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Day 3 – Cami by the back door – Chobham Common South

Cami-flage Day 3Sunday 13th September 2020

Real life of a sort intruded on our Menorcan recreation project, but in a good way: we needed to get over to see some friends for lunch and so it was part planning and part fortune that today’s route was a short one – some 6 miles – which meant we could leap out after breakfast, get the walk done and then lunch elsewhere, rather than making lunch or other refreshment part of the walk. So we had chosen a nice local walk over Chobham Common, just the other side of the village from us; the original plan had us stopping for a glass of something in the Red Lion in Chobham, but our subsequent lunch plan means that that will have to wait for another day.

First, the all-important weather comparison between here and Menorca.  I may not carry this meme along too much longer, as the story it tells is quite consistent – it’s hotter there than here

and actually, that’s fine – walking in 20-odd degree temperatures is much nicer than 30-odd degrees.  Whatever, it was a beautiful late Summer/early Autumn morn for our walk.

We’ve lived in these ‘ere parts for nigh on 30 years, and for the first incurious twenty or so we would occasionally treat ourselves to “a walk on the Common”, which we struggled to make longer than five miles before running out of Common to roam across. It gradually became clear that we’d been limiting ourselves to just one part of the common – the part north of the M3 (between Lightwater and the M25 junction). It was only recently that we sought out a route which enabled us to explore the south side of the common, and then it became clear how much larger and more delightful it is than we had realised.

Here’s an outline of today’s walk, 6 and a half miles around the periphery of the south side of the common. The M3 runs across the top in this picture.


As yesterday, the fact that it was a weekend bore heavily on the popularity of the car park.

This is despite the efforts of the local council, who have made the entrance quite a tricky thing to negotiate in anything larger than a go-kart.

(The blocks were originally set there to close the car park during early lockdown, but I wish they’d moved them a little further apart once this had eased.)

Anyway, once on to the walk, the early parts have scenery similar to the north side which is so familiar to us

but this soon changes to a different kind of terrain.

One of the things that marks this walk out is its variety.  Where the north side is largely open heathland, the south side (as you will see if you can bear to keep reading) has a huge variation in surroundings.

A bit further on, the trail heads down and one begins to get some kind of idea how big the south side actually is.

(It’s actually quite difficult to convey in a single photo – but the common stretches from left to right horizons and suddenly seems quite imposing.)  In the distance you can see the latest building efforts going on to drag Woking into the modern age.

And every so often you can see evidence of the fires the regularly sweep the common in summer.  Here you can see that regrowth is under way.

(Fires on the common are regular occurrences, but the north side was badly hit by a huge fire in summer 2020

and here you can see the demarcation line where the fire services stopped it in its tracks.)


Sorry, back to the mainstream of today’s symposium.  The trail leads by the fringes of Gracious Pond, once (up to the 1800s) a 50-acre pond, but now drained and a closed sanctuary and nature reserve

and the terrain changes again, into woodland.

with mystery objects such as this moss-laden “fairy ring”

and occasional shelters – we’re not quite sure of the provenance of these; are they official or have schoolkids been out on a field trip or something?

and occasional groups of horse riders might be glimpsed through the trees.

The track then continues on to a secret delight of the common

Fishpool – a really lovely body of water – we will return for a more detailed (I hesitate to say in-depth) look later in the Cami-flage endeavour.  This seemed like a perfect scene to show our gin bottle.

The roads hereabouts play host to some lovely houses, like this one

and it becomes clear that Chobham is home to some serious horsey business.

Much of this is based around Chobham Park Farm

where they have many fields and horses, and also something of an issue with Himalayan Balsam, which they need to sort out pronto, before it gets even more established.

The track carries on through woodland, past some truly wonderful properties

and eventually debouches on the northern fringes of Chobham village, where you can find a village green and the Four Horseshoes, a decent gastropub.

The buildings in these parts of the village are very attractive.  Just beside the pub is a (posh) restaurant called Stovells,

and there are some really attractive cottages further up the road towards Sunningdale.

At this point, it’s entirely possible to miss the trail, unless you know about the footpath, which leaves the road just beyond this fence

and leads into another little world of tracks and heathland

The track then crosses Staple Hill road and goes up the rather oddly-named Chickabiddy Hill

and back into the more familiar open healthland

before heading back to the car park where we started.

This is a lovely walk, showing off the range and variety of Chobham Common.  On a day like today, sunny and warm, it’s a delight to walk around.  We covered 6.34 miles today, thus exceeding the Menorca equivalent, which was 5.94.  So we are, as it were, ahead of ourselves on the overall distance travelled (so far, over 28.5 miles).

Tomorrow sees a walk that is little longer but somewhat more challenging, up Holmbury and Pitch Hills.  So please join us as we pant our way up and down parts of the Surrey Hills.  See you there!

Day 2 – Cami-panile: High Tower

Cami-flage Day 2Saturday 12th September 2020

Review of the after-effects of Day 1 revealed no serious injuries from 13 miles’ walking beyond some soreness in Jane’s little toes. She therefore decided to do today’s walk – only some 9 miles – in sandals. Well, Tevas, actually, but they look like sandals to me.

That decision taken, we had to check on the weather comparison between Surrey and Menorca.

From a walking point of view, actually, Surrey wins; those Menorcan temperatures are more suited to sitting in a shady bar with a glass of something cold. An attractive proposition, yes, but not in line with our mission statement.

Here’s what today’s walk looks like.

As you can see, it takes in two hills, Leith and Holmbury. So, off we drove to the start point, Friday Street in the Surrey Hills. At this point it became clear that a combination of lockdown and retirement meant that we’d lost track of the days. Today is a Saturday, which means nothing particular to us; but to normal people, it’s a weekend in a phase where Covid life is beginning to show signs of normality. So there was quite a difference in the state of the car park for yesterday’s walk

and today’s.

We were, frankly, lucky to find a space. But we did, and set off down the hill in the general direction of Friday Street. There’s a pond

and, very soon after, a pub called the Stephan Langton,

which had been my plan A for a post-constitutional Lunch until I discovered, in the research phase of this exercise, that it was no longer open. Judging by the number of people picnicking nearby, I’d guess that a few of them had had that plan A but hadn’t done their homework.

Given that we’re almost exclusively walking in Surrey, the basic scenery is going to be similar from one day to the next, so I’ll spare you too many photos of woodland, tracks and heaths. But every so often there’s a striking scene, such as these bonkers beech trees (as opposed to conkers chestnuts, ho ho)

and noteworthy buildings, which really are restful on the eye as one passes.

Actually, some of the trails are really rather striking, too, so I will share the occasional one, such as this.

Our first landmark on this route was the High Tower mentioned in my rather tortuous title, the tower at the top of Leith Hill, the highest point in Surrey at 294 m (965 ft) above sea level. Unsurprisingly, then, the path led upwards and upwards. At one point, although we were (a) following instructions from Fancy-Free Walks and (b) retracing a track we’d walked before, we managed to stray, as you can see from the green line showing quite clearly that we’d missed our way.

It didn’t matter – frankly if you keep going uphill in these parts, you’re bound to reach the right place; and actually it was a rather fetching little track we found. Eventually we reached the tower.

It became clear that (a) many other people had had the same idea as us (no surprise, as this is a hugely popular weekend spot) and (b) the little cafe in the base of the tower was open (this was a surprise, as we’d thought that the pandemic would have scuppered That Sort Of Thing, but we’d clearly underestimated the National Trust’s competitive nature). Socially-distanced queuing, of course.

So we were able to do two important things: firstly, have tea and cake (tea of a much better quality than anything we could have expected in The Foreign);

and secondly to take a picture of our Xoriguer gin bottle.

My original thought had been to make the tower a lunch stop, but since I was sure it would be closed we had to declare an emergency tea break to justify sitting down and taking in the lovely views.

If you look carefully, you can see bits of London, like the arch over Wembley Stadium.

No, really – it is there.

From a photographic standpoint, this is the first time I missed having a Proper Camera with a Proper Lens about my person. The phone has done remarkably well, all things considered, but a camera with a decent optical zoom would be better. So I’ll possibly take one on future outings.

Tea and cake having been satisfactorily demolished, we went on our merry way, along the Greensand Way which passes through these parts. As you can see, we only missed our way the once.

We then headed down and down until we caught sight of the next part of the route – the walk up Holmbury Hill, seen in the background here.

The first part of the climb is really very steep indeed.

It’s very difficult to convey in a photograph quite how steep it is. You’ll just have to believe me. But we scrambled up it and made our way to the top of this climb. The route offered a choice – continue to the top of the hill, or head down to the village. For some reason, we carried on up, but before we carried on I made it clear that the recompense for this was to stop at the village pub for some refreshment.

So we made it to the top, where we enjoyed the lovely view…

… as did our gin bottle.

And then we headed down into the very attractive village of Holmbury St. Mary, which was a sort of Victorian experimental creation – see the history part of this description. It’s a fetching place.

with a large church

and, importantly, a pub, the Royal Oak (which brews its own beer, called Felday, the original name of the village). Part of my research had been to establish that it would be open as we passed.

Suitably fortified, we carried on through the agreeable village on to an agreeable track which headed back to the car past some very attractive brickwork.

And thus ended today’s walk, at 9.03 miles just a bit longer than the Menorcan equivalent stage. The weather had been perfect – sunshine, around 20 degrees C – and the walk had been very pleasant. More to the point, we were unscathed and so should be able to take on tomorrow’s more modest challenge – a 6-mile walk, which we’ll do on paths around where we live so that we can go off for lunch with friends afterwards. It’s a lovely walk, around Chobham Common, so I hope you’ll come back and Read All About It tomorrow. Bye for now….

Cami-flage 2: Here’s the Walk(er) plan

My previous post outlined the background and general approach to the next couple of weeks, so I thought I’d provide a bit of plan detail for the record before we start trying for a succession of walks that take the place of the Cami de Cavalls on Menorca.

A disclaimer: this is a plan, OK? If the weather takes a turn for the worse, or some domestic admin gets in the way, we are going to be flexible. But the idea is to walk around 115 miles starting this Friday, September 11th.

The vast majority of these walks come from a great website called Fancy-Free Walks. So, if you fancy free walks, we can recommend this as a great place to look for them.

Our 13 planned walks are as follows:

Day number Description Length Cami Length Hostelry
01 Puttenham and Waverley 12.45 12.66 The Barley Mow
02 Friday Street, Leith & Holmbury Hills 9.34 8.47 The Royal Oak
03 Staple Hill & Chobham Common 5.85 5.94 The Red Lion
04 Holmbury & Pitch Hills 6.88 6.77 None available 🙁
05 Virginia Water Lake 5.58 5.36 Cafe in the Park
06 Windsor Great Park 9.42 9.11 Bluebells
07 Box Hill 11.13 11.74 The King William IV
08 Fishpool, McLaren, Horsell Common 9.12 8.11 Heather Farm Cafe
09 St. Martha’s, Tillingbourne 10.14 9.32 The Percy Arms
10 Ockham, Wisley 7.12 7.18 Ockham Bites
11 Leith Hill 10.41 10.79 The Plough
12 Haslemere, Hindhead 10.14 8.53 Devil’s Punchbowl Pub
13 Denbies Hillside 9.12 10.99 Denbies Wine Estate
TOTAL 116.7 115 2,678m

Had we been in Menorca, we would have sought out somewhere decent for a rest and some lunch, and so I’ve noted some inviting-looking places for us to stop during our re-creation. While it would be nice to stop in for a full lunch at each hostelry, we’ve begun to think that the consequences on our waistlines would be too much. However, where possible we’ll look in for a beer and a packet of crisps or some such. As you can see, there are a couple of excursions where there’s no obvious hostelry, so either we’ll take a picnic or we’ll soldier on without much of a break and have a glass of something cold when we get home.

While it’s a shame that we’re not in The Foreign doing the lunatic things that one does when abroad (lunch every day, walk immense distances, that kind of thing) one has to admit that there are compensations for having to remain in the UK. We know the bed will be comfortable; we know the shower will be luxurious; we know that there will be The Right Sort Of Tea (and milk); we will have unfettered access to appropriate clothing for the day (including clean underwear); and we can say “sod it, we’re not going” if it rains. But our earnest hope is that we can do the walks above in the order above in succession. I will report on each walk (including, inter alia, the photo of the Xoriguer gin bottle) on subsequent blog posts, so keep your eyes peeled for each enthralling instalment!