This is indeed “a beautiful walk through an unspoilt countryside of fields, woods and gentle hills,” as captioned and explained in detail by the excellent Time Out Book I / Saturday Walkers Club. In my group survey of the members on the walk, Geoffrey described it as “An exhilarating walk through woods and fields on the Surrey/Sussex border”.My main concern was that the people of Ockley and Warnham have to put up with an hourly train service which on Saturdays stops completely at 6.18pm! (No trains at all on Sundays!) As regards public transport, those of us who live in London don’t always appreciate how lucky we are! On the other hand, five minutes from the station, after trying to help a family who wanted to walk to Leith Hill without a map and only a mobile phone for guidance, we were speeding along a footpath (led by Andrew) between very lush garden bushes and trees, and on through woods and meadows and over stiles. We passed near a farmyard with cows eating in a regimented row but later saw none of the white cows with small black patches that we saw on the walkover and which licked our arms as we locked up the chain closing the gate to their field. In any case, this time we had our jackets on because it wasn’t as warm as it had been in April! We inspected the metal kissing gate installed by Ramblers volunteers on the day of our walkover, passing a windmill with no sails and spotting Leith Hill tower on the horizon. I wonder if that family group found their way there. The Scarlett Arms in Walliswood provided a very welcome lunch stop. The picnickers joined us in the pub before a torrential but mercifully short downpour. Kitted out for the subsequent intermittent drizzle, we carried on through fields of sheep, woods with a lot of ancient trees, some presumably blown down by recent storms into a criss-cross pattern, rubber-covered electric wires and uncovered barbed wires on stiles and one field with a lively herd of rusty brown bullocks.
I was too successful transmitting my train timetable anxiety because at one point the group headed hastily off ahead of me along a path I had indicated roughly before I’d had a chance to check the direction while explaining the reading to Chris with his new compass and monitoring Stuart’s knots securing the field gate. That’s one flock of sheep that won’t be getting out in a hurry! So the “advance party” had to retrace their steps. Still, they had the opportunity to study the latest electric farm gate security. More woods and little bridges over streams until we reached the wheat fields on the outskirts of Warnham. The ground was dry and cracked despite recent heavy rain. We had made such good time that Stuart was tempted to stop at the Sussex Oak but relented when we told him there were 700 + 500 more metres to go to the station, on the far side of the village. We made it in time for the 5.18 train including time to chat to a local couple standing in their front garden who, when we said how welcome a cup of tea and a piece of cake would be, informed us that we were not the first people to voice such a wish! Was that why they would soon be moving to Norfolk? The train was on time (not cancelled as on the walkover). I sank, relieved, into my seat and relaxed on the way home, savouring thoughts of the day.
Helpful comments from members of the group who replied to my survey: “Gorgeous walk with beautiful smelling plants all the way. Just what you want in summer.” (Harriet, who was especially thrilled by the wild garlic and wild roses.). “I would say the picnic spot was well appointed with bench in front of a water wheel. Also, we did not get the soaking as the heavens opened at lunchtime when we were all in the pub. Highlight of the walk was the magnificent Water Tower at former Warnham Lodge. Nice woods, fields, cows, sheep, horses and flowers, good earthy smells. What more can you ask for? Oh yes and good friends to chat to.” (Sunita). “Relaxed, well paced, and great pub. All the right ingredients.” (Hilary). “A lovely rural walk in lush green countryside with a few challenges thrown in – dodgy stiles and frisky cattle.” (Gillian). “I enjoyed the walk. It was wonderful to be out in the woods, walking with friendly club members, navigating through Warnham cows and sheep.” (Ida). Thank you to all these contributors for their support and inspiration! Pam
Photo by Colin Smith / Village Hall, Ockley