Quite a bunch of us set out from The Jolly Farmer at Bramley. We felt remarkably jolly ourselves. First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
This is just what you want a village pub to be like – cheerful, bouncy, well-kept, a bit eccentric, the sort of place where the landlord tends the flowerbeds and the bargirl talks of herself unselfconsciously as a member of ‘the Jolly Farmer Family’.
You know you’re in deepest stockbroker Surrey when the wind-vanes on the stables are topped, not by foxes or cocks, but by bonus-friendly helicopters. This is beautifully maintained countryside, the fields all smooth green grazing, the woods coppiced, the driveway gates enormous, the paddocks full of glossy thoroughbreds – and one or two horses, too. The secret glory of this corner of Surrey is its ancient lanes, old trackways winding through the woods that have never known a tarmac-spreader. Hooves and boots have worn them hollow down the centuries. They lie deeply sunken into the sandy landscape, a network of shady holloways dappled with sun filtering through the beech and hazel canopy.
We went west from Bramley along a lane bordered with white stars of stitchwort and bells of pungent wild garlic. The spring sunlight reached down out of a china-blue sky, fingering sycamore leaves so intensely green that the woods appeared lit from within. Brick gables and the tall stalks of ornamental chimneys poked out of the treetops at Catteshall and Thorncombe Street, telltale signs of splendid houses hidden away amongst their private greenery.
On the steep hillside above Thorncombe Street we sat in a row on a weather-furrowed beech log to gaze around the valley with its string of old millponds and lakes ribboning south to the treasury of trees at Winkworth Arboretum. Horses grazed broad paddocks between copses of hornbeam and oak, all cradled in a perfect bowl of green hills.
We dipped down through a bluebell wood with a floor more blue than green, and found a straight holloway leading northward back to Bramley. Up on the crest, in the paddock at Hurst Hill Farm, a young god in a pink shirt and a warrior topknot cantered by on a gleaming steed with two other horses on loose reins as outriders. Watching the careless grace of the youth and his beautiful animals shiny with health and exercise, I could understand why men of old believed in centaurs.
Start: Jolly Farmer PH, Bramley, Surrey GU5 0HB (OS ref TQ 008448).
Getting there: Bus service 53 (arrivabus.co.uk), Guildford-Ewhurst. Road – Bramley is on A281, Guildford-Horsham (M25, Jct 10).
Walk (7 miles, easy/moderate, OS Explorer 145): From Jolly Farmer, left along A281. Cross junction with B2128; in 200m, left (007451; ‘bridleway’). In ⅔ mile, cross road (997447). In ½ mile, on Farley Hill, descend to meet T-junction of holloways with ‘Fox Trail’ waymark (990445); right to 5-way staggered junction of tracks (987446). Take 2nd left, uphill with field on right. In 200m, at T-junction (986444), on past houses. In 250m, at The Old Cider House on left, turn left (984442). At gates of Catteshall Manor, left (‘bridleway’). In nearly 1 mile, cross Munstead Heath Road (990430). Ahead (fingerpost); in 300m, over path crossing (990427). In another 300m (991424), left along road for 150m; right (fingerpost) through wood. In ⅓ mile, leave wood over stile (994419); follow field edge down valley towards house. Just before house, right through kissing gate (996418); left (yellow arrow/YA) to pass house; before reaching road, left by garden shed (997417, YA) up steps and on. Follow field edges for ⅓ mile to road in Thorncombe Street (999422).
Right to junction; left (‘Bramley’); in 100m, right (fingerpost, ‘Organic Farm Trail’) up lane. Through gateway; follow left-hand hedge uphill to cross stile at top (003422); on along fenced path. Follow YAs through wood. Down field to cross stile; left on bridleway (011423) past Upper Bonhurst. At a barn conversion, bear right at fork (011431). In 50m cross road; at 3-way ‘bridleway’ fingerpost, don’t turn left, but keep ahead up woodland track. On past Hurst Hill Farm (012438); continue for ½ mile, descending deep holloway to cross road (010444). Ahead to A281; ahead to Jolly Farmer.
Lunch/Accommodation: Jolly Farmer PH, Bramley (01483-893355; jollyfarmer.co.uk) – cheerful, characterful, family-run pub.
Winkworth Arboretum: 01483-208477; nationaltrust.org.uk