16 Polys met at Tadworth Station, including one potential new member. The forecast was fine and we set off hopefully in search of the official start of the hike, at Walton on the Hill. After passing the little secluded Bell Inn, known locally as the Rat – nobody knows why. We encountered the first of 3 Coal Posts. Andrew explained that they represented tithe points to tax Londoners for coal brought in from outside town. The posts stated details of the date of the parliamentary act which introduced the tax. There are still 250 of these posts in existence.
We walked through pleasant bridleways and under the M25 to Headley Village which is recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Hallega, meaning a clearing in the heather. On reaching the church we traversed the graveyard and saw the wooden tombs. Shortly afterwards we stopped at the Headley Village Store and Tea Room for refreshments and debates regarding the virtues of vegan factor 50 sun tan lotion.
We went on via Thresher’s Dean through Headley Heath, a wonderful expanse of heather, birch and light oak with great views, following the orange posts to a beautiful picnic spot and enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine.
Then we descended the North Downs towards Betchworth Station, where one member decided to take and alternative route home. After a false start on a very busy road we found the alternative route, and then inadvertently ‘joined’ one leg of the North Downs Pilgrim Challenge – a 66 mile ultra-marathon! The runners were plentiful but very polite when they passed us. However, please note that their route avoided the imminent serious ascent which the Polys took in their stride! It was a short but challenging climb which was rewarded by refreshments at the Sportsman Pub in Mogador – where we found our second coal post. Sadly no tea and cake this time but plenty of cold drinks and a garden to enjoy. We then had a leisurely stroll across Banstead Heath – and saw a third coal post in the middle of the heath. This took us to Walton on the Hill and admired the picturesque pond in the centre of the village and then on the last leg through to Tadworth station.
This was our first time leading a larger group and we hope the others enjoyed it as much as we did!
Rochelle and Stephen