Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trekking in the English countryside: Surrey Hills

In August this year, I did a short hike in the English countryside on one of the rare sunny summer days. It was part of my office hiking group and so far I had managed to miss most of their hikes. But I made it finally, and what a lovely walk it was.

Surrey Hills
It was not a long trek, about 4 hours of walking through the 'Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty' (really??!! couldn't they have named the area something else?). We started from the town of Chilworth, stopped for lunch at Shere and ended at the town of Dorking. It was quite a convenient walk, we left from London early morning, reached Chilworth by cab after missing our connecting train and off we were. We walked over 4 hours, up and down small hills, forests and farms, covered paths and open sunny areas and totally soaked in the Outstanding Beauty:). And the day being hot and sunny added to the overall amazing experience of the day.

A church near the village of Shere
The path took us past some very interesting sights, churches, villages, pretty little houses, streams, farms and so on. And at every point, you could see till afar, soaking in all the greenery and freshness around. We also had a lot of fun on the way, experiencing the country life and talking about some of the intricacies of the countryside. For example, one of the paths was lined by blackberry shrubs on both sides. So we stopped and ate some of them but it did not turn out to be a good call - they weren't as tasty as we expected them to be.

Public pathway, on the way
I also learnt more about some English rules while talking to fellow hikers, especially about the difference between public footpaths and bridleways. Apparently English law allows all these paths to run through people's private property, to allow people to get from one place to another. And even though owners don't like these, they have no choice but to let people walk through them. The farm owners do try to confuse walkers to get them off the public footpaths through their farms, by putting up incorrect boards that they are private areas!! Therefore carrying around a map detailing where you can and cannot walk helps you avoid this type of confusion. It is different in Scotland though, you can walk anywhere you want through any of the private farms - you don't have to be limited to the public footpaths and bridleways. Also, apparently on bridleways, the owners can shoot dogs if any stray there but not on public footpaths. Talk about complicated rules!!

We crossed a lot of cyclists on the paths and even a few bikers. Wonder how they drive up and down those uneven paths! And of course, we ran into loads of people walking their dogs, clearly everyone was out to get their share of Vitamin D:). We also saw lots of very typical trees of this area - perch, oak, maple and so on. (After my last visit to the Arboretum, I know a lot more about tree names now😉 ).

The White Horse at Shere
This random trivia aside, for lunch we stopped at a very picturesque little village called Shere. Apparently it is quite a tourist hangout though I had never heard about it before. We had lunch at a pub called The White Horse and it was one of the tastiest foods I have ever eaten in a British pub!! It was covered in brigh colourful flowers outside which added to all the liveliness and brightness of a summer day:).

The last part of the trek took us through Blatchford Downs where we came across many Pillboxes from the World War times. Apparently they were built here for the local people to come and hide, and for the English forces to resist the Nazi occupation. Thankfully though, they were never used. Inside, they were built of strong concrete, were small and stuffy, and were structured in a way such that the bombs could not destroy them completely in one go.

Wineyard and Chateau
And then we landed into a vineyard with its own very chateau. I wasn't aware that there were vineyards in UK also! As usual because it was a public footpath, we could walk through the vineyard itself after taking a long winded path. The view all around was quite picturesque but by then I was quite tired, so was almost walking like a zombie, not really caring much about the view.

Dorking village
Towards the end, we also saw the Boxhill which is famous for the Boxhill trek. I had heard about this trail before but had never made it there. Finally I had come very close:). We then reached the town of Dorking, had a very quick snack and were off onto the train back to London. For the 20 minutes we were there, Dorking looked like a very boring town (something that was also mentioned by one of my fellow trekkers).

Overall, the whole day had turned out to be very enjoyable one, with great sunny weather, the green countryside, a nice lunch at a cute little English village and a full day of exercise. Here's to many more such treks this summer again:).

View on the way

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