Stage 3 Boxhill to Merstham
We decided to drive into Croydon from where we could get a train to Boxhill at the start of the walk and back from Merstham at the end although when we saw the cost of the long term car park - £8 for up to 6 hours we nearly had second thoughts, luckily we found a car park next to the shopping centre for £1.50 - all day, parked and set off by train.
Funny how whenever we go for a walk the first part always tends to be uphill!
Today was no exception as we discovered after a short stretch along the River Mole. It is possible to cross the river on stepping stones and although it looked very scenic,
we didn't fancy the idea of walking the rest of the way soaked through
following a slip, water was running over most of the stones, so we opted for the easier footbridge option before starting the ascent of Boxhill,
this is the lung-bursting ascent described in the guidebook, and for a short time it did bring back memories of going up Le Brevent in the Alps or at least the first few hairpin bends. 'Hope the cafe is open at the top' I jokingly said to a group passing us on their way down, little did
I know at the time that there actually is a Cafe at the top run by the National Trust, although not knowing this vital piece of useful information we soon reached the top and plodded on, thinking that would be all of the climbing out of the way for the day, not quite true as later climbs around the Buckland Hills finishing in a steep ascent of Colley Hill would sap our energy and in some ways prove more tiring than the short steep burst up Boxhill.
One of the reasons for feeling a little weary was due to not having been out for a walk for a few weeks and we are always a little rusty after a bit of a lay off, another
was MUD, one step forward two back and boots heavy with mud didn't help.
It was good to see and read the many information boards along the route giving details of the area's history and what you are likely to see along the path, this made our day a little longer as we were taking our time looking around a little more than usual, not that I have any idea about these sort of things but the bird perched on a tree as we reached the top of Boxhill could have been a Sparrowhawk - or maybe a little buzzard or Eagle or Kestral
and if it was why was their a sparrow sitting
quite happily on the next branch?
Unfortunately we were not taking enough time to notice that we had taken a slightly wrong turning
(our map reading skills were found wanting on this occasion) and found ourselves on the Pilgrims Way trackway which runs below the North Downs Way near Betchworth.
This wasn't too much of a problem as we could rejoin the correct path
later and by coincidence we came across a very odd thing, the path was
littered with empty complimentary packets of peanuts from British
Airways and the little plastic milk and butter cartons, their were too many for it to been caused by one person, unless it was a dissolute monk or ex BA employee hiding out in the woods and this was the only food they had to survive on.
As planes flew overhead en route to Heathrow or Gatwick we started to consider the possibility that they had perhaps been discarded by a plane before landing. With one eye on the path and the other on the skies we carried on hoping that we wouldn't be bombed by jettisoned aircraft waste.
We guessed that there must have been some sort of tea van or cafe as we approached because people were walking towards us with plastic cups in their hands as they walked towards the viewpoint near Reigate Hill and true enough we came across a well built tea shop at Gatton Park, another example of the North South divide.
Up north there are many mobile tea vans handily situated at weekends where paths cross a road or enter a car park, in the south they are brick built and come with added attractions like toilets!
Unfortunately as it was now raining heavily and we had 30 minutes to make the next train at Merstham we skipped the tea and carried on at a slightly brisker pace hoping to catch the train, closely watched by a very cute dog who according to the owner sat down at the end of the path refusing to leave until we had passed. As often happens the train was pulling out just as we got to the station!
There was certainly plenty of mud around and a fair bit of walking through woods but unlike the previous stage the woodland had a lot of character and mix of trees and clearances which until the shower clouds descended gave plenty of nice open views, despite getting caught in a shower towards the end of the day we really enjoyed the walk.