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Posts Tagged ‘weald’

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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Amazing engineering, both man-made and biomechanical, in the Weald.

Balcombe and Ardingly, West Sussex

Springtime Sussex countryside

Springtime Sussex countryside; in the distance, a Brighton to London train speeds northwards over Ouse Valley Viaduct

A forecast for a sunny day (well, they got it half right) sees me heading down the Brighton line to West Sussex for another wander in the Weald. The purpose of this walk was largely to take a closer look at a superb structure that I have whizzed over many a time, but at 90mph, which doesn’t really allow for a full appreciation. A carefully planned circular route also took in a number of other local landmarks, together with some stunning (if a little damp) countryside. This wasn’t a massively long walk by any means, but the conditions underfoot and the topography – wave after wave of sodden hills and valleys – left me quite exhausted by the end.

Start/Finish: Balcombe Station TQ306302

Length: 12½ miles/7 hours

How to get there: Balcombe station is on the London-Brighton mainline, about 45 minutes from the capital. Strangely, although the station is managed by Southern, only First Capital Connect services stop there unless you travel on a Sunday (as I did) when only Southern serve the station. Trains on any day of the week run at roughly hourly intervals.

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Woodlands, meadows, picturesque villages, historic churches, a stately home, and one of 50 Great British Trees – quintessential British countryside

Cowden to Chiddingstone Causeway, Kent

Church of St. John The Baptist, Penshurst

Church of St. John The Baptist, Penshurst

A return to the Weald, one of my favourite parts of south east England. As described in a previous post, it’s an area of beautiful woodlands and undulating hills, gentle slopes dropping into steep-sided sandstone ravines, and full of fascinating industrial and social history. Today’s walk encompasses all of these, together with history of a more aristocratic type, passing through the grounds of Penshurst Place, seat of the Sidney Family.

Start: Cowden Station TQ476416

Finish: Penshurst Station TQ519464

Length: 7¾ miles/4 hours

How to get there: Cowden is on the Uckfield Branch, served by Southern services from London Bridge; on a Sunday however, services run only between Uckfield and Oxted, so take a train from London Bridge or Victoria to Oxted or Hurst Green and change there. Penshurst station, which is not actually in Penshurst but in the village of Chiddingstone Causeway, is on the line between Tonbridge and Redhill and is also served by Southern; direct trains run via Redhill and East Croydon to London Bridge, or change at Tonbridge for Southeastern services to Charing Cross.

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A lesson in landscape history

Ashurst to Eridge, Kent/Sussex border

I love the Weald, this being the area of sandstone hills between the chalk of the North Downs and the South Downs exposed by erosion of the overlying chalk and greensand layers. Here’s a quick geology lesson, pay attention at the back:

Got that? Good. There’s a history lesson later too, as there are three landscape features in particular that crop up regularly on this walk, each of which helps to tell the history of this part of southern England.

Beautiful woodlands, stunning views from rolling hills that drop into steep-sided sandstone ravines, only an hour from the centre of London, yet you can walk for miles without seeing another person. Not entirely sure why this should be, given that this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, possibly because the two ridges either side have National Trails running along them that attract the tourists?

Start: Ashurst (Kent) Station TQ507387

Finish: Eridge Station TQ542345

Length: 5 miles/2½-3 hours

How to get there: Dr Beeching made this area quite difficult to access by railway, but there are still direct services from London, and a number of heritage steam railways locally too. Both stations are on the Uckfield line, served by an hourly Southern service from London Bridge via East Croydon. Alternatively, travel from London Victoria on the service to East Grinstead and change at Hurst Green or Oxted. NB: There’s an Ashurst station in the New Forest. Don’t go there. At least, not if you want to do this walk.

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