The charming market town of Dorking is steeped in history, and a wander through the town will transport you back to Roman times. With its scenic setting, bustling town centre, varied architecture, pretty streets and public spaces, Dorking possesses a more independent side of business, having been identified as a town with a thriving market culture that boasts arts and crafts shops, boutiques, art galleries, eclectic vintage shops and antique traders. It also boasts an open-air shopping district, St Martin’s Walk - here you’ll find a wealth of bars, cafes, and restaurants, and Dorking halls, a popular cinema and theatre complex.
Estate Agents Jackson-Stops placed Dorking second in its list of the top commuter hotspots for 2018, based on annual home price growth and season ticket costs. And there’s no questioning why. Dorking is sought after for its close proximity to London, lower house prices, top-rated schools including Hurtwood House, and beautiful surrounding villages. And what’s more, Dorking boasts England’s largest single estate vineyard. Denbies Wine Estate, located just outside Dorking, was established in 1986 and boasts over 600 acres, 265 of which are vines.
Denbies produces internationally award-winning cool climate sparkling wines using the traditional grape varieties, grown on chalky soil, it has also an excellent reputation for producing award-winning premium still wines. Denbies wine range is annually awarded international medals, including an IWC Gold for Denbies Greenfields Sparkling and a platinum trophy for its now renowned dessert wine Noble Harvest.
The estate is one of the most respected wineries in the south-east with two restaurants, wine and gift shop, conference and banqueting facilities, a micro-brewery and farm shop. The original Farmhouse accommodation offers bed and breakfast with seven en-suite double rooms, located in the heart of the vineyard with sweeping views over the North Downs. In 2019, the Farmhouse will be extended and Denbies will be opening the first Vineyard Hotel in the UK with 17 bedrooms. This summer look out for the Secret Vineyard Tasting Trail, a unique opportunity to experience areas of the vineyard not normally accessible to the general public. Or enjoy an afternoon tea vineyard tour - includes a vineyard train tour followed by an afternoon tea hamper on the Farmhouse lawn.
Things you might not know
• The chalky soils around the North Downs are very similar to the earth where famous names such as Bollinger and Dom Perignon plant their grapes in France.
• Dorking and nearby Box Hill were chosen as part of the route for the 2012 London Olympics cycling road race.
• Scientists working on the UK’s first atom bomb narrowly avoided nearly dropping a five tonne replica on Dorking in the early 1950s. The dummy device was being flown to a top secret military test site in Suffolk when it came loose in the bomb bay, luckily the bomb doors held.
“Dorking: The greatest market for poultry in England”.
Every wondered what the giant silver chicken is doing on the Deepened roundabout just outside of the town centre? The ‘Dorking’ was a chunky breed of cockerel bred by the Romans for its meat, and even caused Queen Victoria to have quite a soft spot for the bird, as she praised the quality of the meat sold here. Standing proud at 10ft tall, the giant silver cockerel was commissioned by Neil Maltby, Chairman of Mole Valley District Council at the time, and created by sculptor Peter Parkinson to celebrate the town’s association with the bird.
The cockerel image now features on numerous road signs and commemorative pieces, and many local clubs and societies have adopted the cockerel as their emblem.
Look out for
The Dorking Film Festival, which takes place every year, is a film festival that shows films with a local flavour from Dorking, Surrey and the south-east of England, as well as independent films and world cinema.
West Street is an entire street almost completely dedicated to antique shops and will have you window shopping till you drop. Plans to retain Dorking’s market culture include a new Sunday ‘flea market’ in West Street - billed as Surrey’s answer to Portobello Road.
Polesden Lacey is a beautiful Edwardian house and estate, located at Great Bookham, near Dorking. Extensively remodelled in 1906 by one of Britain’s richest society hostesses, Margaret Greville, who boasted monarchs, maharajas and millionaires as her friends, Polesden Lacey is one of the National Trust’s most popular properties. It was even said that the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth spent part of their honeymoon here in 1923.
Dorking Business Improvement District (BID)
Dorking Town Partnership, the newly formed Business Improvement District (BID) voted in last summer by businesses in Dorking, is working on its five-year business plan. By working together and investing collectively in local improvements, they plan to benefit businesses by driving footfall, growing the local economy and contributing to the wider aspirations of the community.
The BID is currently going through a rebrand process, working on a marketing plan to raise the profile of the town and its businesses.
Charlotte Whitaker, Dorking Town Partnership’s BID Manager, explains: “The West Street market is part of a bigger inspirational piece of work, designed to make Dorking more attractive on a Sunday to residents, visitors and businesses alike. We have a unique market town offering the delights of the caves, the museum and established antique shops which are all on West Street, and so we’re keen to preserve this as part of Dorking’s singular identity. These will complement the proposed antiques, ‘junktiques’, vintage brocante, artisan food, and florists all within a Sunday market”.
The plan is part of several different ideas for the possible regeneration of a number of different market concepts around Dorking, and Dorking Town Partnership are hoping that this particular project will stimulate the exploration of possibilities throughout the town as a whole.
Dorking Town Partnership also have exciting plans for a Rob Walker Centenary Festival to be held on the 21st October 2018. The Rob Walker Racing Team (one of the most successful privateer motor racing teams) was based at Pippbrook during the 1950s and 1960s. This unique motorsport event will bring together up to nine historic Rob Walker racing cars for a parade lap around Dorking town centre.
Representatives from local businesses form the board of directors and are responsible for ensuring the business plan is being completed. There is currently a resident’s position available on the board. If you are a resident of Dorking and would like to apply to sit on the board of Directors in an observational role please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org