Friday, 18 December 2009

Leith Hill Circular – (Surrey) – 15/12/09 – 9.5 Miles – Myself (N/Trust working holiday)

For the day off on my working holiday at Gatton Park – Reigate for the National Trust (which incorporated Scrub Bash 2009), I decided to follow a route plan from Country Walking magazine, that started right outside the Henman Basecamp. Given that there was only 5 other people on the holiday, 3 of whom who wanted to spend the day off in the basecamp (yawn), I was on my own for this one. Now on the Country Walking map/instructions (Feb 2009 issue) the walk starts at Holmwood Station, however I was picking it up just past point 4 on the Greensand Way by Broadmoor.

The day itself was bright but crispy cold, but with thankfully no wind chill factor and after asking a lady and dog, whether the bridlepath outside the basecamp was what I thought it was (I had only seen it in the dark), I was on my way. My first point of reference (where the walk loops back) was the rather small Coldharbour cricket pitch. From there it was a steep descent, before hitting the road and turning left at the public house. Having negotiated that I found myself dissecting Antiebury Farm, then partaking of a wooded descent and finally crossing over three fields where the ‘careful of livestock’ signs proved unnecessary. I then became slightly confused with the instructions (not for the first time during the walk), before quickly getting back on track, and arriving at Holmwood railway station (the walk’s official start). As things had proceeded relatively easy thus far, and it was only quarter to eleven (I had set off at nine thirty), I decided coffee and biscuits were in order on the station platform.

However after setting off again things became slightly more confusing. Part of the problem was the instruction to go past Moorhurst, when there was no sign or marking to say what on earth that actually was. Just when I had convinced myself I was officially lost a stile appeared on my right where one had been vaguely promised. However when the next stile supposedly to be found by hogging the left side of the second next field didn’t appear (it should have said walk across it diagonally) I temporarily started to feel slightly queasy. However once that stile was located (with more coffee/biscuits consumed as well to settle my stomach), I began the climb that took me across Antiebury Farm again, this time from the other side.

Once I had come past the public house again and begun the climb up towards the Coldharbour cricket pitch once more, I found myself facing about four different choices of direction where none was supposed to be. So suitably flummoxed I decided to stop there and have lunch. This however didn’t take long as it was getting distinctly nippy. So assuming that the left hand fork meant straight on, I followed the bridleway until I eventually reached the signs for Leith Hill. Now it was obvious to any fool, that this meant continuing uphill, and the sign in front of me pointed uphill. However what the instructions said was that having reached the sign I should: ‘Follow waymarked route downhill to R to junction, then L uphill to tower’. So down I went, reaching the road and carrying on yet further down hill, until I suddenly thought ‘waida minnite’………….
Anyway so back up I went finding Leith Hill tower in the process, which apparently is the highest point in Surrey, that gives views to the capital and the sea. No such views on show this day however as beyond the immediate canopy, all one could see was mist. Also following ‘the clear path signed to Starveall car park’ turned out not to be all that clear either, as this soon fragmented into multiple paths. When I did eventually find the bridleway on my right, this turned into more confusion when the instructions telling me to ‘turn left at the path crossroads’ didn’t actually mean the first crossroads one came to, but rather the one with the wooden signs further on. So basically I found myself looping back into the car park on two further occasions.

Once I eventually broke free from this, I then located the right part of the road, only to have a DHL delivery driver ask me for directions (I pointed the innocent fool, to the nearest sideroad I could see). So having left Wotton Common, I was now able to pick up the bridleway (alongside the stream) through Abinger Bottom, eventually coming out at the Stephan Langton Inn, which would be the logical lunch point if I lead this walk for IVC. Following one final confusion through the woods at Broadmoor, where I wasn’t sure whether the instruction ‘L at next junction’ applied to either the path or the road, I was soon back on the Greensand Way and ultimately the Henman basecamp.

So overall a very good walk, but one to be enjoyed far more the second time once one knows where one is actually going. Given the amount of retracing steps that I did on this one however, I would say the true distance I walked was probably nearer 11 miles.

Walks since last blog entry:

(Run) Walks
1 x 6 miles – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park .
1 x 6 miles – Osterley Park / Grand Union Canal.

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