Search Results : surrey

Jul 132019

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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It’s rather amazing that Frensham Common has not sunk under the weight of its conservation titles. This thousand-acre sandy heath in south-west Surrey is a Special Protection Area, a Special Area for Conservation, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s full to the brim with butterflies, birds, insects and lizards. And it’s a beautiful place for a walk on a hot summer’s day.

Unbroken blue sky lay over the common. Our boots kicked up little puffs of sand as we followed a track over humps and through hollows. The sun brought rich resinous smells from the pine trees and scented the purple heather that ran in waves to the wooded horizon in all directions. There was the strange sensation of being enfolded by wild country in a Home Counties landscape.

The sandstone that underlies Frensham Common is a dark rock shot through with iron, rusted to burnt orange, warm to the touch today. We passed a pond tufted with tussocks of moor grass like pale green fright wigs. Dragonflies dodged across water as dark and still as oil. The aptly named Sandy Lane led west past a trickle of stream in the ford at Gray Walls, then out into open heath in a glassy shimmer of heat haze. No birds sang in the mid-afternoon sun. A solitary lizard ran across the path in a little flurry of sand, too quick for the eye to register.

At Frensham Great Pond the scene changed. This big pool, created in early medieval times to provide carp for the Bishop of Winchester’s table, is a great place to splash around on sandy beaches. Fishermen stalked the reeds. Kids sailed tiny boats. There was a cheerful atmosphere of holiday and outdoors fun.

The homeward path lay south of The Flashes ponds and heathland. A steep stony path led up to the summit of the Devil’s Jumps. These three ironstone hummocks were kicked up by Old Nick as he ran off with Mother Ludlam’s cauldron under his arm.

On the top we found the giant boulder that the great god Thor pitched at the Devil. Two young lovers were sitting on it, admiring the sunlit view and each other. We left them to it.

Start: Bel & The Dragon Inn, Jumps Road, Churt, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2 LD (OS ref SU 871393).

Getting there: Inn is at junction of Jumps Road and Hale House Lane, 2 miles east of Churt (A287 Hindhead-Farnham)

Walk (6½ miles, sandy tracks and paths, OS Explorer 133, 145): From Inn, left up Jumps Road. In 100m, right up fenced path. In 150m, ahead through woods. In another 150m, fork right uphill between trees to fork right at waymark post (870395, yellow arrow/YA) into valley. In 500m, fork left past gate (871400, YA) on wide permissive track. In 500m, through wire fence to cross ride (867402) with gate opposite. Left; immediately right across footbridge, follow fence on right (YAs).

In 400m, right through fence (864404, YA) up track to Sandy Lane (865405). Left; in 300m, over ford (862406); in another 100m fork right on tarmac. In 200m, ignore Byway on right (859407). At turning area by Lowicks houses, keep ahead (858407, blue arrow/BA) on sandy path west across Frensham Common for ½ mile to cross A287 (849410).

Pass barrier opposite and on. In 250m, fork left at post (847410, BA, ‘Surrey Hills Cycle’/SHC). Keep straight on for 500m to Frensham Common car park. Bear right to cross entrance road beside notice-board (844406). On among trees (SHC). In 450m descend steps; right (843402) along side of Frensham Great Pond. At road, left (841401, SHC); at Frensham Pond Hotel, fork left (841400) on Pond Lane (soon following path on left among trees, parallel with lane) for ½ mile to cross A287, 100m north of its junction with Pond Lane (849399).

Ahead (SHC, fingerpost) on track. In 300m, right at fork (852400, BA, SHC). In 150m, at 2-finger post, SHC continues ahead, but fork left downhill here on path, then road for 600m. Left (855394) up ‘Permissive Track’ on west edge of Churt Common, then along south edge of The Flashes. In ½ mile, wooden fence joins on right (865397); in another 300m, where fence turns sharp right, ahead over cross path and footbridge (868397). Ahead, then half right, steeply up to summit of easternmost Devil’s Jump (869395). Left down to junction (waymark post); right to return to inn.

Lunch/Accommodation: Bel & The Dragon Inn (01428-605799, – stylish, comfortable stopover.

Info: Frensham Common –
Guildford TIC 01483-444333;;;

 Posted by at 01:19
Mar 302019

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A lovely crisp sunny day over the North Downs, the sort of day you dream of as winter takes a sly peep behind the curtains of spring. The crocuses were out under the big oak on Ranmore Common, green lambs’-tails swung from hazel twigs, and deep in the woods a great tit rang his two-tone territorial bell.

A bridleway dropped northward through the trees towards the Polesden valley, winding among holly, yew and butcher’s broom – all trees and shrubs that would be in scarlet berry later in the year.

Down in the valley bottom Bagden Farm stood splashed by the late winter sun. A great spotted woodpecker drummed out a rattling claim to its patch of Freehold Wood as we followed a permissive path through the valley, one of many provided by the Polesden Lacey estate. The country house itself lay hidden beyond flint walls and thick belts of shrubbery, but the influence of a well-maintained estate on its surroundings was plain to read in beautiful parkland trees, subtle corners of landscaping, and the excellent waymarking of paths.

Walking the tracks I recalled a previous visit to the house, hearing splendid tales of Polesden Lacey’s early 20th-century chatelaine Mrs. Ronald Greville and her forthright manners (Lady Leslie: ‘Maggie Greville? I would sooner have an open sewer in my drawing room!’).

Actually Maggie Greville, despite her acid tongue, was a generous and warm-hearted person, one of life’s radiators. Born the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish brewer, she loved money and power, but was unashamed of her origins, proclaiming, ‘I’d rather be a beeress than an heiress.’ And it’s Maggie Greville we have to thank for leaving Polesden Lacey to the National Trust in her will.

From the high-perched environs of the house the deeply sunk old holloway of Hogden Lane rolled us down into the valley and up a long flinty rise to the ridge beyond. Here we crossed the ancient route of the Pilgrim’s Way, a shadow track in its contemporary guise of a country road, and turned for home along the North Downs Way among beech and venerable yews on the slope below.

A short detour through a grassy upland, and we were clear of the trees and looking south across a wide valley to where Leith Hill, highest point in Surrey, raised the impudent finger of its crowning tower.

Start: Denbies Hillside car park, Ranmore Common Road, Dorking RH5 6SR (OS ref TQ142504) – NT members free.

Getting there: Train to Dorking West. Road: M25 Jct 9; A 24 to Dorking; Ranmore Road west for 1 mile to car park

Walk (5¾ miles, easy, OS Explorer 146): Cross road; bear right on path to Ranmore Church (145505). Left; in 100m, left on bridleway (fingerpost) north for 1 mile. Just before Bagden Farm, left by shed (148520), through gate; on with fence on right. In ¼ mile, through gate (144517, BA); left; in 30m, right (gate 33, ‘Run England’ red arrow). Follow red arrows and Polesden Valley Walk/PVW. Just beyond Polesden Farm, right (135519, PVW); at top of slope, cross track (gates); ahead on permissive path. In 300m, through gate 20 (132522, yellow arrow); ahead on Hogden Lane, south for 1¼ miles to cross Ranmore Common Road/Pilgrim’s Way (126502). Keep ahead (south) for ⅓ mile; left on North Downs Way (127497, fingerpost) to car park. (NB – in 700m, path across open ground on right gives wide views).

Lunch: Duke of Wellington, East Horsley KT24 6AA (, 01483-282312)

Accommodation: White Horse, High Street, Dorking RH4 1BE (01306-881138,


 Posted by at 01:23
Jun 302018

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The Surrey Weald, a great thickly wooded lens of land, lies on a band of ironstone in the shadow of the North Downs. Once it was a smoky, noisy, clangorous industrial hub, part of the medieval iron-making centre of England. You’d never know it now, though, so snug and quiet lie the villages tucked into valley bottoms along the tortuously winding lanes that thread the woods.

Coldharbour is no more than a scatter of cottages loosely based on the Plough Inn. We started off north along Wolvens Lane, a sun-dappled holloway under sweet chestnuts and knobbly pollarded beeches whose roots hung at the rim of the lane, half in earth, and half in air. Flickers of grey and tan betrayed the movement of horse riders down parallel tracks, moving quietly and all but unseen through the woods.

A path dark with hollies and yews led west, down to the fast water race of the Tilling Bourne in its valley-bottom bed, and to the beautiful mill pond at Friday Street. In the quiet beech woods along Abinger Bottom the tree roots grasped the earth like many-knuckled grey fingers.

A quick sandwich in the Stephan Langton Inn, named after the former Archbishop of Canterbury – a local boy, he led the push to force King John to sign Magna Carta in 1215. Then on through quiet beech woods along Abinger Bottom where the tree roots grasped the earth like many-knuckled grey fingers.

On the slopes of Leith Hill, the highest point in Surrey, we broke clear of the trees and stood between pine trees looking out from the greensand ridge, many miles across the wooded Vale of Surrey and north Sussex, a smoky grey and blue prospect over the Wealden landscape. Up on the viewing platform at the top of nearby Leith Tower the panorama sprang outwards, further and further, south to the South Downs around Goodwood and the trees on Chanctonbury Ring 25 miles off, north to a pale grey smear that might have been the Dunstable Downs a full fifty miles away, and the dream-like spectral towers of the London skyline.

In 1765 Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place built the brick-and-ironstone tower sixty feet tall in order to claim a thousand-foot summit for Surrey. He lies buried here, not arrogantly at the apex of his creation, but humbly beneath its foundations, with the world climbing upon his back to enjoy the sensational view he opened for us all.

Start: Plough Inn, Coldharbour, near Dorking, Surrey RH5 6HD (OS ref TQ 151441)

Getting there: Bus service via Dorking railway station – 433 (Mon, Thur); 50 (Tue, Fri).
Road – Plough Inn is on Coldharbour Lane, 3½ miles south of A25 at Dorking.

Walk (6½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 146. NB: Detailed directions, online maps, more walks at From Plough Inn, cross road; take lane to right of bench (‘Byway’). In ¾ mile pass Wolven Cottage Stables on right (145452); in 100m, left past metal barrier; path inside edge of wood. In 250m, fork left at wooden barrier (142451) and on for 500m, descending to gravel bridleway at Tilling Springs (139449). Right; in 100m, right along Greensand Way/GW. In ½ mile at Mare’s Nest, right along road (135457); fork immediately right and continue on GW. In ½ miles pass entrance to Mandrake House (nameplate); in another 100m, left (135465, stile, yellow arrow/YA) across field, then Tilling Bourne stream.

Up slope, across road (131462) and on past Wotton Estate notice. In 150m, over path crossing (130462, fingerpost/FP) and on. In 400m, steep descent to kissing gate and path crossing with bridge ahead (126462). Don’t cross bridge; turn left with stream on right for 450m to cross road by pond at Friday Street (128458). Ahead to pass Stephan Langton Inn.

At end of road, ahead through barrier and on south (‘public bridleway’). In 700m, left along road (127449). In 100m, fork right and on. In ½ mile (127440) fork right. Cross road above house; follow woodland track to road. Left to bend; left (128438, ‘Broadmoor’); immediately right (‘Bridleway’) on woodland track for ¾ mile to Leith Hill Tower (139432). Follow ‘Coldharbour Common Walk’/CCW signs north-east, descending to go through gate (141433, CCW). In 200m go over crossing path and on (142434, blue arrow/BA). In 300m, at meeting of paths, bear right ahead (144437, BA); in 200m, through gate (146438); on past cricket field for ½ mile to Plough Inn.

Lunch: Plough Inn, Coldharbour (01306-711793; or Stephan Langton Inn, Friday Street (01306-730775; Tea: Leith Hill Tower kiosk (10am-3pm)

Accommodation: Plough Inn, Coldharbour; or Henman Bunkhouse, Broadmoor RH5 6JZ (01306-712711,

Leith Hill Tower: open daily, 10-3;;

 Posted by at 01:24
Feb 252017

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A still winter’s day under a mackerel sky of white and blue as we set out from the Withies Inn at Compton. Horses in tarpaulins cropped the paddocks at Coneycroft Stud, where the farm dog ran his nose along the hedge parallel with our boots, and hoarsely proclaimed just what he’d do if he could only get at us.

Along the road the Watts Cemetery Chapel stood tall on its mound. Mary Watts, artist wife of the Victorian painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts, designed it as a brilliant Art Nouveau expression of grief and mourning through the depths of darkness and the redemptive power of light. Local villagers fashioned many of the tiles under Mary’s tuition – she was a passionate believer in everyone’s potential for artistic creativity. The exterior is packed with calm-eyed angels in flaring orange terracotta, the interior full of sombrely coloured, transcendentally beautiful cherubim and seraphim.

Mary and George Watts moved to Compton in 1891 (she was 42, he was 74) and founded a remarkable gallery dedicated to George’s symbolist work. We were tempted to spent the whole afternoon there, but the ancient holloway of the North Downs Way beckoned us away east to the banks of the River Wey on the southern borders of Guildford.

On a sandy river cliff high over the Wey we found the roofless old chapel of St Catherine, round which a notorious fair used to be held. Neither of the Wattses painted that, but JMW Turner did – a vigorous scene of fighting, drinking and sideshow action, the artist depicting the throng in swirling attitudes and splashing colours.

The River Wey was one of the first in England to be canalised, part of a wonderfully ambitious 17th-century scheme to link London to the English Channel in mutual prosperity. We walked south past neat brick lock-keepers’ cottages on the edge of its quiet waters, as still and calm as a linear lake, curving with man-made artistry through meadows where last year’s purple loosestrife stood brown and crackly dry.

Our homeward path lay westward through the arable parkland of Loseley Park. Rooks and black-headed gulls patrolled the furrows in fields of winter wheat, and squirrels scuttered among hazels from which they had stripped every last nut.

Start: Withies Inn, Compton, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1JA (OS ref SU 963468)

Getting there: Bus 46 from Guildford.
Road – From A3 just south of Guildford, Compton is signed. Pass through Compton; in ½ mile, left up Withies Lane to Withies Inn.

Walk (8½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 145): From Withies Inn, right along Withies Lane. Cross road; on along wood edge path (fingerpost/FP). Left at top of paddocks (yellow arrow/YA) to Coneycroft Farm (959475). At shed, left through gate (YA); follow fenced path to road (957475). Left to Watts Cemetery Chapel (956474).

Return up road. In 300m, pass FP on right; in 20m, fork right (957477, ‘North Downs way’/NDW) past Watts Gallery. Follow NDW for 2¼ miles to road (991483). Left (NDW) to A3100. Dogleg right/left into Ferry Lane. Detour right to St Catherine’s Chapel on hilltop (994482); return to Ferry Lane; right to River Wey (994483); right on Wey South Path for 1 mile to cross A248 at Broadford Bridge (997467). Keep on right bank of river; in 450m, fork right at railway bridge (995464) onto railway path to A248 overbridge (993465).

Left here on Cycle Route 22 (‘Peasmarsh’). In 150m join road; immediately left down Oakdene Road. In 100m, right across recreation field to cross A3100 (990465). Follow path into Peasmarsh Wood (signed); in 150m, fork right to cross railway (989465). Ahead along field edge; through far hedge (985467); left along drive to Stakescorner Road (982468). Right; in 200m, left along Loseley Park drive (FP). In 300m, left (979469, FP) past Grove Cottage. Path across 2 fields (YAs) to driveway (975466); left for 100m; right on path among trees. Over stile, then along 2 field edges; left (971465, FP) to dogleg right/left across B3000 (971463).

Cross playing field and road. Follow footpath beside Copse Side. In 400m, right at road (967459); round right bend; in 100m, left along minor road for ½ mile to B3000 (964466); dogleg right/left up Withies Lane to Withies Inn.

Lunch: Withies Inn (01483-421158,

Accommodation: Eashing Farmhouse, Eashing, Godalming GU7 2QF (01483-421436;

Watts Gallery and Cemetery Chapel: 01483-810235,

Info: Guildford TIC (01483-444333);;

The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99). For 30% off, call 01206 255 777, quoting TIMES302017. 

 Posted by at 02:00
Mar 052016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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It was a chilly February morning in the lee of the Surrey hills, but the sparrows of Ewhurst were chirping all round the village nonetheless. Cold fresh air stung our nostrils in Wykehurst Lane, where the sharp, sweet song of a solitary robin laid the archetypal soundtrack for a wintry walk in the woods.

Snowdrop clumps were still full and white down in the sheltered hollow of Coneyhurst Gill. We followed a muddy path up towards the tree-hung escarpment of the great greensand ridge that cradles the lowlands of the Surrey Weald. This was all loud and smoky ironworking country in the late Middle Ages, but these days the fine large houses of the stockbroker belt look out from their hillside eyries onto paddocks and pastures that lie silent and unblemished. Under a hazel by the path we passed a modest plaque: ‘Tony sleeps here. Good dog.’

Signs of spring were already infiltrating the closed doors of winter – lambs-tail catkins and tiny scarlet flowers on hazel twigs, rushy spears of bluebell leaves under the oaks, and an insistent bubbling of birdsong up in the high woods along the ridge. A stream stained orange by iron leachings had cut deeply into the greensand, and the golden ball of a crab apple bobbed endlessly in a back eddy where the brook had trapped it for a plaything.

The Greensand Way trail strings together the promontories and heights of the escarpment, and we followed its knobbly yellow track up through the woods to Holmbury Hill. In the century before the Romans invaded Kent, a Belgic tribe built a mighty fort here with ramparts and ditches as tall as three men. From its southern lip a wonderful view opens out across the Weald and away towards the South Downs some 20 miles off. On clear days, walkers on Holmbury Hill can spot the semaphore flashes of the sea at Shoreham on the Sussex coast. But today all was muted and misty down there.

Using gorse branches as banisters we groped our way down a precipitous slope below the hill fort. At the foot of the escarpment the mud-squelching track of Sherborne Lane led us back through the fields towards Ewhurst, between hedges where primroses were already beginning to cluster among the hawthorn roots.

Start & finish: Bull’s Head PH, Ewhurst, Surrey GU6 7QD (OS ref TQ 090408)
Getting there: Bus 53 (Horsham-Guildford)
Road: Ewhurst is on B2127 between Forest Green and Cranleigh

Walk (6 miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 145, 146): From Bull’s Head cross B2127; follow Wykehurst Lane (fingerpost/FP). In ½ mile cross bridge over Coneyhurst Gill (082407); in 50m, right (FP, stile) on path through trees. In 600m, left along road (081413); in 50m, right (‘Rapsley’) up drive. Pass Rapsley Farm; on up path on edge of wood. At road, right (081422); in 100m, left up Moon Hall Road.

In 200m, opposite gates of Folly Hill, fork left up bridleway (084422, FP) for 400m to turn right along Greensand Way/GW (085425). In 300m fork right past wooden barrier (086428, GW), downhill and through grounds of Duke of Kent School. Cross Ewhurst Road (090430); on along GW for ¾ mile to car park on Holmbury Hill (098431). Leave car park at far right corner. In 150m, just past pond on right, fork right on path (not broad track) among trees, past wooden barrier (‘Footpath Only’). At edge of escarpment bear left; in 200m turn right along GW (101430). Follow GW to trig pillar on Holmbury Hill fort (104429), and on for 100m into hollow. Right here (105429) down slope past notice ‘Bridleway 193 – Caution, steep slope ahead’. Very steep, rubbly slope down to road (105428).

Right; in 200m, left off road, and follow fenced path to left of gate marked ‘Wayfarers’ (FP). In 100m cross road (103426); ahead along drive with staddle stones (FP). By pond, fork left (‘Bridleway’ FP) along Sherborne Lane bridleway. In ½ mile pass drive to Radnor Place Farm on left (095419). Continue along Sherborne Lane. In 300m, at stile and yellow arrow on right, turn left onto driveway (093418). Right; in 50m, left (FP) along fenced path across Path Four Acres field and into wood (094414). Right (FP) to road in Ewhurst (090409); left to Bull’s Head.

Conditions: Muddy/wet paths; very steep slope down from Holmbury Hill fort.

Lunch/accommodation: Bull’s Head, Ewhurst (01483-277447, – lovely pub, lovely grub
More info: Guildford TIC (01483-444333);;

 Posted by at 01:05
Jul 182015

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Riddlesdown rises opposite Kenley railway station, a steep slope of rough grassland dotted with buttercups and speedwell, and scrub woods thick with yew, oak and ash. Wrens whirr, blackcaps flute, squirrels scuttle up the tree trunks. A rutted chalk track winds up the slope and vanishes over the crest. Walkers stride the grassy paths of Riddlesdown as though they own the place – and in effect, that’s just what they do.

If the Corporation of the City of London hadn’t bought the ‘Coulsdon Commons’ – Riddlesdown and its neighbouring ‘wastes’ of Kenley Common, Coulsdon Common and Farthing Downs – for £7,000 in 1883 (nearly £1 million today), there’s little doubt what would have happened. All four high green open spaces would have been gobbled up in London’s inexorable southward expansion. As it was, the City of London dedicated the 350 acres of Coulsdon Commons, ‘fine, open, breezy downs, already largely used for purposes of recreation by the public, and now for all time secured for those purposes.’

Along the crest of Riddlesdown I followed a flinty track among dog walkers, strollers and kids dashing hither and yon. It was a shock to descend from the open countryside to find the A22 snarling and stinking in the valley bottom. A minute’s wrestling with this monster and I had left the houses behind, climbing up through woods again to the yellow buttercups and blue speedwell drifts of Kenley Common. The occasional rattle of a train came up from the valley, but the birds in the woods along the common were far louder.

A pint of Lancaster Bomber in the Wattenden Arms, whose panelled walls were hung with wartime photographs of fresh-faced fighter aces from nearby Kenley aerodrome who used to drink here in between aerial duels with their German counterparts. Then I moved on, dipping down into suburbia at Old Coulsdon, rising again to the tangled woodland paths on Coulsdon Common.

The local landowner’s enclosure of portions of Coulsdon Common in the 1870s provoked two brothers into taking him to court. Lobbying and legal advice from the newly formed Commons Preservation Society helped the pair to win their case, and pressurised the Corporation of London into making its philanthropic move. The CPS (now called OSS, the Open Spaces Society), is 150 years old this year, and still working to preserve our open green spaces. What would we do without campaigners like these?

I crossed the steep-sided combes of Happy Valley where children were running and yelling through the hay meadows – a sight that would have gladdened the hearts of those public-spirited Victorian aldermen. Then a last long descent through the buttercups and fairy flax of Farthing Downs with the outlandish monoliths of 21st-century London rising on the northern skyline like a nightmare warning of what might have been done with our green spaces – what could still be done – without the vigilance of the OSS and others like them.

Start: Kenley station, Kenley Lane, Surrey, CR8 5JA (OS ref TQ 324601)

Getting there: Rail to Kenley.
Bus 434 (Coulsdon-Whyteleafe)
Road – Kenley station signposted off A22 between Purley and Whyteleafe (M25, Jct 6)

Walk (7 miles, moderate, some steep steps. OS Explorer 161. NB: Detailed directions, online maps, more walks at Down station approach; right to cross A22; up steps and hill path opposite. In ¼ mile, at clearing with 4 gates (327603), go through uppermost gate. Bear right on grass path to join main gravel track, Riddlesdown Road. In ½ mile London Loop path (‘LL’) joins, before track crosses railway and descends to A22 (336593). Left along road; in 50m, right across A22 (LL), across railway, and up New Barn Lane, then up steps through wood (LL, ‘Hayes Lane’). By Kenley Common notice at top (333590) ahead with wood edge on right.

In 150m, into wood (332589). Ahead over path crossing, past Kenley Common notice, on through wood. In 250m, main path bends right (330588); but keep ahead on lesser path to reach open field. Diagonally left across field to fenceless gate and fingerpost in far corner (329585). Ahead (‘Hayes Lane’) past bench; follow path through wood. In 100m, right along lane (LL, ‘Hayes Lane’) for 300m to road (325583). Right (LL); in 150m, left (LL, ‘Old Lodge Lane’) and follow LL signs through corner of Betts Mead and on to road (323582).

To visit Wattenden Arms PH, turn left for 100m. To continue walk, cross road; bear left (LL) along left edge of field. Across next paddock to stile (LL); ahead along lane (‘Waterhouse Lane’ fingerpost). At T-junction, right (323578, LL). Descend to cross Caterham Drive (323576); on up Rydons Lane for 500m to cross road (321571). Ahead (LL, ‘Coulsdon Road’) to cross B2030 (319569). Ahead down Fox Lane. At Fox Inn, bear right round sports field and past Happy Valley notice (317568, LL, ‘Farthing Downs’).

Follow lane along right side of field. In 400m pass bench at corner (313566); on through woodland. Bear right along side of next grassland valley; through neck of woodland; descend slope of next open valley (‘Happy Valley’) diagonally right to bottom (308568). Keep same direction up far slope to top right corner (306569; LL, ‘Farthing Downs’). Ahead on track through Devilsden Wood (LL) to emerge by notice on Farthing Down (302572). Bear right; follow path parallel with road north for 1 mile towards Coulsdon. Where it joins B276, turn left along Reddown Road (300590). In 150m, right across railway to Coulsdon South station.

Return to Kenley by rail via Purley station; or District Cars taxi from Coulsdon South station (0208-668-9000; £7 approx).

Lunch: Wattenden Arms, Kenley (0208-660-4926; – cheerful place with wartime memorabilia

London Loop: Download leaflet guides at; or follow directions in ‘The London Loop’ by David Sharp with Colin Saunders (Aurum Press).

Open Spaces Society:, 01491-573535;;

 Posted by at 07:11
Jun 132015

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The most famous meadow in the world lies modestly beside the River Thames, just downstream from Windsor. When a sulky King John met his angry and defiant barons at Runnymede on 15 June 1215, the king was broke and facing a full-scale rebellion. The barons demanded his agreement to a ‘Great Charter’, guaranteeing no taxation without representation, freedom of worship, justice for all and a limit on the king’s absolute right to command. John squirmed and writhed; he sealed the document, then reneged. Magna Carta was a sickly seed when first planted in the soil of Runnymede. But from it grew the worldwide principles of democratic government.

To get a sense of Runnymede’s place in history, I wanted to see its setting from Cooper’s Hill, the wooded height that bounds the meadow on the south. I followed Cooper’s Hill Lane up to the brow of the hill, where a splendid WWII Air Forces Memorial looks out over Runnymede.

Behan, Belasco, Chander and Cherala; Bardichev, Smik and Gnanamuthu – they came from Canada, Jamaica, Poland, India and New Zealand, and, in the words of the memorial’s inscription, ‘they died for freedom in raid and sortie over the British Isles and the land and seas of northern and western Europe.’

I climbed to the roof of the memorial and stood looking north across Runnymede. West beyond the trees lay Windsor, seat of the monarch. To the east sprawled London, capital of the realm. It’s plain to see how the big, flat meadow by the river offered a good place for a parley on neutral ground.

I descended through the sun-dappled trees of Cooper’s Hill Wood and crossed the fields towards Runnymede. Above the meadow stands the domed colonnade of the Magna Carta Monument (erected in 1957 by the American Bar Association), and the great blunt monolith of the John F Kennedy Memorial. It’s not so strange that both have transatlantic resonances – the American Constitution is founded on the principles of Magna Carta.

Wandering back east through the buttercups and tall grasses of Runnymede, it was easy to picture the pavilions and pennants of 1215, the stern-faced barons sweating in their mail coats, and wretched King John wriggling like an eel as history caught him inescapably in its net.

Start & finish: Egham station, TW20 9LB (OS ref TQ 011710)

Getting there: Train to Egham. Bus 566, 567 (Knowle Hill-Staines). Road – M25 Jct 13, A30, B3407 to Egham.

Walk (5 miles, easy, OS Explorer 160. NB Online maps, more walks: Right along Station Road; follow ‘A30’ to roundabout. Right past car showroom; in 150m, left (007715) along Cooper’s Hill Lane for ¾ mile to Air Forces Memorial (998718). Retrace steps for 200m; on right bend, left through kissing gate (000719); descend steps through Cooper’s Hill Wood (yellow arrows, purple striped posts). At bottom, left across meadow slope to Magna Carta Monument (998727). Half right downhill to cross stile into Runnymede meadow; left for 50m; left up steps to John F Kennedy Memorial. Back in meadow, bear left to pavilion with Magna Carta tearoom (996731). Return to Egham by footpaths through Runnymede meadow.

Lunch: Magna Carta tearoom in pavilion on A308, beside Runnymede NT car park – open 9-5).

Accommodation: Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel, Windsor Road, Egham TW20 0AG (01784-220960; – large, comfortable, cheerful hotel beside Runnymede.

Big Camp Weekend: Camp out in Runnymede. 4 pm, 18 July to 10 am, 19 July. Ranger-led activities, camp fire, BBQs. Adult £30, child £15. Booking essential: 01784-432891

Magna Carta Celebrations, Runnymede – 15 June 2015

More info: 01784-432891;;;;

 Posted by at 01:04
Aug 302014

Geologists say the Devil’s Punch Bowl is the sandstone roof of a giant cavern that collapsed after springs had hollowed it out; folklorists that it’s the imprint of the Prince of Evil’s arse when he landed there after a mighty jump from the Devil’s Dyke near Brighton.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Whatever its origin, this great green hollow in the Surrey Hills is packed with wildlife – slow-worms and lizards, butterflies and beetles, flowers and trees. We followed a path down under silver birches, through a boggy green dell and on across heathland of ling and bell heather gleaming purple in the strong midday sunlight.

A short climb to the tip of the Punch Bowl and we were walking the A3 London-Portsmouth trunk road – not the modern version, which has been buried far underground in twin tunnels since 2011, but the old road that was left abandoned. Where single-file traffic once queued and fumed, a wide green pathway now sweeps round the rim of the Devil’s Punch Bowl, subtly landscaped, edged with silvery grasses and wild flowers. Common blue butterflies opened their gorgeous wings to the sun, and a pair of clouded yellows enacted a crazy chase as we strolled the grass-grown track.

Just above the abandoned road runs another, an ancient highway that once linked the capital with the Royal Navy’s home port of Portsmouth. On a September day in 1786 three ruthless rogues murdered a sailor here for the price of his clothes. We found a memorial stone beside the track ‘erected in detestation of a barbarous Murder’, its reverse face bearing a faded inscription calling down a curse on anyone ‘who injureth or removeth this Stone.’

On Gibbet Hill nearby the three malefactors were hung in chains for all to see. It’s a haunted place, and a sensationally beautiful one, with a view that stretches out across the Sussex Weald from the South Downs to the ghostly towers of London 40 miles off. We sat to take it all in, then followed the National Trust’s ‘Hidden Hindhead’ walk through woods of oak and sweet chestnut coppice, up hollow chalk ways under bulbous pollarded beeches filtering green light, and back across an open heath where the wind was sweetened with pine resin and our finger ends grew purple with the juice of ripe little bilberries.

Start: Devil’s Punch Bowl car park, Hindhead, Surrey, GU26 6AG (OS ref SU 890358)

Getting there: Bus – Stagecoach ( service 18, 19 (Aldershot-Haslemere)
Road – A3 or A287 to Hindhead; car park signed in village

Walk (5 miles, easy, OS Explorer 133. NB: Online map, more walks at From car park walk to viewpoint; right (‘Hidden Hindhead’/HH fingerpost). In 150m fork left through gate; immediately left (892358) down track into Devil’s Punch Bowl. In 350m, right (891361, yellow arrow/YA on post) down to cross stream (892363). Up slope, follow YAs across heath. In 250m go over path crossing (894364). In 400m, through kissing gate beside road on left (895367); right on gravel path to former A3; right along old road (896366) at lip of Devil’s Punch Bowl.

In 650m, on right bend, left (898360) up track through trees to cycle track; right for 300m to Sailor’s Stone (897358) on right. Return for 100m; right (‘Sailor’s Stroll’); follow cross symbol to Gibbet Hill viewpoint (900359). From here follow HH for 2½ miles back to car park.

Lunch: NT café, Devil’s Punch Bowl

Hidden Hindhead Walk and local info downloadable at

Accommodation: Devil’s Punch Bowl Hotel, Hindhead GU26 6AG (01428-606565;

Information: Guildford TIC (014983-444333);;;;

 Posted by at 01:33
Apr 122014

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
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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 (, 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; – cheerful, characterful, family-run pub.

Winkworth Arboretum: 01483-208477;

Information: Guildford TIC (01483-444333)

 Posted by at 01:22
Sep 172011

A gorgeous sunny day, and a jolly crowd leaving the Onslow Arms at Loxwood to embark in the good ship Zacharaiah Keppel for a cruise on the Wey & Arun Canal.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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What a transformation! Only a few years ago this 23-mile rural waterway, built in the early 19th century to provide the missing transport link between London and the South Coast, lay tangled and forgotten among the woods and fields of the Sussex/Surrey border.

I set off along the towpath beside the olive-green canal, picturing its sleepy working life. The railways stole its modest trade – coal, lime fertiliser, timber, horse dung, corn – and in 1871 a rather mournful-sounding Act of Abandonment closed it. A century of slow decay ensued, of leaking water and encroaching vegetation. Then in the 1970s, local enthusiasts began to unearth and restore London’s lost route to the sea. It has taken 40 years and untold sweat, but the dream is coming true – you can boat three miles of the Wey & Arun already, from Drungewick Lock past Loxwood to the fabulously named Devil’s Hole.

A shady path under the willows, with few birds singing in the noon heat. Triffid-like, towering umbrella leaves of giant hogweed, green reeds whispering, a soporific midday trance over the still canal. I left the Wey & Arun, turning north past the big creamy cattle at Drungewick Hill Farm into a stretch of cool woodland, then across wide clover fields full of drowsily buzzing bees. There was time for a pint in the Sir Roger Tichborne pub at Alfold Bars, and a read of the extraordinary story, displayed on the pub wall, of Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant, This 19th-century chancer almost got his hands on the Tichborne baronetcy, and the land and money that went with it, before he was unmasked and thrown in prison.

Out into a rolling landscape. The donkey at Tokens Farm came up to the gate to have his dusty muzzle patted. Woods, cornfields and a shady bridlepath where a big dog fox went trotting before me, swinging his black-tipped brush. In Gennet’s Wood I picked up the old canal once more, choked with a pink froth of Himalayan balsam, and followed it until water began to gleam in the bottom of its overgrown channel. A scurry of concrete-pouring contractors at Southland Lock, a burst of purple loosestrife around the Devil’s Hole, and I was spinning out the final half-mile along the Wey & Arun in the sunshine of a sleepy afternoon.

Start & finish: Onslow Arms PH, Loxwood, W. Sussex RH14 0RD (OS ref TQ 041311)
Getting there: Bus ( Service 44 Guildford-Cranleigh
Road: Loxwood is on B2133 between Alfold Crossways (A281 Guildford-Horsham) and Wisborough Green (A272 Petworth-Billingshurst). Car park down track beyond Onslow Arms car park.
Walk (7½ miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 134): Follow canal towpath east for 1½ miles; cross Drungewick Aqueduct (060309). Left over bridge; along road; at top of hill, left (060312, fingerpost), skirting right of Drungewick Hill Farm. Farm track into trees, where path forks (058312); ahead (not right) here. In 150 m, right (fingerpost) past pond. In 150 m, keep ahead (not left) at fingerpost (056312). In 100 m, left (fingerpost) along wood edge track. In 150 m, track curves left (056314), but keep ahead (fingerpost) for 400 m to cross Loxwood Road (055318).
On along bridleway (fingerpost) for ½ mile. At wood edge, left (056326); in 100 m, right off bridleway on footpath (fingerpost) into fields. In 300 m pass pond; left along stony track; in 50 m, right (054329, fingerpost) along fenced path. In 200 m, through gate; cross field and on (053332; gate, fingerpost) into trees. In 100 m cross track, and on (fingerpost). In another 100 m you reach a 4-way crossing (052334, 4-finger post). Here you cross a north-south bridleway and continue south-west along the Sussex Border Path (SBP). To do this, go left for 5 m, then right along SBP.
Follow SBP for 1 mile to Alfold Bars and Sir Roger Tichborne PH. Left at B2133 (037333); in 100 m, right down Oakhurst lane. Follow SBP for ¾ mile past Oakhurst Farm (033328) into Gennets Wood. At track crossing by a pond (028325), left off SBP (bridleway fingerpost) to follow towpath of overgrown Wey & Arun Canal for 1⅓ miles back to Onslow Arms.
NB – Online map, more walks: Click on Facebook “Like” link to share this walk with Facebook friends.

Lunch: Onslow Arms, Loxwood (01403-752452; or Sir Roger Tichborne PH, Alfold Bars (01403-751873;
More info: Horsham TIC (01403-211661);
Wey & Arun Canal Trust: 01403-752403;

 Posted by at 02:46