have a reactive dog, or even just one that is aggressive, nervous or just doesn’t like other dogs!!

When we turned left at the end of this path, the route was still fenced but with a metal fence that had fairly wide gaps in, so if you think your dog might think its fun to scramble through these and go and cause trouble then perhaps again it’s better to keep them on the lead along here. Eventually we came to another gate at the end which led us back into open parkland and down the hill past the donkey paddock to the house.

More dog friendly Easter fun!

children at the end of our dog walk doing the Easter Trail at Hatchlands Park, a National Trust site in West SurreyOther Easter activities along the way included completing a surprisingly difficult Easter egg wooden jigsaw puzzle, rolling eggs down a tube and racing against others, counting the eggs along the path, and tossing bean bags through egg shaped holes. All of these my daughter enjoyed and kept her entertained along the way. She isn’t the best at walking and usually within 20 minutes she is asking to get on the pushchair somehow or has started moaning, but she didn’t do this on this trail and we made it nearly all the way around without too many lifts.

At the end was a photo opportunity to show you had completed the trail and then it was back to the courtyard to collect your egg. Overall the trail took us around 1.5/2 hours, but my daughter does walk very slowly! We then stopped at the picnic benches by the stables again, this time to have lunch.

Not just one, but two dog friendly cafes 

There are two cafes here, one at the top of the courtyard and one at the side which is usually only open during busier times. However both of these state they allow dogs into them. We didn’t go into the cafes as although they are dog friendly it was quite busy being a bank holiday and I didn’t think I would be able to squeeze the buggy around them as well as a dog and a toddler. On top of this they do usually have long queues during the school holidays and my rabble struggle to wait patiently, plus I thought it would be hard to find a table inside anyway.

Some National Trust sites like at Box Hill which is near Dorking in Surrey have a café as well as a takeaway window, but there isn’t this option at Hatchlands Park. We were lucky it was a nice day with only a spot of rain at lunchtime, as otherwise sitting outside in the cold and wet wouldn’t have worked for my 4 year old daughter. The tables in the courtyard do have large brollies so you could probably make it work if it is raining but not too chilly, or if you are made of sturdier stuff than what we are.

Eventually we left around 1.30. We obviously didn’t go into the house – this isn’t dog friendly and neither are the gardens around it, but we had been into this in previous visits and were not worried that we couldn’t visit today. It would have only been a problem if we had done the Narnia Christmas trail, as part of this was inside the house and my daughter loved going ‘through the wardrobe’. We went round 3 times!!

Better dog training makes for more enjoyable days out

One thing which really helped keep Holly as undisruptive as possible was her good citizen award. We did this training to the silver level, which in total was 24 weeks of quite repetitive training but now means that Holly is good at walking at my side when asked, and also has a pretty good stay. She also knows ’round’ and ‘through’, which I use to get the dog to the other side of the pushchair and prevent her from tripping up my toddler. This was really helpful and makes walking a dog with a pushchair much easier and more stress free. Many of the clubs on our dog agility clubs page also offer dog training, so take a look at these if you think your pooch would benefit from a bit more training.

Overall we had a lovely visit, and would definitely recommend Hatchlands Park in Surrey as a great place to visit with children and a dog, having playgrounds and entertainment for kids as well as allowing dogs into most areas.

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