Looking up at the departure board at Waterloo Station our train appeared with the unexpected word CANCELLED! Oh no! I enquired at the information desk; ‘a faulty train’. They were sorry. The next service to Witley would be a full hour later. I had previously realised that an 8.8 mile walk from Witley might be an issue because of sunset at 16.04 so this was bad news indeed.
A few minutes later several more of my fellow ramblers arrived and with everyone’s help we figured out a new plan of getting the 10.00 train to Haslemere (a fast train which does not stop at Clapham J nor Witley) and doing the walk in reverse [gulp! Never done the walk in that direction]. The ramblers due to join our now non-existent train at Clapham could join our new train at Woking. We got the comms out in a scramble and set off. I thought we might not have time to complete the walk because of the later start so I changed the route to end at Chiddingfold where we could get a bus back to Haslemere.
Anyway, enough of all that train stuff. It was a crisp autumnal day, with a nip of frost in the early morning air but dry and sunny. Lovely for the time of year. The route itself is very rural, deep in the bucolic countryside. We visited an old well (now disused) just on the edge of Haslemere High Street then plunged down into the valley which has several National Trust farms with many small meadows. It was still very muddy in places which surprised me because we’ve had little or no rain for a week. We made good progress in spite of the leaf fall obscuring the path in some places. My thanks to Mary for helping me throughout the walk by reading the guide book steps in backwards order and reversing directions which can’t have been easy.
We had a brief lunch just after 13.00 standing up in a field with the birds looking on enviously. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. We carried on through the fields until eventually getting lost in a large undulating wood near Sydenhurst Farm (I found this part hard to follow on the map). After about 15 minutes lost in the woods we got back on track. It’s surprising how difficult woods can be sometimes! At one point I looked back and couldn’t identify the way we had just come…
Then we had a relatively easy walk to Chiddingfold. Which perhaps restored my credibility as a walk leader a little bit! We got to Chiddingfold just after 14.00 and it was still early so I figured it would still be possible to make it to Witley before sunset. Five of our party opted to leave the walk at this point and caught the bus back to Haslemere. Fair enough, this was the official end of the revised walk anyway and some people had to get back by a certain time and there was always the worry about further train cancellations. Also the pub at Chiddingfold looked inviting!
The remaining eleven of us climbed up a steep slope above the village and headed for Witley.
It was a glorious autumnal afternoon. We clambered over many tall stiles and passed through fields and a muddy wood with signs warning not to stray off the path because of shooting parties! No shots were heard and later we safely crossed the railway line between Witley and Haslemere. No barriers here so you just have to look both ways first. We passed through another muddy wood and by a donkey sanctuary and arrived at Witley station around sunset. We had made good time. We were the only passengers at the little station and then an announcement came saying our 16.17 train to Waterloo was no longer stopping here! It duly shot past us at high speed looking fairly empty. Thanks SWR! So rather than wait and hope for the next one we decided to go south by train to Haslemere. After a half hour wait while getting cold we got the next train to Haslemere and from there it was but a short wait before we were on the next train bound for the big city.
It was a good walk in spite of the train problems and I think everyone enjoyed their day in the countryside. My thanks to everyone for bearing with me and helping find a solution to the broken train!
After meeting at New Malden station 15 Polys set off to follow the Beverley Brook to the Thames. We passed New Malden golf course and after going under the busy A3 we were soon in the lovely woodland of Beverley Meads and Fishponds Local Nature Reserve. We followed the brook along the edge of Wimbledon common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and crossed over into Richmond Park, also an SSSI and National Nature Reserve, at Robin Hood gate. Here we were pleased to find toilets, the ladies all holding the door for each other so only spending 20p altogether. Good for us, but not so good for the council coffers! We stopped at the café near Roehampton gate for lunch. This was fortunate as we had a brief downpour and the picnickers were also able to come inside out of the rain. The afternoon took us through Palewell Common to Barnes Common, where two members peeled off to make their way home from Barnes Station. We then descended to the Thames through Putney Lower Common and along past the boat houses to Putney Bridge. Here most participants dispersed in various directions. Four of us retired to the Bricklayers Arms where Sandra very kindly offered us a drink to celebrate her recent birthday. It was agreed by all that the walk had been ideal for an autumn day when the weather was rather unsettled.
Eleven Polyrambers set off from Westhumble rail station on a six mile circular walk including the village of Mickleham, woodlands making up Norbury Park and the Druids Grove with its fine specimens of ancient Yews.
The weather was unexpectedly fine with only a couple of quick showers passing through. The only pub on route was closed when we passed by, but we were later afforded fine views of the Mole valley including Box Hill from where we picnicked.
The final leg of the walk became a bit of a challenge as the previous day’s wet weather had made sections of the chalky path slippery, but by using poles or holding somebody’s hand everyone managed to stay upright!
Near the end we encountered a large herd of Jersey Cows requiring navigation around certain deposits in the grass using a heads down rambling technique!
Finally, the leader perfectly timed the return to the rail station so that fellow ramblers only had a couple of minutes to wait for a train back to London!
16 members of the Poly Ramblers Club met at Hanwell Station to begin our walk to Richmond. I had warned about the short platform at Hanwell but had failed to mention that not all trains stopped there resulting in one member ending up at Hayes and Harlington. We stopped to admire the Wharncliffe Viaduct, one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first great projects, before following the Capital Ring along Fitz Herberts Path named after a couple who petitioned the council for a path to join up the Brent meadows with the Grand Union Canal. We walked along the Grand Union Canal after our first stop at the popular Fox Pub to browse at their market. We continued our route towards Brentford diverting off to admire the fruit trees planted by a local group planting fruit trees for foraging along the canal and adjoining meadows. We crossed the canal at Gallows bridge and then past Clitheroe Locks to Boston Manor Park via a newly renovated wooden bridge, where we stopped for tea or ice cream at the newly opened café. We reached the Brentford Docks via a pontoon, the footpath being temporarily closed due to the construction of a new bridge across the canal. Our next stop was Syon Park, owned by the Duke of Northumberland, where we had lunch at the Garden Centre café. We reached the Thames at Isleworth with attractive views up and down the river. We followed the Thames Path continuing through a gateway and a short walk along the pavement led us to another Thames Path notice which returned us to the river. After a further short walk along the Thames, we crossed Richmond Bridge and continued towards Richmond. A walk across Richmond Green brought us to Richmond Station.
After a slightly delayed train journey, 19 Poly Ramblers and 1 guest made it onto the rail replacement bus at Staines, thanks to Ida who arranged for the bus to be held for us. Unfortunately 1 member arrived at Egham on a later bus, too late to join the walk. Such are the perils of rail delays and replacements. But we were lucky with the weather. The sun shone all day, at just the right temperature for an autumn walk. We made our way up Cooper’s Hill and down to Runnymede to enjoy the recent artworks commissioned to celebrate 8oo years since the signing of the Magna Carta.
Writ in Water by Mark Wallinger is a large scale round structure that leads to a central chamber open to the sky, above a pool of water around which the words of Clause 39 of the Magna Carta are reflected. Huw Locke’s 12 Jurors also echoes Clause 39. His 12 bronze chairs are decorated with images relating to the struggle for freedom and equal rights. We also admired some amazing, large wickerwork figures in the process of construction. However, what we did not see (sorry folks) was the memorial to J F Kennedy opened in 1965, which Andrew asked about. Apparently, Britain gifted an acre of Runnymede woodland to America in memory of JFK – the only piece of American soil in the UK (good quiz question). On it is a 7 ton block of carved Portland stone reached by climbing up steps made from 60000 granite setts (square cobbles to you and me). Definitely something to see on another visit.
After a snack stop at the NT cafe, we walked the Thames Path to Datchet for a late lunch, admiring the expensive houses and boats along the way. The pub and community cafe at Datchet served us well. Two people left after lunch and the rest of us continued on the Thames Path to Windsor, with views of the Castle and Eton school.
Thanks to all who joined me on this walk, my first as leader since January 2020! And thanks to Ida for her photos and negotiation skills. Sandra
The Polytechnic Rambling Club – Walking with friends