A Fine Surrey White

I’ve been walking with a few of my former law colleagues for a few years now, usually twice or three times a year. This Year of the Turnip has put paid to most of that (we had grand plans to visit Italy – one of our number is married to an Italian and was prepared to use both local knowledge and connections to facilitate our Grand Plans). That wasn’t ever going to happen so yours truly, who loves a map and a bit of planning came up with an 11 miles circular walk from the twelfth highest point in Surrey, some ten miles south of where I live, on the North Downs. Now don’t scoff – it’s a priceless 735 feet above sea level. It seems high enough when you’ve done ten of the eleven miles and the rain drops have begun to join together to create an horizontal water feature.

Anyway, we weren’t there for the stunning views…

It was the company and the undulating mileage. Really.

No Dog, though. Eleven miles is beyond the recommended max these days.

Box hill is steep. And chalk. Combine these with water and you have what in other climates and countries passes for a ski slope. The fact that none of us had to use the agreed warning ‘coming through!’ if we lost our footing was one of those minor miracles.

At the bottom of the slope, the cutely named River Mole gushes merrily across our path. Those in charge have decided to have their fun with these things…

Which reminded me of a previous visit with my then newly acquired dog, Blitz, Dog’s predecessor. Like Dog he didn’t like water which I hadn’t learnt to that point. That I did at this particular moment when jumping onto the first stone and not being followed remains something of an embarrassment. As I tipped back and sideways, inexorably heading for the river I was conscious of a little girl watching me with rapt attention. As I surfaced, the little girl turned to her open-mouthed parent and asked ‘Why did that man do that, daddy?’ The parent decided to stick as close to his truth as possible. ‘I don’t know, darling, and neither does he, I think.’

For the record I made it safely. There were the odd wobble or five but nothing ventured…

Beyond the sanctity of the far bank of the Mole there is an enormous estate, which is reputedly the largest winery in the UK – Denbies Vineyard has 265 acres.

It’s Rose won some international award so it’s good. I believe.

I don’t drink wine so, meah, but my companions waxed lyrically (and frankly long) about it. The vines look nice.

The path we were on is part of the North Downs Way. England and Wales are criss-crossed with LDPs – long distance paths – often following ancient trading routes that followed the high ridges. In part the North Downs Way is also the Pilgrims Way which links Canterbury Cathedral with Winchester Cathedral. In 1986, my father was made redundant as was a friend from way back. Together they decided to set themselves the challenge of walking the whole of the Pilgrims Way, joining in with the North Downs Way where it starts at Farnham and continuing beyond the Pilgrim’s Way end to the end of the North Down’s Way in Dover on the south Kent coast. They chose this partly because they used to live within a mile of it, near where Dad had gone to school in Caterham. I joined in for a long weekend, not sure how I’d get on with these old boys. I loved it and this was the start of an annual walk with the old sod that covered many other LDPs over the next 12 years.

Maybe I was distracted by the nostalgia, maybe my mind was numbed by the talk of vintages, but I missed a turn and we reached a point that seemed to be in the wrong place. That’s the thing with the brilliant OS maps we have. If you know how to read them, they will get you out of trouble eventually. In this case I was right, in the sense that my missed turning meant we approached Denbies Farm from the wrong direction. Once I worked that out, it was easy to point confidentially to the right direction. The fact that, by the time I did the others were laughing uproariously didn’t spoil the satisfaction. Much…

Beyond the valley lies Ranmore Common, which is largely wooded, though the throbbing metropolis of the same name is rather pleasant and probably has a population of, rounding up, five.

In truth it’s pretty much the church and a couple of houses. My companions seemed oblivious to its beauty, but then they were all lawyers so that probably explains it. They do like talking, mind you…

I wasn’t being shunned; I’d just been watering an oak sapling… come on, I’m in my sixties, what do you expect?

After Ranmore we wended our way through a lot of woodland paths with few if any views. Eventually we emerged around Norbury Park where Marie Stopes of contraception and women’s health fame lived before she died in the 1950s. There was a lot of wall and green fencing so we never did get to see her pile and we were rather bemoaning our lot when we stumbled upon this little gem in the middle of nowhere…

Things were sogging off rather – Emma had gone shrub hunting – yep, same as me – and Chris took advantage of the free marshmallows and handy fire…

By now the rain had set in, making a dive into the river Mole look like the drier option.

The coffee bar turned out to be a godsend because the pub in Mickleham…

turned out to be shut. Ah me, thank you Covid.

So all that was left was to climb back up every one of those 700 and whatever feet to the National Trust car park at Box Hill and buy a rather delicious cheese and onion pasty. As one of our number said as they tried to cool down the roof of their mouth, the Germans must have a word for the inevitable burning that follows biting into a delicious looking hot pastry however much you’ve blown on it first; heissenschiessentongenbuggeren or something…

And for those who can’t get through a post without Dog making an appearance…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to A Fine Surrey White

  1. V.M.Sang says:

    I know that area well, Geoff. I lived in Redhill for 20 years, and forrays to Boxhill (as well as Reigate Hill and Colley hill) were always on the cards.
    Great photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. trifflepudling says:

    Good read 🙂
    I sincerely hope the Year of the Ox will be kinder to everyone than the Year of the Rat has been so far…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Darlene says:

    Dog looks happy to have you home, safe and warm. Great pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. willowdot21 says:

    A nice amble over Box Hill and in the rain… perfect. Lovely shot of you and dog.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Super walk. Thanks for taking us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. arlingwoman says:

    Fabulous walk, in spite of the various frustrations. That little village is really beautiful. Nice Dog got his cuddles in even if he missed the hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JT Twissel says:

    Oh so lovely! We still await the first rains which still seem so far away.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lizannelloyd says:

    A short walk at Newlands Corner was enough for me this week but your account reminded me of a long sponsored walk in the Ranmore Common area many moons ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A splendid event well recorded and photographed. Some areas I knew well, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. noelleg44 says:

    Thanks for taking us along on this lovely, if sodden, walk! Dog had the best of it, clearly!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pam Lazos says:

    Ah, I must visit the area someday. Looks like dog really missed you while you were gone. ;0)

    Liked by 1 person

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