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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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Shady woodlands and stunning views

Dorking to Gomshall, Surrey

Bluebells in Old Simms Copse, Hackhurst Downs

Bluebells in Old Simms Copse, Hackhurst Downs

There’s nothing more uplifting (or quintessentially English) than the azure carpet of a mass of bluebells in the dappled shade of a spring woodland. Timing is of the essence though, as flowering is at its best for a period of only about two weeks. This year, after the long hard winter, the bluebells arrived later than usual, and this walk had to be postponed for a couple of weeks to allow nature to catch up. But it was worth the wait.

Start: Dorking (Main) Station TQ170504

Finish: Gomshall Station TQ089478

Length: 8 miles/4-4½ hours

How to get there: Dorking’s a lucky town, having three railways stations. Two (Dorking West and Dorking Deepdene) are on the North Downs Line between Redhill and Guildford, served (infrequently on a Sunday, it has to be said) by First Great Western.  The walk starts at Dorking (Main) however, served by both Southern (services from London Victoria) and South West Trains (services from London Waterloo) and ends at Gomshall from where it is possible to return to Dorking West or Deepdene, the latter being 5 minutes walk from Dorking (Main). Plan carefully though: trains from Gomshall are 2-hourly on a Sunday.

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