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Archive for the ‘surrey’ Category

Following the Mole Valley in the company of kingfishers to the North Downs

Leatherhead to Dorking, Surrey

The Mole on its journey through Norbury Park

The Mole on its journey through Norbury Park

Somewhere I’ve visited before, but not for some time, and well worth another visit, Box Hill is so easily accessible from London that a return couldn’t come too soon. This time, I began at Leatherhead and followed the course of the River Mole upstream as it forges a path between the chalk hills of the North Downs. Despite this being an area I have explored before, there was plenty of interest en route – fleeting glimpses of one of our most spectacular birds, a cornucopia of fungi, and plenty of history. Once again, I took in in one of the finest viewpoints on the North Downs – despite the limited visibility on a damp and misty late autumn day.

Start: Leatherhead Station TQ163568

Finish: Dorking Main Station TQ171504

Length: 8¾ miles/4 hours

How to get there: I travelled with Southern on services running to and from London Victoria, but both stations are also served by South West Trains services from London Waterloo

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Belligerent bulls, Second World War artefacts, wonderful woodlands, an awesome ancient yew, all under changeable skies in the Surrey countryside

Oxted to Lingfield, Surrey

The Crowhurst Yew

The Crowhurst Yew

This part of southern England is perhaps not high on the list of most people’s walking hotspots. But it’s pleasant walking country, gently rolling and bordered to the north by the dramatic North Downs escarpment. It is typically rural English landscape, of mixed agriculture and ancient woodlands, crossed by streams and divided by hedgerows, retaining links to hundreds of years of history, if you look for them, and relatively unspoilt despite the proximity to London and the threat of urbanisation that this brings. Unlike Flatford which I visited recently, there are few real honeypot sites, few brown-signed tourist attractions, which is part of the charm: you have to explore and discover it for yourself.

Start: Oxted Station TQ393528

Finish: Lingfield Station TQ393438

Length: 12 miles/6 hours

How to get there: both stations are on the East Grinstead branch. Southern services from London Bridge and Victoria take less than an hour.

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A spectacular display of autumnal fireworks in the Surrey Hills

Holmwood to Gomshall, Surrey

Autumn colour in the Surrey Hills

Autumn colour in the Surrey Hills

I should have planned this walk more carefully due to the frequency (or lack of it) of the railway service at start and finish; originally due to start at Gomshall I realised that this would involve a 90 minute wait for a train (and a later start, with a possible consequence of finishing in the dark given that the clocks had just gone back). But not to worry: I hurriedly changed my plans and began at my supposed destination. And it was worth the effort, as the path took in all the delights of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: some of the finest woodland in the south east as well as great views over the Weald and North Downs. A breezy, sometimes overcast day, the chance to lose oneself amongst the trees, and the summit of the highest point in south-east England gave this walk something of a wild feel at times, although in places the route meets popular honeypot sites that can be very busy with other walkers. But the highlight was the autumn foliage: a myriad of different shades and tints of fiery colour; coppers and bronzes, oranges and ochres, rusts and russets, ambers, golds, butter-yellows, vermilions, saffrons……..an endless variety, as many as the leaves that drift earthwards on the breeze.

Start: Holmwood Station TQ174437

Finish: Gomshall Station TQ089478

Length: 10½ miles/5 hours

How to get there: This is the slightly tricky part – choose your day wisely and plan the journey carefully to avoid a long wait for connecting trains. Holmwood has no service on Sundays, and trains are hourly at other times. Direct Southern services run from London Victoria; alternatively, go from London Waterloo with Southwest Trains and change at Dorking. Gomshall, on the Great Western network, effectively has a two-hourly service, supplemented at peak hours Monday to Friday.

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…ok, it was actually Thursday. But the valley was nonetheless pleasant. And I couldn’t get the Monkees song out of my head for most of this walk, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t have to suffer it too. A circular walk in the Surrey Downs.

Chipstead Valley & Banstead Woods, Surrey

Wide sweeping valley bottom south of Chipstead

Wide sweeping valley bottom south of Chipstead

This was a walk I undertook one afternoon and early evening after work, having been thwarted in an attempt to walk part of the North Downs Way in Kent by incessant rain the previous weekend. It was a last-minute idea, really just an attempt to burn off some energy and dissipate the frustration of having my previous plans scuppered, so I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular. But I was pleasantly surprised  – some fairly steep climbs rewarded by superb views across the Surrey countryside, and beautiful woodlands and meadows; much of the route falls within Chipstead Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Start/Finish: Chipstead Station TQ276582

Length: 6¼ miles/3 hours

How to get there: Chipstead is on the Tattenham Corner branch, served by Southern from London Bridge and Victoria, the journey taking about an hour. Some trains divide at Purley so make sure you travel in the correct part, or end up in Caterham.

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More from the London Loop, this time following a tributary of the Thames from source to mouth through deceptively rural surroundings to the place of coronation of Saxon Kings

London Loop, Stage 8: Ewell to Kingston-upon-Thames

Following the Hogsmill near Berrylands

Following the Hogsmill near Berrylands

Following hot on the heels of Stages 6 & 7, is Stage 8, completed a few weeks later. Just 3 of us on this walk, many of our usual group having presumably been cured of their OCD (or the opposite in one case, deciding to start the whole thing again next year having a missed a couple of stages. Why, Andy, why?!). This is a greener stage than the previous two, largely following the Hogsmill along its length from Ewell to Kingston, yet still has stretches that involve unavoidable street walking.

Start: Ewell West Station TQ214627

Finish: Kingston Station TQ182695

Length: 7½ miles/3 hours

How to get there: Both stations can be reached quite quickly (30 minutes either way) and frequently from the centre of London by travelling from London Waterloo with Southwest Trains.

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A pleasant stroll through urban green space on the periphery of London, through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Reigate & Banstead and Epsom & Ewell

London Loop Stages 6 & 7 – Coulsdon to Ewell

On the Loop near Little Woodcote Village

On the Loop near Little Woodcote Village

Back to the London Loop once again, in the company of the regular completists who have been my Loop companions so far. We decided to combine two stages, Stages 6 & 7, as the combined length of both is only 8½ miles. Both stages pass through green and pleasant land, but, as the London Loop website warns, Stage 7 is one of the least green sections of the Loop including as it does substantial stretches of uninspiring pavement walking through nondescript suburban mock-Tudor housing. Because of this, there was a temptation to skip Stages 6 & 7 altogether, but our profound obsessiveness that requires us to complete the Loop in its entirety and in order prevailed in the end.

Start: Coulsdon South Station TQ298590

Finish: Ewell West Station TQ214627

Length: 8½ miles/4 hours

How to get there: Both stations above are in Travelcard Zone 6, so easy and cheap to reach. Southern services from Victoria and London Bridge go to Coulsdon South, while Ewell West is served by Southwest Trains from Waterloo.

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Green Belt and a National Nature Reserve – decaying asylums, veteran trees, Roman history and deer

Chessington to Ashtead, Surrey

Veteran Oak, Ashtead Common

Stag-headed veteran Oak, Ashtead Common. Despite being dead, such trees still provides valuable wildlife habitat, particularly when allowed to remain standing as here

One of my interests for many years has been veteran trees, not just because they make such an amazing habitat for other wildlife (each tree can be an entire ecosystem, involving birds, bats, other plants, invertebrates and saprophytic decay fungi) but also for their incredible size and the sense of awe that results from seeing, exploring and touching an organism that can be several hundred years old. There are many sites in Britain that can boast substantial populations of ‘vets’, many of which I’ve visited (including Richmond Park in Surrey, and Bradgate Park in Leicestershire), but one location that I have never explored is Ashtead Common National Nature Reserve, near Leatherhead in Surrey. I combined a visit to Ashtead with a walk through Green Belt on the very edge of London.

Start: Chessington South Station TQ179633

Finish: Ashtead Station TQ180590

Length: 5½ miles/3-4 hours

How to get there: Chessington South is at the end of a branch line from London Waterloo and is in Travelcard Zone 6. There is a half-hourly service operated by South West Trains, journey time 35 minutes. The return journey is from Ashtead, served by both Southwest Trains services from London Waterloo to Dorking and Guildford, and Southern services from London Victoria to Dorking and Horsham; both journeys back to the centre of London take roughly 40 minutes.

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