Cami-flage Day 12 – Tuesday 22nd September 2020
Today is the penultimate day of our substitute walking holiday, where (sorry, this is like a Channel 4 programme after an ad break where they have to remind you what’s going on) we decided to recreate a pandemic-cancelled holiday walking round the outside of Menorca on the Cami de Cavalls by doing equivalent distances in England. Over the previous 11 days, we have walked over 102 miles in lovely late Summer/early Autumn English weather, instead of sweating our way up and down foreign hills in nasty 30-degree heat. Today would appear to be the last day for which this is true.
The outlook for our walk today is sunny, but clouding over (as opposed to the risk of rain in Menorca, nah, nah-ni, nah nah). However, our luck may run out tomorrow.
Anyway, today our walk takes us to the other end of the Surrey Hills from yesterday – Haslemere.
(We start at bottom left and walk the loop counter-clockwise.) Haslemere seems to sit at the junction between the Surrey Hills and the South Downs, if the sign outside the station is to be believed.
We decided to park the car by the station, despite the station car park’s very confusing signage about it being only appropriate for season ticket holders, or something like that. Whatever, it didn’t look as if we would have trouble finding a space.
We walked along Lower Street, which was radically different from the previous time we saw it when we did this walk last, which was in July this year, not quite three months ago. Today, it looked like this.
But when we came before, it was a radically different proposition for traffic and pedestrians alike.
Haslemere is a handsome town with some lovely buildings. I think there must have been a tile factory nearby, or a really good tile salesman, since hanging tiles are a frequently chosen decorative option. The High Street is a good example of its handsomeness.
The eponymous Church of St. Bartholomew
has a positively baronial vicarage!
We soon cleared the town into some open countryside
where a barn showed, once again, the approach of Autumn in the colours in the creepers across the roof.
We reckon that it won’t be long before the Russian Vine and Virginia Creeper play a degree of havoc with some of the wiring.
One thing that becomes very clear very quickly is that Haslemere backs on to some substantial hills. Our path wound upwards quite abruptly, and rather steeply.
The path we followed is part of the Greensand Way, a long-distance path that covers Kent and Surrey. The Long Distance Walkers’ Association (no relation) describe it as “challenging”
and, frankly, if you’d tried to get any kind of vehicle up that path, you’d certainly have faced some challenges.
Once up, there’s a short stretch of open country
before going down again. There are some very fine views to behold
before going, you guessed it, up again, on the final pull up to the Devil’s Punchbowl, where one finds the eponymous Hotel.
This is a fine building, which contains a pub, but we courageously walked past it and merely decided it would be a good backdrop for the first gin bottle shot of the day.
It’s right on the old A3, for those who, like me, remember the days before the Hindhead Tunnel. The Devil’s Punchbowl itself is a geological feature, a massive fold in the landscape with a visitor centre, walking trails and that. There’s a great view
(and a café, from which we gratefully purchased tea and cake).
Moving on took us past more lovely views; this is my attempt at an arty shot of hillsides receding into the haze.
which gives opportunities for gin bottle shots
and we shortly arrived at the highest point of the walk, the top of Gibbet Hill, the second-highest point in Surrey (the highest being Leith Hill – but you knew that because you were paying attention to my earlier posts, weren’t you?) which provides more spectacular views
and opportunities for gin bottle shots.
There’s a Celtic Cross there
which was erected to attempt to dispel fears of the ghosts of the people who were hanged there on the gibbet which charmingly gave its name to the place.
Thence, the path goes, unsurprisingly, down
eventually passing the site of the Temple of the Four Winds, marked now by just its platform,
by which are some more great views
and a further gin bottle shot opportunity. Well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?
Continuing down, the path goes past a wonderful grove of beech trees with roots exposed
and thence to a place where there’s clearly been some pretty extreme forestry – really quite an extraordinary scene.
After that, we passed Halcyon House, which, I guess, is in Kingfisher colours (today I learned that Halcyon is the genus of the Kingfisher)
and which has a lovely garden with a duckpond. But we didn’t see any kingfishers.
We greeted the lady of the house cheerily as we walked by, but she rather grumpily ignored us, presumably fed up with Bloody Tourists; but, then again, why buy a place like that with a path going through it, eh? Eh? Answer me that, then.
Continuing down took us by some newish-but-nicely-done cottages
into Grayswood, a very pleasant village on the fringes of Haslemere. It has a handsome church,
and some lovely villagey houses, including this arty one.
The route we took, which is part of the Explore Surrey section on Alltrails.com, then takes another final loop out into the country. We passed a Hammer Pond, so-called because it’s so deep that if you drop a hammer into it, you’ll never get it back.
(Actually, I made that bit up; a hammer pond is merely a body of water that was used to drive a waterwheel which powered a furnace hammer.) In the case of this pond, the furnace was at Imbham Farm, which we walked past. As we did so, we noted (a) the nice rolling countryside and (b) the incoming clouds, telling us that the long streak of wonderful weather we’d been fortunate to experience for these walks was coming to an end.
The route goes by and through the fields of Swan Barn Farm. a National Trust location, where long-term volunteers live in a specially designed eco-house built with locally sourced, sustainable wood from the Black Down Estate. It also features the Hunter Basecamp, where people on working holidays (in the days when these are available) stay while helping with the work. The streams between the fields are crossed by some charming paths and bridges
and the farm has a tractor
which in and of itself is hardly an item worthy of mention; but the facial expression of this one is striking.
I think it reminds me of The Hound in Fahrenheit 451, or some such sci-fi film.
We exited the lane by Swan Barn Farm back into the middle of Haslemere, and, screwing our courage to the sticking point, decided to go home rather than have a pizza. It was a nice walk, quite strenuous in places – a total ascent of over 1200 feet – and 10.71 miles in length. The comparison with Menorca is complicated, so pay attention, now.
We have swapped the two final UK walks over, so today’s UK walk should be compared with tomorrow’s Menorca walk and vice versa. The reason for this is to do with Lunch. Originally, we had the Denbies walk (tomorrow’s, keep up) set for today, and today’s set for tomorrow. But today’s walk, although being of an appropriate length compared to the Menorca schedule, offered nowhere for a Nice Lunch, so if we’d done it tomorrow, we would have had nowhere, on our last day, to celebrate our achievement. This would be a shame. However, the Denbies walk, originally planned for today but now happening tomorrow (are you still with me?) offers the prospect of a Nice Lunch at the Wine Estate’s Gallery Restaurant. So we decided to do it tomorrow, so we could seal the while Menorca Walk deal in an appropriate way. That’s why we swapped the two over.
So, today’s walk was about a quarter of a mile shorter than tomorrow’s Menorca equivalent. Tomorrow, we expect to walk about half a mile further than today’s Menorca equivalent.
We’ve now walked over 113 miles in total and have just one more day to do to complete our virtual walk round the outside of Menorca. Tomorrow, as I say, we wind up the endeavour with the Denbies walk in the Surrey Hills. With luck, we may complete it without being rained on, but you’ll have to come back and Read All About It to find out, won’t you?