Lavender has long been prized for its purple-blue flowers and its fragrance, and its enduring appeal is immortalised in the age-old rhyme: "Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly, lavender's green…"
This versatile plant has outgrown its old-fashioned association with scented lavender bags, and is now a popular essential oil widely used in aromatherapy.
Its soothing and relaxing aroma can help to reduce anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks. A natural astringent with anti-bacterial properties, it can be used as an antiseptic for burns and stings.
The vividly coloured blossom is a source of inspiration for artists and photographers, and is sought-after by bees, who make it into delicious lavender honey.
The North Downs of Surrey, with their chalky, free-draining soil, are an ideal spot for lavender growing, and from the 18th century until the early 20th century, its vivid blooms could be seen every summer in fields around Mitcham, Croydon, Wallington, Banstead, Carshalton and Sutton.
In the 1920's and 30's, traditional lavender fields made way for residential development, and cheap imports of the plant also led to a drop in cultivation. But organic lavender has not entirely disappeared from the North Surrey Downs, as it's still grown at Mayfield Lavender Fields in Banstead.
Depending on the weather, lavender flowers between the last week of June and the last week of August. The Folgate variety blossoms in late June or early July and the Grosso variety from mid July to late August.
Mayfield Lavender Croydon Lane, Banstead, is open from 9am to 6pm daily, from June until the end of September.
Entry to the lavender farm is free for pedestrians. There is an entry fee for cars during the flowering season (£2 per car, redeemable in the shop and cafe for purchases over £5.)
Mayfield Nursery sells lavender-based products along with a selection of plants including perennials and herbs. The nursery is at 139 Reigate Road, Ewell, KT17 3DW (Driftbridge) Open from 9am to 5pm.