Walk: Charlwood circular

25 March 2012

Half an hour from Clapham Junction is Horley, a sad, characterless town centre, surrounded by wide avenues of discreetly plush houses, and then, beyond the encircling A roads, quiet villages of thatched and Tudor cottages.

15 minutes cycle brings me to Charlwood with its fabulous church of St Nicholas, complete with original medieval wall paintings. Then across fields, behind paddocks, along a road, all rather boring, but you have, without realising it, climbed up Russ Hill and now, suddenly, you turn into Mount Noddy Wood, a few wonderful acres of ancient, broad-leaved woodland, open, with no brambles or undergrowth, just miles of bright green bluebell shoots burgeoning from the grey and brown leaf litter, overarched by slender birch and beech trees, many of which have been pollarded to the ground making the multiple trunks twisted and sinuous as if they’ve frozen in mid-dance. Steps down a steep gully to the little bridge over Welland Gill, where I stopped for my picnic. Complete peace. Utter solitude, the sun filtering through the branches and glittering on the muddy little English stream. Magical!

Steps down to the bridge over Welland Gill in Mount Noddy Wood

Steps down to the bridge over Welland Gill in Mount Noddy Wood

Walk: Ockley to Horley, Surrey

29 January, 2012

50 minutes from Clapham Junction and two stops south of Dorking on the Surrey/Sussex border is the isolated Victorian railway station at Ockley.

Here I saw my first stand of flowering snowdrops. Later I saw flowering crocuses, primroses and a solitary dandelion. Has Spring ever been so early?

This was meant to be a 4 mile circular walk through the fields surrounding the pretty village of Capel, but I got the bit between my teeth and decided to make it a 9 mile linear walk to Horley. It turned into a walk through muddy fields, grey woods, punctuated by four notable churches:

  • the 13th century St John the Baptist, Capel with its oak shingle spire (not much stone round here so everything was built of wood)
  • St Peter, Newdigate where I sat and ate lunch in the shadow of another wooden shingle spire
  • the best of the bunch, St Nicholas, Charlwood with its short squat stone tower and wonderful medieval wall paintings complete with dragon and skeletons (!)
  • and finally, after trudging along the muddy banks of the river Mole as it skirts the perimeter of Gatwick airport, amid the thundering A roads and airport hotels, a small oasis of Elizabethan buildings around the Grade I listed St Bartholomew, Horley.

For a walk so close to a major airport, most of the route was amazingly quiet. The dead woods still and spooky. Then fields of heavy clay, with vast muddy puddles. Then long farmtracks of flint and chalk. In Green’s Copse a sudden movement scared me and I realised it was four deer I had startled, leaping silently between the grey skeletal trees.

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