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Posts Tagged ‘north downs’

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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Superb views and wonderful woodlands on the North Downs

Wye to Chilham, Kent

All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph

The southwest elevation of All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph

New boots to try out, and a beautiful azure autumn sky – what more reason could I need to head out into the country? This was actually my second attempt at this walk – back in August, I got halfway to Wye on the train before the rain started to pour down and I made the decision to abandon any foolish plans I may have had for a 10 mile walk with no bail-out point or shelter along the way. This time, I managed to stay dry. Well, mostly dry; after hours of sunshine, the English weather decided to remind me that it is autumn, with a brief but tempestuous downpour of rain and hail just as I reached my destination. Not to worry though, it had been a great day featuring glorious views, extensive stretches through beautiful autumnal woodland, and a real gem of a country church. And the added danger of aggressive wildlife!

Start: Wye Station TR048470

Finish: Chilham Station TR078536

Length: 10½ miles/5 hours

How to get there: Both stations are about 90 minutes from London Charing Cross or London Bridge with Southeastern, either direct or by changing at Ashford International. A quicker (and more exciting) route from north of the Thames is provided by the High Speed service that whisks you at up to 140mph from St Pancras International to, less than 40 minutes later, Ashford International, from where a more sedate service reaches Wye in 6 minutes.

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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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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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Breathtaking views and….er….breath-taking climbs

Box Hill, Surrey – An almost circular walk

An early finish at work allowed me to escape to Dorking for a beautifully sunny afternoon on the National Trust’s Box Hill Estate and the surrounding countryside. My route took in the largest vineyard in England, involved some strenuous climbs and followed, in part, the North Downs Way, one of the country’s Long Distance Footpaths.

Start: Dorking (Main) Station TQ170504

Finish: Box Hill and Westhumble Station TQ167518

Length: 7 miles/3-3½hours

How to get there: Both stations are easily accessible from London, either by Southern from Victoria via Sutton, or by South West Trains from Waterloo via Wimbledon, both of which take around 50 minutes. Not all return trains call at Box Hill and Westhumble however. Although I travelled to the main station in Dorking, unsurprisingly known as Dorking (Main), it’s also possible to travel to Dorking Deepdene or Dorking West, both on the North Downs Line served by First Great Western services from Redhill to Reading via Guildford.

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