Witley to Haslemere
19 June. There were eight of us who took the train to Witley. The weather was dry but overcast, although there had been some heavy rain in the previous few days. We were fortunate that the walk was in the Surrey Weald so that there wasn’t too much mud underfoot.
We made our way west, mostly along paths with some lovely sections of sunken lanes, clearly ancient tracks with ghosts of past travellers. Despite having done the walk several times before I took a wrong turning, adding half a mile to our route and a involving a stretch on a busy road. The group was commendably stoic. We passed through woods and farmland before turning south and climbing to the A3. There is a subway under this busy road, but the recent rain meant that there were a few inches of water in it. I was consulting the map with a view to finding a detour, but Sigrid was already striding through, the water covering her boots. The rest of us duly followed, but our inferior quality footwear meant that we all sustained wet feet. The morning was going to be over three hours, so we stopped for a rest, a drink and a biscuit. We passed more farms, one offering boutique accommodation, this being Surrey, before turning south and gradually ascending a ridge of heathland to Hindhead and the Devils Punchbowl.
It’s been ten years since the A3 tunnel was completed and the area has been transformed. There has been no landscaping and the old road is still there, but is rapidly being covered by vegetation. The huge Devil’s Punchbowl Hotel is still in business, although in the absence of passing trade it has had to turn itself into a destination. The National Trust Café has been enlarged and we sat outside with our sandwiches. Christine, being from Paris, noted the relative thinness of the air and we were in fact at 250 metres above sea level, having climbed 200 metres or so in the morning. In Victorian times, Hindhead was known for its “Alpine” air quality, and Arthur Conan Doyle had a house built here when his wife was diagnosed with TB. A much shorter afternoon took us down, first through heathland and then expensive housing to Haslemere. I did offer to lead the group into the attractive village itself for a cup of tea, but there was a unanimous vote in favour of the direct route to the station and a train back to London. A good day’s walking – thanks to all who came. And thanks to Sigrid and Christine M for photos. Mike C.